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OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — Wheeler Middle School teacher McKenzie Hodge was named 2021 Teacher of the Year for Oklahoma City Public Schools during a virtual program Thursday.

Hodge is a fifth-year science teacher who earned her Bachelor in Science in 2016 and then began teaching in OKCPS first at Linwood Elementary and then at Wheeler Middle School.

She said in a YouTube video of her work that she has found her niche teaching 5th Grade Science.

Again, The Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools provided the program, awards, and prizes for Teacher of the Year finalists and other honorees.


Hodge was virtually live during the announcement of the winners and was effusive.

“I am so shocked,” Hodge said at first. Then, she complimented the other contestants.

“I just want to give a big shout out to these top nine finalists because they are incredible and worked so hard.”

She thanked her “Lord and Savior” for giving her the passion to teach and thanked her parents for their support. Then she thanked her Fifth Grade team at Wheeler.

“It is the pride of the south side and I love them so much,” said Hodge.

She thanked OKCPS saying, “this is the best district to teach” and that “we have incredible students.”

“We have incredible students,” said Hodge about the district.

Then, she addressed her students this year: “I want to thank my students because without them, I would not be where I’m at. And they are incredible. So thank you all so much.”

Due to the fundraising and support the Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation puts in each year, as the districts Teacher of the Year, Hodge will be given a new watch donated by B.C. Clark Jewelers. Also, she will be given a new car to drive for a year from Fowler Automotive Group.

Each of the finalists made a video about their teaching. Here is the one about Hodge:


The other eight finalists were:

Chara Patterson, Douglass High School
Don Stephens, Southeast High School
Kendra Whitman, John Marshall High School
Sally Hoch, Belle Isle Enterprise Middle School
Alicia Hunt, Cleveland Elementary School
Cynthia Johnson, Nichols Hills Enterprise Elementary School, Second Runner Up
Dana Chambers, Quail Creek Elementary School, First Runner Up
Rachel Farmer, Arthur Elementary School

teacher of the year
The nine finalists for the 2021 Teacher of the Year Award. (provided)

“A calling”

At a drive-thru parade of finalists at the district administration building earlier in the afternoon, Superintendent Sean McDaniel talked to Free Press about the significance of going all out to honor teachers and principals of the year.

We asked him what it means to a district to honor teachers of the year.

“It’s just a huge morale boost for everybody,” said McDaniel. “I’ve always felt like Teachers of the Year do two things. One, they represent themselves individually — what kind of teacher they are — but, they also represent all of our teachers. In Oklahoma City in particular, we just have more than than our share of unbelievably talented teachers.”

“It’s our expression in the celebration that you are representing other teachers at your school and across the district, who do a phenomenal job for our kids every single day.”

We asked what the Teacher of the Year honors does for the public’s perception of teachers.

“It’s been a tough time for them, you know. They don’t get paid like they should in my opinion. They don’t get valued like they should in my opinion, yet they have the biggest impact on the world,” said McDaniel.

“I’ve always felt teaching was more of a calling than a vocation. So, when you get to read these biographies and get to know them a little bit better, it just gives you a greater appreciation for who they are and what they’re doing and the value they bring to a school district.”

teacher of the year
The welcoming/cheering group who greeted the TOY parade 5-6-21. (BRETT DICKERSON/Okla City Free Press)

Last Updated May 6, 2021, 7:10 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor