2021 State Teacher of the Year Finalists Announced
Mike Seals - October 22, 2020 9:57 pm
OKLAHOMA CITY (Oct. 22, 2020) – State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister today announced the 12 finalists for Oklahoma’s next Teacher of the Year.
These tremendous 12 finalists reflect the best of Oklahoma’s classroom teachers,” said Hofmeister.
“Not only do these teachers use innovative instructional strategies, but they also place great emphasis on creating meaningful relationships with students and families. All have demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to the success of each of their students and are highly deserving of this honor.
All finalists were named teachers of the year for their respective districts and selected after their application packets were reviewed by a panel of educators, legislators and members of business and nonprofit organizations.
The 2021 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year will be named in February. Beginning July 1, the honoree will assume full-time Teacher of the Year duties, which include speaking engagements and serving as Oklahoma’s ambassador for teachers, encouraging others to enter or remain in the profession. The 2020 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year, Jena Nelson of Deer Creek Public Schools, will continue to tour the state until July.
2021 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year finalists
Melanie Ball, Third Grade Teacher, Cotteral Elementary, Guthrie Public Schools
‘’I have always wanted to be that source of hope and security for a child. Some of our students have very difficult situations happening in their lives. At all costs, I need to help them meet their basic needs as well as teach them the curriculum. After years of teaching, I still feel that is the most important role I have.”
Ginger Billman, First Grade Teacher, Richmond Elementary, Stillwater Public Schools
“My philosophy in education is that you need to build a culture of respect and set high expectations, which together will achieve academic excellence. I want to move each child forward, striving for his or her personal best, regardless of what labels have been placed upon them by others.”
Valerie Brink, Kindergarten Teacher, Earl Harris Elementary, Bethany Public Schools
“I know that greatness and excellence fill my classroom each and every day and that by preparing the children in my classroom today, I can better impact the world tomorrow.”
Lesa Dickson, AP Language and Composition Teacher, Broken Arrow High School, Broken Arrow Public Schools
“When I sometimes consider my footprint on the world and the significance of my career, I reflect on the hundreds of children with whom I have worked, and I realize with a full heart that my contribution is as significant as any other service career I could have chosen.”
Jessica Eschbach, Innovative Learning Coach, Norman North High School, Norman Public Schools
“Being a teacher permeates every aspect of my life, in the best way possible, and working with students and teachers has taught me to be a more thoughtful, compassionate, and responsible human being.”
Natalie Haworth, 10th-12th Grade Science Teacher, Durant High School, Durant Independent School District
“As a result of my intentionality in my relationships with my students, supporting them in whatever way I can, and the extra time I put in with them through volunteering for school events, attending community events, sponsoring student council, FCA and academic team, and offering extra study sessions, I would say that my students are my greatest contributions and accomplishments in education.”
Amy Lennertz, Sixth Grade Spanish/Theater Arts Teacher, Piedmont Intermediate School, Piedmont Public Schools
“Our students come into our classrooms eager to learn, and we have the opportunity to build into their lives every day. We see them grow as students, and we see them grow as individuals. Eventually they will become productive members of society, and it is an honor that we had a small part in furthering their growth.”
Michael Patterson, High School Speech/Debate/Drama Teacher, Guymon High School, Guymon Public Schools
“I believe it is crucial, educationally, that we treat students with respect as autonomous individuals with the ability and freedom to make choices about the paths they choose to take. I also insist upon the rigor of responsibility for those choices. Those lessons, to my mind, are as important as any that I teach.”
Keri Smith, Fourth-Sixth Grade Gifted and Talented Teacher, Independence Intermediate School, Yukon Public Schools
“It is important to me to use my story of a shy and doubtful child to communicate to other educators the need to build relationships, use strength–based approaches to teaching and demonstrating mastery, and finding the gem inside every student.”
Krista Starbuck, PreK-First Grade Reading Specialist, Washington Early Childhood Center, Alva Public Schools
“Building relationships are the heart of learning. Engaging with students and parents not only fosters trust, it promotes commitment and motivation needed to tackle challenging learning tasks and behaviors. It’s never too late to break down these barriers and come together as a community to support student success.”
Stephanie Terry, High School History/Journalism Teacher, Del City High School, Mid-Del Public Schools
“We must challenge our students with difficult tasks and then come alongside them to master the task. We must teach them that it is okay to fail, but not to quit. We must hold them to a standard of excellence and teach them that deadlines and difficulties are a part of life; but how wonderful it is, once a task is completed and finished well.”
Lori Zimmerman, Sixth Grade Language Arts Teacher, Woodward Middle School, Woodward Public Schools
“It is an awesome responsibility to prepare young people for the future. Our value as educators lies in whether or not we constantly examine our actions to ensure that every decision we make not only supports the success of our students but also the educators who are working alongside us.”