Oklahoma Educators Immersed in History at Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute

OKLAHOMA CITY – Thirty-four Oklahoma teachers will return to their classrooms this fall with a renewed passion for early American history and a variety of new interactive lessons plans after attending the Bob and Marion Wilson Teacher Institute of Colonial Williamsburg in the restored capital city of 18th-century Virginia.

While in Colonial Williamsburg – the world’s largest living history museum – Oklahoma teachers met character interpreters portraying 18th-century people and were immersed in early American history through hands-on activities and reenactments of historical events. This marks the 30th year that Oklahoma teachers have attended the institute through a fellowship program coordinated by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, a statewide nonprofit that recognizes and encourages academic excellence in public schools.

Oklahoma ranks second in the nation, following California, in the number of teacher institute participants, with 1,111 Oklahoma graduates to date. Of that total, 922 were selected through the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence to receive donor-funded fellowships and stipends for classroom materials.

“I can’t wait to revamp my social studies plans for this year!” said Allison Resendiz, a fifth-grade teacher at Washington Elementary School in Clinton. “I feel like I’m better equipped to teach our history from all points of view, a much more ‘whole picture,’ including enslaved people, American Indians, women, and the lower classes’ perspective on the events. I’m excited about all the diverse lesson plans and resources I’m bringing back with me!”

Resendiz particularly enjoyed visiting the ongoing archaeological dig sites at Jamestown Settlement, reenacting the Virginia House of Burgesses’ debate for independence from Great Britain, and participating in a live canon firing demonstration at the Yorktown Battlefield site. “I have learned so much by experiencing colonial life at Jamestown, Williamsburg and Yorktown,” she said.

This summer’s Oklahoma participants included 26 fifth-grade teachers and eight secondary social studies educators. Fifth-grade teacher participants, listed by school district, are Christa Salesberry, AZTEC CHARTER SCHOOLS; Traci Jones and Traci Morris, BIXBY; Allison Acee, BROKEN ARROW; Robin Muse, CACHE; Allison Resendiz, CLINTON; Jessica Nicholson, DEPEW; Michelle Green, CHICKASHA; Janie Eaton, CLAREMORE; Julie Tucker, EPIC CHARTER SCHOOLS; Tammy Hawkins, GUYMON; Kay Lynn Osborn, JENKS; Julie Aich, MUSKOGEE; Jessica Pool, MUSTANG; Terri Curtis, Stacy Ford and Lindsay Sharp, NORMAN; Sara Black, OKLAHOMA CITY; Lisa Barricks, Rachel Ciancio and Allie Ross, OWASSO; Samantha Farmer, PUTNAM CITY; Shelly Schultz and Lynsia Sprouse, SHATTUCK; Patrice O’Dea, TULSA; and Marissa Flores, YUKON.

Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute master teachers Vanna Owens of CLAREMORE and Teresa Potter of PUTNAM CITY Public Schools served as facilitators for the fifth-grade Oklahoma delegation. They met daily with teachers to discuss interactive teaching techniques and help develop creative lesson plans based on their experiences.

Eighth-grade teacher participants, listed by school district, are Thelesa Taylor, DICKSON; Mary Robertson, FARGO-GAGE; Derek Collins, LATTA; David Burton, MOORE; Kelly Berry, RIVERSIDE INDIAN SCHOOL; Sally Cannizzaro, TULSA; and Kyle Cook, YUKON. In addition, Angela Cotton of TUTTLE attended a Teacher Institute session focused on STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics.

The Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute provides participants with interactive teaching techniques and skills to become mentor teachers who can assist other educators to develop active learning classrooms and make history exciting and relevant for their students. Participants share strategies to improve instruction, raise literacy levels and enhance critical thinking skills.

