What do you enjoy about teaching?
The lightbulb moments. We will have worked on a key idea for several days, but then seemly out of nowhere, the lightbulbs turn on across the entire room. My students get so excited when they learn a new concept, and that excitement is infectious.
What major obstacle have you overcome in the classroom?
Finding the time to do everything I want to do. For my students, their lessons are based on real-life lessons — things that may come naturally to you or me. There are so many real-world concepts/skills/ideas that there is never enough time to get to them all. We could literally start tomorrow just on money management skills and a year later still have concepts to cover. Therefore, deciding what the most important items in our yearly scope are is my greatest challenge.
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How do you stay inspired/motivated throughout each day?
Smiles. Every time I think this job is too much, a student smiles at some lesson or event; it makes it all worth it. For example, this week has been packed with lots of little organizing tasks, so I didn’t want to add another thing, but we had an opportunity to get prom dresses at no cost for some of my students. It was after school and in Sperry, but went anyway. Then one of my girls danced and giggled across the room when she found the perfect dress; that moment made it all worth it. I would do it a 1,000 times over, just for that moment. When you work with my students, it’s very hard to say no. They turn on that smile and you would give them the world.
What do you learn from your students?
I have learned that each day matters, the little things are important and, most of all, love first. Over the past three years, school has been hard. Our world changed with a drop of a hat. When I wanted to throw my hands up and cry, they showed me what all we still had: each other. One of my students was interviewed during this time and he called us a family. Here, I was focusing on all we had lost (no Special Olympic events, no parties, no peer mentors), and they were able to focus on what we had. My students see the good in all situations; we could all learn from that.
What does it mean to be named a teacher of the year?
It is one of the greatest honors I have ever had. I am a third-generation graduate from Owasso High School. I am a small-town girl born and raised. So to have the honor to represent my alma mater as their teacher of the year is truly the greatest honor. It honestly blows my mind how I got here. I am just an everyday teacher who loves her students and coaching Special Olympics, but I absolutely love, love, love my job.