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Anthony Chancellor, the Leadership class teacher at Belle Isle Middle School, is the new Teacher of the Year for Oklahoma City Public Schools, 2017-2018.

The first runner-up is Dwight Cunkle, music teacher at Horace Mann Elementary School.

And, second runner-up is Joanna Eldridge, a special education teacher at Edgemere Elementary School.

The winners will receive award plaques and cash prizes provided by donors arranged through the Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation.

OKCPS TOR 2018 Holt speaking teacher
Mayor David Holt praised those who work hard to teach the city’s students. BRETTDICKERSON/OKCFreePress

With the help of corporate donors, the foundation puts on the event every year for the district.

In his acceptance speech, Chancellor talked about moving from being a band teacher at the school to the Leadership elective.

The course is designed to teach leadership skills for the middle school students and to coach them as they provide leadership in different activities at the school.

He talked about the leap he made of moving from a subject and teaching role he knew to volunteering for the role of Leadership teacher and how important it was to do that.

“Now I get to teach students about life,” said Chancellor, who is into his fifth year teaching leadership.

Meaning

After the program was finished Free Press talked to the TOR and the two runners-up about what their awards may mean to them and their students.

OKCPS TOR Anthony Chancellor after announcement teacher
Anthony Chancellor receives hugs from Acting Superintendent Rebecca Kaye, (L) and OKCPS Foundation Pres/CEO Mary Mélon. BRETTDICKERSON/OKCFreePress

“For me, it’s just more chances to dig deep and become better,” said Belle Isle’s Chancellor. “It gives me a little more chance to become the teacher my students need me to be.”

Belle Isle Middle School is the original enterprise school out of four. We ran a story on the school last year as a part of our series “Enduring Enterprise.”

Cunkle, from Horace Mann, said his students have been excited about the possibility of his winning one of the positions from among the eight finalists.

“A bunch of my students yelled good luck from the playground this afternoon when I was leaving,” he said.

“A couple of them were here tonight. I think they will be excited and feel like it was sort of their accomplishment, too.”

OKCPS TOR 2018 Dwight Cunkle, Joanna Eldridge teacher
Dwight Cunkle, first runner-up (L), and Joanna Eldridge, second runner-up BRETTDICKERSON/OKCFreePress

Joanna Eldridge, the special education teacher, was thoughtful about our questions about what the award would mean to her students.

She immigrated from Poland where she grew up in poverty, so she relates to the situations of so many of her students at Edgemere whose families struggle to make ends meet.

She has one master’s degree in music and is completing another masters degree in special education.

“They always believe in me and were excited about the whole process. I think this is going to strengthen their belief in themselves and in their self-confidence,” said Eldridge. “I’m a huge preacher of that. I tell them they should always believe in themselves.”

Other finalists

The other six finalists were:

  • Cynthia Bothwell, Capitol Hill High School
  • Dr. Doretha Guion-Colbert, F.D. Moon Academy
  • Jamie Hinds, Webster Middle School
  • Kyla Kaufman, Bodine Elementary School
  • Jami Keys, Coolidge Elementary School
  • Cara Viviani, Sequoyah Elementary School

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