“The opportunity to learn more about events and people that shaped our nation on the very ground where the events occurred made the history come alive for me,” said eighth-grade Fargo-Gage teacher Mary Jo Robertson. “Each day after we had participated in the events, met ‘people from the past’ and walked through historic buildings, we would discuss what we learned and how we could incorporate it into our classes. I now have new strategies, hands-on activities, and lessons in which my students can take active roles in learning history.”

The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence has coordinated Oklahoma’s participation in the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute since 1993. The program is made possible through the leadership and support of the late Oklahoma City businessman Edward C. Joullian III, who was a former board member of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and a trustee of Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence. Joullian’s family, along with a group of loyal donors, continues to support the fellowship program, which has transformed the way many Oklahoma educators teach early American history.

OETA Broadcast of Academic Awards Ceremony to Honor Best in Public Education

OKLAHOMA CITY – Five outstanding Oklahoma educators and 100 of the state’s top public high school seniors will be recognized when OETA premieres its statewide broadcast of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence 36th Academic Awards Celebration at 3 p.m. Saturday, May 28, and 10 a.m. Sunday, May 29.

The program will also feature a keynote address by Vijay Gupta, a renowned violinist and artistic director of the Street Symphony, a nonprofit organization providing musical engagement, dialogue and teaching artistry for homeless and incarcerated communities in Los Angeles. The broadcast will air on OETA Channel 13 in Oklahoma City and Channel 11 in Tulsa. Subsequent broadcasts will be shown on OETA’s OKLA channel. For digital broadcast listings, visit the station’s website at www.oeta.tv.

The gala celebration, recorded May 21 at the Omni Oklahoma City Hotel, is sponsored by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, a nonprofit organization that recognizes and encourages academic excellence in Oklahoma’s public schools. This year’s ceremony was emceed by Tulsa veteran television news journalist Scott Thompson, a trustee of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence.

 The awards ceremony recognizes 100 public high school seniors from throughout the state as Academic All-Staters. Also honored are this year’s recipients of Oklahoma Medal for Excellence Awards: Elementary Teaching recipient Lori Zimmerman, a reading teacher at Shattuck Middle School; Secondary Teaching winner Elaine Hutchison, a math teacher at Fairview High School; Elementary/Secondary Administration recipient Scott Allen, principal of Monroe Elementary School in Enid; Regional University/Community College Teaching honoree Elise McCauley, professor of speech at Redlands Community College, El Reno; and Research University Teaching recipient Dr. K. K. “Muralee” Muraleetharan, professor of civil engineering and environmental science at the University of Oklahoma, Norman. Bios of this year’s honored students and educators are available online at www.ofe.org.

In his keynote address, “What Makes You Come Alive?,” Gupta shares life-changing experiences as a musician and social activist working in Los Angeles’ Skid Row, the largest homeless community in the United States. He invites audience members to reflect on life experiences that make them come alive and reveal their own true calling. Following his speech, Gupta joins the Oklahoma Arts Institute Orchestra to perform “Concerto for You, III” composed by Gupta’s wife Reena Esmail, artist-in-residence for the Los Angeles Master Chorale.

A link to the broadcast will be available in June on the foundation website at www.ofe.org. For more information, contact the foundation office at (405) 236-0006.

Vijay Gupta, violinist and artistic director of the Street Symphony of Los Angeles, delivers the keynote address at the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence Academic Awards Celebration. His speech, “What Makes You Come Alive?” will be featured during the OETA Academic Awards program broadcast at 3 p.m. Saturday, May 28, and 10 a.m. Sunday, May 29.

Foundation to Honor State's Top Educators, Students at 36th Academic Awards Celebration May 21 in Oklahoma City

Five outstanding Oklahoma educators will be honored along with 100 of the state’s top public high school seniors when the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence hosts its 36th annual Academic Awards Celebration at 5 p.m. Saturday, May 21, at the Omni Oklahoma City Hotel, 100 Oklahoma City Blvd.

