OBU alumni from the Division of Teacher Education often are recognized for their excellent teaching in the classroom, and this year was no different. Of the 12 finalists for the 2011 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year award, two nominees were OBU graduates.
The OBU alumni who were finalists included Kristi Lovett who teaches art and studio art at Crescent Public Schools. She graduated from OBU in 1997 with a bachelor's degree in art education, K-12. Lovett has 12 years of teaching experience, and she is National Board Certified. She said it was her desire to emulate the professionals who inspired her to become a teacher.
Finalist Kari Steele teaches pre-advanced literature and composition at Deer Creek Public School. Steele graduated from OBU in 1990 with a bachelor's degree in elementary education. She earned a master's degree in early childhood education from the University of Central Oklahoma. She also is National Board certified. Steele has 20 years of teaching experience. She said it wasn't until she began working with children that she realized God had given her the talent for teaching.
The winner, Elizabeth Smith of Byng Public Schools,was named Sept. 26 during the state fair in Oklahoma City. The other nine finalists in the state competition included Brandi Dickson, Tecumseh Public Schools; Terri Foughty, Newscastle Public Schools; Karen Watson Lewis, Plainview Public Schools; Lynette Miller, Jenks Public Schools; Fran Stellman, Stillwater Public Schools; Leesa Dickson, Claremore Public Schools; Carol Hunsperger, Grove Public Schools; Kendra Roulet, Sand Springs Public Schools; and Meredith Wronowski, Oklahoma City Public Schools.
On the local level, OBU alum Teresa Askin has won her school's teacher of the year honors twice while teaching at Pleasant Grove Elementary. Askin graduated from OBU in 1991 with a bachelor's degree in management-marketing.
The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), sponsor of the national Teacher of the Year program, has found Oklahoma provides the best recognition program for its State Teacher of the Year award. The finalist and winners for the Teacher of the Year are selected by six state regional committees comprised of teachers and parents. The state committee, which includes education, business and civic leaders, chooses the winner.
At the local district level, the Teacher of the Year Program is coordinated through the superintendent and the professional development committee. District participation is voluntary. It is important to emphasize that the search is not for "the best teacher," but for one who exemplifies the finest in the profession. The district professional development committee determines the selection process and announces the local teacher of the year. The committee assists the local teacher of the year in preparing a portfolio to submit to the State Department of Education on or before June 1 of each year.
When State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sandy Garrett took office 20 years ago, the teacher of year award was simply a certificate and handshake, but her office has elevated this program to recognize the nation's finest teachers.
The winner represents Oklahoma in the National Teacher of the Year competition, receives more than $50,000 in cash and prizes, and serves as the Ambassador of Teaching, presenting to teachers and civic groups throughout the state for one year.