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OFE News Release

2005 Medal for Excellence Winners Announced

February 25, 2005
-- The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence announced today the six winners of its Oklahoma Medal for Excellence awards honoring the state’s top educators and education programs.

The state’s top academic prizes will be presented at the foundation’s Academic Awards Banquet May 21 at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City. Each of the six winners will receive a $7,500 cash award, with an additional $1,000 cash award going to the schools of the winning teachers and administrator. The recipients also will receive glass “Roots and Wings“ sculptures, created by Oklahoma artist Ron Roberts and produced by Jim Triffo of Oklahoma City. Medals are awarded annually to outstanding Oklahoma teachers, one each at the elementary, secondary, and college/university levels, and an administrator from the elementary or secondary level. An exemplary alternative education program and local education foundation also receive medallion honors.

This year’s recipients of the Medals for Excellence in Teaching are: Evelyn Roberts, Marshall T. Moore Elementary School (elementary), BROKEN ARROW; Deborah Cornelison, Byng Jr. High School (secondary), BYNG; and Kenneth E. Case, Oklahoma State University, (college/university), STILLWATER. The winner of the Medal for Excellence in Administration is Marilynn Kellert, principal of Belle Isle Enterprise Middle School in OKLAHOMA CITY. VISTA Academy of MOORE will receive the alternative education award, and BIXBY Educational Endowment Foundationwill receive the award for local education foundations.

“We know that education is the best investment Oklahoma can make in its future,” said David L. Boren, founder and chairman of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, a non-profit organization that recognizes and encourages academic excellence in the state’s public schools.

“By honoring these exceptional educators and education programs, we are sending a message that Oklahomans deeply value excellence in education and the professionals who have given so much of themselves to enrich the lives of our children,” he said.

Evelyn Roberts, an enrichment specialist at Moore Elementary School in BROKEN ARROW, is the winner of the Medal for Excellence in Elementary Teaching. Roberts, who felt called to the teaching profession when she was a young girl, recalls as a fifth-grader reading her mother’s teaching guides and watching her mother prepare detailed lesson plans for her own classes. “There is nothing accidental about good teaching; only the best-planned learning experiences seem to happen effortlessly,” said Roberts, recalling the experience. “It became clear then that teachers not only thought about teaching, but they cared about their students deeply, feeling the pain of their failures and the joy of their successes.” Now a 30-year veteran educator, Roberts is recognized as a master teacher in her district, where she has received numerous honors, including Teacher of the Year. She has completed two advanced degrees, including a doctorate in educational administration, and is among a handful of Oklahoma educators to earn national certification as a middle childhood generalist. In the classroom, Roberts combines a strong base of knowledge and skill with a passion for helping children to “become risk-takers in learning.” One parent commented, “You only have to look at the excitement in the children’s eyes as she is teaching to see her inspiration and her remarkable ability.”

Deborah Cornelison, winner of the Medal for Excellence in Secondary Teaching, teaches ninth-grade physical science at BYNG Junior High School. “If teaching were an Olympic event, Mrs. Cornelison would be a gold medallist,” wrote a former student who credits Cornelison with helping her win national science contests and inspiring her to study biosystems engineering in college. Cornelison, a nationally certified science teacher, has received numerous state and national honors for her teaching, including the Presidential Award in Secondary Science presented by George W. Bush. To help her students comprehend abstract concepts, Cornelison says she provides learning experiences that are “hands-on, minds-on and almost always a lot of fun.” Using toys, traditional lab equipment and cutting-edge technology, Cornelison’s students collaborate in small groups with design problems, experimental investigations and decision-making activities that develop thinking skills and relate their studies to the real world. Cornelison devotes countless after-school hours sponsoring junior high as well as high school student science projects. Her students have won more than 300 awards at regional, state and national science competitions. “I want my students to believe that success is within their reach, particularly those underrepresented in the sciences and teaching,” Cornelison says. Through her words and through her actions, she strives to tell students, “You can do it!”

The recipient of the Medal for Excellence in College/University Teaching is Kenneth E. Case, Regents Professor of Industrial Engineering and Management at Oklahoma State University. Among his peers, Case has earned a reputation as one of the world's leading experts in industrial engineering and quality management. He is one of only 12 Oklahomans elected to the National Academy of Engineering and is the only person to serve as president of both the Institute of Industrial Engineers and the American Society for Quality. He also is founding director of OSU's popular Master of Science in Engineering and Technology Management Program. Among his students, Case is known for his engaging teaching style, his rigorous coursework and his ability to help students "cement difficult concepts in a way they never forget." Whether lecturing to undergraduates in the classroom or presenting graduate seminars via satellite to busy working professionals, Case is consistently selected by his students for top teaching honors. "Although it's been over 16 years since I sat in Professor Case's classroom, a day does not go by that I don't recall or utilize a teaching, public speaking or research skill taught to me by Dr. Case," said former student John English, now a department chair at the University of Arkansas. "He is the finest professor I have ever known."