The gala banquet, which has been described as the “Academy Awards of public education in Oklahoma,” will feature a keynote address by violinist and arts education advocate Vijay Gupta. Gupta is the founder and artistic director of Street Symphony, a nonprofit organization providing musical engagement, dialogue and teaching artistry for homeless and incarcerated communities in Los Angeles. Former Tulsa television news anchor Scott Thompson – an Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence trustee – will serve as the emcee for the evening ceremony honoring “the best of the best” in Oklahoma’s public schools.

The event will also feature musical entertainment by the Oklahoma Arts Institute Orchestra. Admission is $65 per person. Reservations are limited and can be made online at www.ofe.org. The ceremony will be broadcast statewide on OETA public television at 3 p.m. Saturday, May 28, and at 10 a.m. Sunday, May 29.

“The Academic Awards Banquet is an inspiring, entertaining and important event celebrating exceptional student leaders and educators in our public schools,” said Banquet Chair Dayna Rowe, an Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence trustee from Yukon and executive director of external affairs for Redlands Community College. “We are excited to be able to host our first full-scale, in-person event in three years and to gather in a beautiful new venue to roll out the red carpet for our honorees. Top it off with an inspiring keynote address by Vijay Gupta, and you have a very memorable evening. I hope everyone will make reservations and plan to join us!”

The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence is a nonprofit, charitable organization founded in 1985 by then-U.S. Sen. David Boren to recognize and encourage academic excellence in Oklahoma’s public schools. Through its Academic Awards Program, the foundation has awarded more than $5.1 million in merit-based scholarships and cash awards to honor outstanding graduating seniors as Academic All-Staters and exceptional educators as Medal for Excellence winners.

The foundation will present its 2022 Oklahoma Medal for Excellence Award in Elementary Teaching to Lori Zimmerman, a reading teacher at Shattuck Middle School; in Secondary Teaching to Elaine Hutchison, a math teacher at Fairview High School; in Elementary/Secondary Administration to Scott Allen, principal of Monroe Elementary School in Enid; in Regional University/Community College Teaching to Elise McCauley, professor of speech at Redlands Community College, El Reno; and in Research University Teaching to Dr. K. K. “Muralee” Muraleetharan, professor of civil engineering and environmental science at the University of Oklahoma, Norman.

Each Medal for Excellence recipient receives a $5,000 cash award as well as a glass “Roots and Wings” sculpture. With support from scholarship sponsors, the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence will also present medallions and merit-based Academic All-State Scholarships of $1,000 to 100 Academic All-State Scholars.

The 2022 Academic All-State class hails from 75 schools in 67 Oklahoma school districts. The honorees were selected from 397 nominations in what is described by Boren as “Oklahoma’s most rigorous academic awards selection process.”  Three high schools will celebrate their first Academic All-Stater: Heavener, Le Flore, and North Rock Creek high schools.

For more information on the Academic Awards Program and this year’s honorees, visit the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence website at www.ofe.org or call (405) 236-0006.

Longtime Tulsa TV Anchor Scott Thompson to Emcee Academic Awards Banquet

Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence Trustee Scott Thompson, an Emmy Award-winning television journalist, will serve as emcee of the foundation’s Academic Awards Banquet on Saturday, May 21, at the Omni Oklahoma City Hotel. The ceremony will be broadcast at 3 p.m. Saturday, May 28, and at 10 a.m. Sunday, May 29, on OETA Public Television.

Virtual Colonial Days Webinars Open to Oklahoma Fifth-Grade Classes

Oklahoma fifth-grade teachers are invited to register their classes for Virtual Colonial Days, a series of early American history webinars presented by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence. Teachers can register online through Jan. 17 at www.ofe.org.

“Agents of Change: Promoting Civil Discourse and Action” is the theme of the Zoom webinar series, which will focus on the importance of civil discourse and the role it plays in creating positive change in democracy. Students will meet people of the past to learn about problems they faced and steps they took to make positive change. Students will be challenged to consider how they can be problem-solvers, have civil discussions and be agents for change in their own communities.

