Rachael Hagen, who teaches second grade at Ator Elementary, is among 14 top educators in Owasso for the 2020-21 school year.
Why did you become a teacher?I didn’t grow up knowing I wanted to become an educator. In fact, my first major in college was biology with the intention of becoming either a physical therapist or nurse. It wasn’t until my second semester of my freshman year that my Composition II professor made me start questioning my career path. Growing up, academics did not come easy. School was a real struggle from about fifth grade on into my college years. Looking back, it was not the desire for education that drove me to this career, but former educators who invested in me, who cheered me on, who gave me the tools I needed to overcome my struggles. These are the people who sparked my desire to become an educator.
What do you feel you bring to your students’ lives?Determination. Whether social, emotional or academic, I like to think my students know and feel loved, that they also know they have someone who believes in them, and that in turn builds them up and gives them determination to overcome any obstacles they may face in second grade or down the road.
What’s one thing you’re proud of being an educator?I can say with such confidence that looking back at my last six years in education, both myself and my students have shown growth, and this brings me so much joy knowing I am making a difference. Yes, we had setbacks, but the grit we all had together as a whole helped drive our success. Specifically, seeing my students develop strong team collaboration skills among all their peers has made me the most proud. Each week, I like to rotate who my students sit next to in class. I see new relationships built and existing ones grow stronger. By the end of the year, everyone has such a deep relationship with everyone in class, it just warms your heart to see.
What does it mean being named a teacher of the year?It is a true honor. I learn so much from my colleagues. It’s humbling to know how much they believe in me, support me and value me. I am truly grateful.