Earning this year's Medal for Excellence in Elementary/Secondary Administration is Marilynn Kellert, principal of Belle Isle Enterprise Middle School in Oklahoma City. The award-winning educator was selected in 1999 to lead the new enterprise concept school with a mission of “Academics, Character and Community … Second to None.” As principal of the “site-based managed school” Kellert oversees a $1.5 million school budget and works closely with the school’s governing parent board of directors in setting school policies and working toward continuous growth. “Mrs. Kellert’s leadership in the development of programs and services for our children is second to none,” said colleague R. Neal Johnson. Kellert has introduced such innovative programs as Core Knowledge Curriculum, Great Expectations and Accelerated Reader programs. She has secured funding for arts programs, which now include four full-time art teachers, seven performing arts ensembles, as well as speech, drama, debate and visual arts classes. Under Kellert’s leadership, student achievement and test scores have improved each year, ranking Belle Isle among the top 10 in Oklahoma public schools and first in the district, based on its Academic Performance Index. In 2004, Belle Isle was selected as a No Child Left Behind National Blue Ribbon School, and Kellert was named one of three middle school principals nationwide to serve on the Blue Ribbon Schools’ leadership committee.

Moore Public Schools’ VISTA Academy is the recipient of the Medal for Excellence in Alternative Education. VISTA, which stands for Voyaging Individual Students Through Academics, serves at-risk students in grades six through 12, as well as returning dropouts. The academy offers five different programs, including VISTA sixth grade, seventh and eighth grade, VISTA High School for grades 9 through 12, Moore Alternative School and Treatment Program, and the Moore Night School. “While the environmental causes of being an at-risk student are varied …, students display at least one common characteristic,” said teacher Trent Gibson. “ VISTA students are grateful to have a chance to succeed in a program dedicated to helping them bridge the gap from where they are to where they want to be.” VISTA programs combine small class sizes, parent involvement, behavior modification, counseling, arts integration and community service opportunities to increase students’ ability to perform academically and socially. The Oklahoma Technical Assistance Center, which evaluates alternative education programs, consistently gave VISTA exemplary ratings for its intake and screening processes, individualized instruction, counseling and social services, life-skills instruction and arts education. One student, who was two years behind on school credits, praised VISTA for helping her meet her academic goals and prepare to graduate this year. “They have taught me to respect myself and the things that I believe in.”

Receiving this year’s Medal for Excellence for Local Education Foundations is the Bixby Educational Endowment Foundation. The Bixby Educational Endowment Fund was created in 1969, making it the oldest local education fund in the state. In August 2000, the fund, which had operated under the Board of Education, began operating as a separate 501 (c) (3) charitable foundation. Since then, the foundation has awarded more than $320,000 to benefit the 4,000 students of Bixby Public Schools and has grown its endowment to more than $1.4 million. Among its major initiatives, the foundation presents endowed or underwritten scholarships to graduating seniors each spring. To help its scholarship recipients prepare for the demands of college, the foundation has launched a summer mentoring program that provides information and resources to ensure academic success. “We also have a new program in which board members volunteer weekly at the high school to help students search for scholarship opportunities,” said President Kathleen Phillips. Since 2001, the Bixby Foundation has awarded 46 classroom teacher grants totaling $213,589. Past grants have created a new art department, provided an Oklahoma history resource room and developed a lifetime sports class. Through its Century Club Campaign, the foundation annually encourages donors to give $100 each. Contributions totaling up to $15,000 are matched by Citizens Security Bank of Bixby. The foundation also teams up with the Bixby Chamber of Commerce for an annual charity golf tournament.

In addition to presenting the Medal for Excellence awards, the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence will honor 100 of Oklahoma’s top public high school seniors as Academic All-Staters at its May 21 banquet. The Academic Awards Banquet is open to the public, with tickets priced at $40. The awards ceremony will be televised statewide by OETA, the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority, at 8 p.m. May 28. For more information, call the Foundation for Excellence office at (405) 236-0006 or visit its web site at

The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence is a non-profit, charitable organization created in 1985 to recognize and encourage academic excellence in Oklahoma’s public schools. Its Academic Awards Program provides $199,000 in scholarships and cash awards annually to honor outstanding public school students and educators. The Foundation provides technical support and assistance to local education foundations across the state, sponsoring the annual Fall Forum for Local Education Foundations.

Among its other initiatives, the Foundation for Excellence coordinates a program to send Oklahoma teachers to the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute and provides scholarships for schools to receive Colonial Williamsburg Electronic Field Trips, bringing colonial history to life in the classroom. The foundation also administers the Schusterman Mentor Program, which pairs Academic All-State alumni with academically at-risk elementary school students, and oversees the new Teacher Scholarships for Professional Development Program, which funds continuing education opportunities for public school teachers.

Brenda Wheelock,
OFE Communications Director
(405) 236-0006; e-mail