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University Presents top Employee Honors During Convocation August 30

September 2, 2023

Oklahoma Baptist University presented its highest employee awards during Convocation chapel Aug. 30 on the OBU campus in Shawnee.

Each year, OBU presents three important awards to recognize quality teaching and faithful, productive service: the Distinguished Teaching Award, the Promising Teacher Award and the Meritorious Service Award. Nominations for the awards are made by alumni, current students, faculty and administration. In addition to public recognition and a token of the university’s appreciation, the recipients receive cash awards from a fund provided by OBU graduates John and Janet Hudson of Edmond, Oklahoma.

Dr. Tony Yates, professor of science, received the Distinguished Teaching Award. The highest honor for OBU faculty members, this award is presented to a faculty member who has taught at OBU for five consecutive years or more. This faculty member has exemplified in his or her teaching career those characteristics of the superior instruction delineated in the “Commitment to Excellence,” a statement of teaching expectations and objectives adopted by the faculty, administration and the Board of Trustees.

Yates is an accomplished educator with degrees including an A.A. in Biology, B.S. in Biology, M.Ed. in Biology Education, and a Ph.D. in Science Education. He teaches courses such as human anatomy, human physiology, and microbiology, while also investigating misconceptions about biological evolution among high school students. He has co-authored papers with E. Marek addressing these misconceptions, highlighting his commitment to science education.

Yates has shared insights as a guest speaker at the University of Oklahoma, emphasizing research strategies and methodologies. His dedication earned him the OU Provost’s Ph.D. Dissertation Prize for his work on students' acquisition of biological evolution-related misconceptions. Actively involved in professional circles, he's a member of the National Association for Health Advisors, the National Association of Biology Teachers and the Oklahoma Academy of Science. His educational journey, research contributions and commitment to improving science education demonstrate his significant impact.

One nominator said, “He always made learning fun and he prepares us well. Plus, he genuinely cares about his students and about them succeeding in his class and in life.”

Dr. Lyda Murillo Wilbur, associate professor of Spanish, received the Promising Teacher Award. This award is presented to a junior faculty member who has taught at OBU less than six years, has demonstrated outstanding potential as a teacher, and has the characteristics of one who may be a future recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award.

Wilbur is a seasoned linguist and dedicated educator. She's the youngest of four siblings, born to retired Oklahoma Baptist missionaries. Her extensive studies in Spanish, both nationally and internationally, led her to guide student groups through Spain, Morocco, and France, and engage in mission trips to Mexico, Thailand, Venezuela, and Peru. She devoted 24 years to public education, including 12 years teaching Spanish. Wilbur has also led an OBU honors trip to Ecuador.

During her academic journey, she contributed as a research assistant at the Oklahoma Center for Educational Policy and earned degrees in marketing, Spanish, Spanish studies, and educational leadership. Her Ed.D. from the University of Oklahoma delved into fostering self-efficacy for self-regulated learning in urban schools. For 11 years she successfully served as an elementary and high school principal.

One nominator stated, “She is always a positive presence on campus. She has high expectations of her students but always with a caring heart. She is engaged, genuine, and committed to her craft. I have often heard students discuss what a challenging, inspiring and kind professor she is, and how much she cares for them. She is also just a wonderful colleague who brings joy to those around her.”

Jana VanderTook, director of faculty services and assessment, received the Meritorious Service Award. This award is presented annually to a faculty or staff member who has made a substantial commitment of years and service, and who has been a loyal and faithful faculty or staff member.

VanderTook began in 2009 as an administrative assistant, supporting the provost/executive vice president for campus life, followed by a transition to the role of coordinator of assessment in 2019. Over the next two years, she engaged deeply in educational assessment activities. In July 2021, she assumed the position of director of faculty services and assessment, a role she currently holds, where she blends her extensive experience with her passion for advancing faculty development and optimizing assessment practices.

Her educational pursuit aligned with her career growth. An alumnus of OBU, she later completed a Master of Science in Business Analytics from Grand Canyon University. Her commitment to self-improvement led her to earn certifications such as the planning and self-study 101 course and course evaluations and surveys administrator certification.

As one nominator stated, “In many ways, she IS OBU. She has worked in so many roles throughout the years on Bison Hill, and consistently takes on additional roles as needed. She is so valuable to campus life, as her institutional knowledge is both broad and detailed. She is the "go to" person for many areas, and just a fountain of information, wisdom and kindness. She is tireless and always inspiring to those around her.”