The 45-minute webinars are free to registered fifth-grade teachers and will be held at 10 a.m. Fridays, Jan. 28, Feb. 11, Feb. 25 and March 4. Presenters include Tulsa historical interpreter Stephen Smith as Founding Father Benjamin Franklin; Mount Vernon historical interpreter Tom Plott as Dr. James Craik, who will reflect on his friend George Washington as a change agent; Colonial Williamsburg historical interpreter Bryan Austin, portraying James Madison, Father of the Constitution; and Colonial Williamsburg actor and interpreter Deirdre Jones Cardwell as Agnes, an enslaved woman in the home of Peyton Randolph, speaker of the Virginia House of Burgesses.

Following the series, students will be invited to participate in a literature contest reflecting on how they, too, can be agents for change in their communities. Virtual Colonial Days is part of the Early American History Programs sponsored by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, a statewide nonprofit that recognizes and encourages academic excellence in Oklahoma’s public schools. The foundation also administers scholarships for fifth and eighth-grade teachers to attend the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute and has co-sponsored Colonial Day at the State Capitol, a hands-on history education event for fifth-graders.

Last year, more than 5,700 Oklahoma students and teachers participated in Virtual Colonial Days webinars, which began as an educational outreach program during the pandemic. In a post-event survey, teachers indicated they wanted the program to continue – even after the pandemic is over.

“There weren’t many opportunities for authentic learning last year due to the pandemic,” said Aimee King of Shaweee, a 2021 program participant. “This was a chance for students to have engaging lessons and reinforce skills they learned in the classroom.”

Fairview teacher Kim Larsen said the historical presentations were very realistic. “Every one of my students finished the series knowing something they didn’t know before.”

Virtual Colonial Days is made possible with support from Oklahoma Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens, the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Larry and Diana Brown, and Charles L. Oppenheim. Teresa Potter, an instructional coach for Putnam City Schools, serves as project director for Virtual Colonial Days.

Virtual Colonial Days Registration Open

Arnett fifth graders, shown here Zooming with Benjamin Franklin, were among more than 5,700 participants in Virtual Colonial Days, a webinar series bringing interactive historical presentations to classrooms throughout Oklahoma. Applications for the 2022 webinar series presented by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence are now open here.

Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence Names Elizabeth Inbody as Executive Director

Elizabeth Inbody, a Tulsa-area education and nonprofit leader, has been named executive director of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, a statewide nonprofit that recognizes and encourages academic excellence in Oklahoma’s public schools.

Inbody will take the helm of the Foundation for Excellence on Jan. 3, 2022, after serving seven years as executive director of the award-winning Jenks Public Schools Foundation. She succeeds Emily Stratton, who recently retired after serving 22 years as executive director.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to continue Emily’s legacy of advancing outstanding educational initiatives throughout Oklahoma,” Inbody said. “I share her passion for public education and for the pursuit of academic excellence in Oklahoma public schools. I am motivated and honored to be joining such an accomplished organization.”

Jami Rhoades Antonisse, president of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, said the foundation board and staff are thrilled to welcome Inbody as the new executive director.

“Elizabeth Inbody brings a wealth of experience as a nonprofit leader and executive director of one of the state’s largest and most successful public school foundations,” Antonisse said. “Her knowledge and experience, coupled with her commitment to excellence in public education, will be great assets for the future of our foundation and for our state’s public schools.”

While at the Jenks Public Schools Foundation, Inbody completed a five-year STEM learning initiative to fund and support STEM learning labs at six Jenks Public Schools’ sites. She increased the foundation’s funding to Jenks Public Schools by 580 percent and created a strong strategic relationship between the foundation and the Jenks Public Schools’ leadership team, teachers and staff.

Prior to joining the Jenks Public Schools Foundation, Inbody served as communications and events coordinator for Crosstown Learning Center of Tulsa. She began her professional career in retail and served as the lead buyer of ladies’ apparel for Harold’s Stores for eight years.

