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OKLAHOMA CITY — Names of nine finalists for Oklahoma City Public Schools’ Teacher of the Year were announced Thursday.

The 2021 finalists are:

  • Dana Chambers, Quail Creek Elementary School, Physical Education Teacher
  • Rachel Farmer, Arthur Elementary School, 1st Grade Teacher
  • Sally Hoch, Belle Isle Enterprise Middle School, 7th & 8th Grade Math Exploration Teacher
  • McKenzie Hodge, Wheeler Middle School, 5th Grade Science Teacher
  • Alicia Hunt, Cleveland Elementary School, 4th Grade Teacher
  • Cynthia Johnson, Nichols Hills Enterprise Elementary School, Special Education Teacher
  • Chara Patterson, Douglass High School, English Language Arts Teacher
  • Donald Stephens, Southeast High School, Career Technology Education Teacher
  • Kendra Whitman, John Marshall Enterprise High School, Social Studies Teacher

Out of that group, a district-wide Teacher of the Year will be named and will compete at the state level for state teacher of the year.

The OKCPS Teacher of the Year has been named Oklahoma Teacher of the Year three times since 2000 – Talita DeNegri in 2001, Robyn Hilger in 2006 and Heather Sparks in 2009.

The OKCPS Teacher of the Year will be announced at the Stars of Education celebration May 6. Each year the celebration is sponsored by the Foundation for OKCPS.

Last year’s OKCPS Teacher of the Year was Leslie Davis, a 1st grade teacher at Cleveland Elementary School.

“It goes without saying that this year has been a unique experience, but our teachers have been up to the challenge. They have adapted and excelled and, as always, put their students first,” said OKCPS Superintendent Dr. Sean McDaniel. “I am honored to recognize these nine outstanding teachers and their achievements. Congratulations!”

How chosen

The process begins with each school site choosing their Teacher of the Year. Those teachers then may fill out a nomination packet to submit for OKCPS Teacher of the Year.

From those submissions the finalists are chosen.

A district press release described the process for choosing the finalists:

“Using specific rating criteria, a committee of OKCPS educators and administrators anonymously evaluated all candidates and narrowed it down to these nine OKCPS Teacher of the Year finalists.”

Now that the nine have been chosen, they will be filmed in their classrooms and will be interviewed to determine the winner.

OKCPS Foundation

Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt speaks at the Stars of Education Celebration, 2018. (BRETT DICKERSON/Okla City Free Press)

The OKCPS Foundation, under the leadership of President/CEO Mary Mélon, provides funds and logistics for the celebration.

In addition, the foundation gives cash awards to Teacher of the Year, honorees for exceptional support staff and volunteers, three categories of Community Partner of the Year.

Two outstanding OKCPS principals will receive The Sam and Charolet Shirley Outstanding Principal Awards and will receive cash awards at the event, one from an elementary school and one from a secondary school.

“Our teachers have been challenged in ways never before thought of throughout the pandemic and they have, as always, risen to the task,” said Foundation President/CEO Mary Mélon.

“The Stars of Education program allows us to recognize all teachers designated as their school Teacher of the Year and to highlight nine exceptional finalists. Providing recognition to them and to our Sam and Charolet Shirley Outstanding Principals, support staff, volunteers and community partners is an honor for us. These groups collectively change and enrich our students’ lives every day.”

Last Updated February 4, 2021, 3:55 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor