Three teachers from the metro were among 12 statewide announced as Teacher of the Year finalists Tuesday morning by Joy Hofmeister, State Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Free Press asked each of the three metro teachers what their biggest challenges were in the classroom.
Cara Bowerman teaches visual arts at Edmond North High School. She has been an educator for six years.
Once a suburb north of Oklahoma City, Edmond and Edmond Public Schools now are a part of the larger, fully-developed urban metro experiencing many of the same challenges as the core segments closer to downtown OKC.
Bowerman is in a school that has a deep history of commitment to visual arts among the arts, now with 5 teachers in her department.
Responding to the question of the biggest challenge, she chose to talk about how they bring their art team to those challenges.
“We are big advocates for positive learning community and PLC,” said Bowerman. “So, we’ve aligned our curriculum. So, we work really well together. And it’s obvious that it’s to the benefit of the students.”
Her superintendent, Bret Towne talked to Free Press about what it means to a whole district to have their Teacher of the Year chosen as a state finalist.
He said Bowerman “truly is a representative” of all of the teachers in Edmond Public Schoools.
“She’s energetic, she knows her subject matter. She’s engaged with kids. She cares about kids and as a person and their performance,” said Towne.
Elizabeth Hoggatt teaches English at Norman North High School and has been in her current position for the entire ten years she has been an educator.
“I’m trying to find literature that engages students and interests them. Things that they can relate to, on a real level,” Hoggatt said.
Jena Nelson teaches English at Deer Creek Middle School and is a 14-year educator. She has been in her current position for the last two years.
“One of the biggest challenges, of course, is getting kids excited about writing,” said Nelson. “And so I make sure that I use connect learning and lots of different kinds of activities to get them engaged. And to make it real world applicable, too.”
Deer Creek Schools is an exurban-turned-suburban district stretching from roughly Memorial Road on the north side to the northern Oklahoma County line and Shares borders with Edmond, Piedmont, and Putnam City public schools.
“These 12 individuals represent the highest standard of education in our state and are exceptional examples of the tremendous impact one person can make in the lives of kids,” said Hofmeister in a prepared statement distributed to the press.
“Their use of innovative instructional strategies and their demonstrated ability to forge meaningful relationships with students and families demonstrate their commitment to the success of every child in their classroom. We are proud of their success, and they are deserving of this important honor.”
All finalists were chosen from among teachers of the year in their respective districts around the state. They are chosen after submitting packets of information that are then reviewed by a panel of legislators, educators, and members of business and nonprofit organizations.
According to Ballotpedia, there are 537 school districts in Oklahoma that serve over 650,000 students.
The state Teacher of the Year will be announced Sept. 17 in a ceremony at State Fair Park in OKC. That teacher will complete their classroom duties through the 2019-2020 school year, then assume full-time duties to travel the state speaking and leading workshops to promote public education.
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