Inbody is a past member of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence Board of Trustees and has served on its Academic Awards Banquet, Oklahoma School Foundations Network and Executive committees. She currently serves on the Discovery Lab Children’s Museum Board of Directors and is an active member of the Jenks Rotary Club and the Jenks Chamber of Commerce. Inbody is a graduate of Leadership Jenks and Leadership Tulsa.  She is an active member at her church, her sorority alumni organization, and the Jenks National Charity League. Inbody graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in marketing. She and her husband, Brian Inbody, a shareholder at Hall Estill law firm, are the parents of one son and three daughters.

The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence was founded in 1985 by then U.S. Sen. David L. Boren to strengthen support for public education in Oklahoma. Through its flagship Academic Awards Program, the foundation has presented more than $5.1 million in cash awards to honor outstanding public school students and educators. Through its Oklahoma School Foundations Network, the foundation provides training and networking opportunities to more than 200 public education foundations across the state.

Among its other initiatives, the Foundation for Excellence coordinates a summer fellowship program to send Oklahoma fifth- and eighth-grade teachers to the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute. Through its statewide mentoring initiative, the foundation supports the development of quality youth mentoring as a positive step toward academic success.

The foundation partners with the national Fund for Teachers and the Tulsa Community Foundation to provide grants for self-designed summer professional development opportunities for teachers in locations around the world. The foundation recently completed the pilot phase of its Teachers of English Learners Project, an online learning and networking platform to support classroom teachers in elementary schools with high enrollment of English Learners. The platform is now available free to teachers statewide through the State Department of Education.

Since 1987, the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence and its partners have invested more than $12.6 million in teacher grants, scholarships and awards directly benefiting Oklahoma public school teachers and students.

Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence Announces New Board Members

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, a statewide charitable organization that recognizes and encourages academic excellence in Oklahoma’s public schools, has announced the addition of 12 new members to its Board of Trustees.

Appointed to serve three-year terms are Casey Gilliam, educator and community volunteer, EDMOND; Stephen G. Butler, assistant dean for Advancement and External Affairs, Oklahoma City University Law School, OKLAHOMA CITY; Dr. Sonja J. Hughes, vice president, Strategy & Service Excellence, Aetna, OKLAHOMA CITY; Sheryl Lovelady, executive director, Oklahoma Afterschool Network, OKLAHOMA CITY; Marion Paden, executive director, Leadership Oklahoma, OKLAHOMA CITY; Jennifer Dilley, senior vice president and chief strategy officer, American Heritage Bank, SAPULPA; Mike Boynton, Oklahoma State University men’s basketball coach, STILLWATER; Annie Chang, concept and story lead, Gitwit Creative, TULSA; Michael Epps, vice president, Network Management, Zayo Group, TULSA; Melvin R. Gilliam Sr., associate vice president, SpiritBank, TULSA; Dr. David Kendrick, chair, Department of Informatics and assistant provost, OU Health Sciences Center, TULSA; Jennifer Loren, director of the Cherokee Nation Film Office, TULSA.

Three of the new trustees – Butler, Chang and Kendrick– received Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence Academic All-State Awards when they were high school seniors.

“It is our honor to welcome such exemplary community leaders to our Board of Trustees,” said Jami Rhoades Antonisse, president of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence. “Our foundation and our work on behalf of public education in Oklahoma will be strengthened by their talents and contributions.”
One of the keys to the foundation’s success is the leadership of its 180 trustees. They are leaders in business, education and public service who represent every region of the state and help promote the foundation’s mission and its programs.

The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence was founded in 1985 by then U.S. Sen. David L. Boren to strengthen support for public education in Oklahoma. Through its flagship Academic Awards Program, the foundation has presented more than $5.1 million in cash awards to honor outstanding public school students and educators. Through its Oklahoma School Foundations Network, the foundation provides training and networking opportunities to more than 200 public education foundations across the state.

Among its other initiatives, the Foundation for Excellence coordinates a summer fellowship program to send Oklahoma fifth- and eighth-grade teachers to the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute. Through its statewide mentoring initiative, the foundation supports the development of quality youth mentoring as a positive step toward academic success.

The foundation partners with the national Fund for Teachers and the Tulsa Community Foundation to provide grants for self-designed summer professional development opportunities for teachers in locations around the world. The foundation recently completed the pilot phase of its Teachers of English Learners Project, an online learning and networking platform to support classroom teachers in elementary schools with high enrollment of English Learners. The platform is now available free to teachers statewide through the State Department of Education.

Since 1987, the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence and its partners have invested more than $12.6 million in teacher grants, scholarships and awards directly benefiting Oklahoma public school teachers and students.

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(EDITORS: New trustees are listed below by hometown.)

EDMOND — Casey Gilliam is a former public school teacher turned interior designer. After a 10-year period living in California, she and her husband now reside in Edmond where their three children attend Edmond Public Schools. Gilliam serves on the Parent-Teacher Organization board of her children’s school and is looking forward to serving on the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence Board along with her father, longtime board member Ken Fergeson.

OKLAHOMA CITY – Stephen G. Butler is the assistant dean for Advancement and External Relations at Oklahoma City University School of Law. He previously served as director of the Law Associates annual giving program at Pepperdine University School of Law in Malibu, Calif. He has been active in mentoring programs and coordinated the Omega Educational Foundation’s Youth Leadership Conference and the Street Law Academy to educate young men on their constitutional rights. Butler was honored by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence as an Academic All-Stater in 1997.
Dr. Sonja J. Hughes serves as vice president of Strategy and Service Excellence at Aetna. Prior to joining Aetna, she was the executive medical director for the Federal Employee Program at Health Care Service Corporation. She is a board-certified OB/GYN who practiced for over 20 years before changing the focus of her career to include health care quality improvement. She is a member of the Health Care Business Diversity Council and is co-executive sponsor for the Diversity Mentorship and Sponsorship Program. She is active in state and national medical associations and a member of the Oklahoma Black Physicians Alliance.
Sheryl Lovelady is executive director of the Oklahoma Afterschool Network, which expands learning opportunities for at-risk children. She is also executive director for the Oklahoma City Housing Services Redevelopment Corporation. Her past experience includes positions with the Oklahoma State Senate, a statewide political caucus, a Washington political research firm, the City of Tulsa, and the Women’s Leadership initiative at the University of Oklahoma. Lovelady is a graduate of Leadership Tulsa, the Department of Corrections Leadership Academy and the US Department of Defense JCOC leadership program. She has served on numerous boards, particularly those focusing on women, children and education.
Marion Paden is president and CEO of Leadership Oklahoma. A licensed professional counselor, she has worked as vice president for student services at Oklahoma City Community College for more than 20 years. Paden has served on the boards of many state and national organizations, including the College Board, American Red Cross, Oklahoma All Sports Association and Junior League. She is a member of Leadership Oklahoma, Leadership Oklahoma City, Economic Club of Oklahoma and the Rotary Club of Oklahoma City. During Paden’s tenure as president, the Oklahoma City Rotary Club became the world’s largest Rotary Club.

SAPULPA – Jennifer Dilley is a senior vice president and chief strategy officer for American Heritage Bank of Sapulpa. She is a member of the Oklahoma Bankers Association and active in the Sapulpa Chamber of Commerce and Sapulpa Main Street.

STILLWATER – Mike Boynton is head coach for the Oklahoma State University men’s basketball team. Academics are at the heart of Boynton’s philosophy. In four years, Boynton has 11 Academic All-Big 12 selections, including a school-record five honorees in 2021. In 2020, the team earned the National Association of Basketball Coaches Team Academic Excellence Award after recording the second-highest team GPA in school history.

TULSA – Annie Chang is a story lead and content strategist for Gitwit, a Tulsa creative marketing and product agency. After earning her journalism degree from Northwestern University in 2013, she worked as a television news reporter in South Bend, Ind., and in Tulsa. Chang serves on the Tulsa Ballet Board of Directors and Emergency Infant Services’ Young Professionals Board. She is a volunteer for Poetic Justice, a restorative writing and creative arts program serving women who are incarcerated. Chang is a 2009 recipient of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence Academic All-State award.

Michael Epps is vice president of Network Management for Zayo, a Colorado-based company providing communications infrastructure to some of the world’s leading businesses. With over 25 years in the telecommunications industry, Epps established his career at Worldcom and later transitioned to Level 3 Communications before joining Zayo in 2010. He promotes workplace diversity as a member of Oklahoma Women in Technology. Epps is active in the Tulsa community, serving on the board of Birthright Living Legacy and supporting James Mission and Tulsa Parent and Child Center.

Melvin R. Gilliam Sr. is a business development officer for SpiritBank of Tulsa. He serves on the Board of Directors of KIPP Tulsa Public Charter Schools, the Oklahoma Former NFL Players Chapter Board and the City of Tulsa Financial Literacy Board. He is also active in the Oklahoma State University Inclusion and Diversity Committee.

Dr. David Kendrick chairs the Department of Medical Informatics and serves as assistant provost for Strategic Planning for the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. He is the principal investigator and CEO of MyHealth Access Network, Oklahoma’s non-profit Health Information Exchange. Kendrick is board chairman of the National Committee for Quality Assurance and a board member for the Strategic Health Information Exchange Collaborative. He was honored by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence as an Academic All-Stater in 1990.

Jennifer Loren is an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker and director of the Cherokee Nation Film Office and Original Content. She served as a television news anchor, producer and investigative reporter before joining Cherokee Nation Businesses in 2014. She is co-creator of the acclaimed docuseries “Osiyo, Voices of the Cherokee People.” She is active in many journalism and film associations and serves on the Tulsa Mayor’s Commission on the Status of Women. She is a member of the Booker T. Washington High School Foundation for Excellence and the Eliot Elementary Parent-Teacher Association Board.

Fifth and Eighth-Grade Teachers Encouraged to Apply for Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute

Applications are now available for Oklahoma fifth- and eighth-grade teachers interested in attending the 2022 Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute next summer in the restored capital city of 18th-century Virginia. The fifth-grade institute is scheduled June 5-11, and the eighth-grade institute is scheduled June 12-18, 2022.

The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence coordinates the selection of Oklahoma teachers to participate in the renowned teacher institute. Applications are being accepted through an online portal at www.ofe.org. Applications must be submitted by midnight on Feb. 1, 2022.

The fellowships cover all program activities, airfare, lodging and most meals. Each teacher also receives a $300 stipend for classroom materials. While in Colonial Williamsburg – the world’s largest living history museum – Oklahoma teachers will have the opportunity to meet character interpreters of 18th-century people and be immersed in early American history through hands-on activities and reenactments of historic events. Participants also will meet daily with a Master Teacher to discuss interactive teaching techniques and develop creative lesson ideas based on their experiences.

“No textbook can replace the inspiration and knowledge gained by walking in the footsteps of early Americans, both famous and ordinary,” said Teacher Institute alumna Linda Goodnight of Wewoka. “Visualizing George Washington and his troops at Surrender Field, debating in the very courtroom where Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry pled the cause of liberty, and learning to make rope by hand in Jamestown colony will ignite my teaching – and my students – forever.

“The Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute is by far the finest, most comprehensive teacher training I have ever attended,” Goodnight added.  “I am a better American and a better teacher because of it.”

Oklahoma’s fifth-grade teacher institute is open to fifth-grade social studies/history teachers and resource teachers, such as school librarians or gifted-talented teachers, who plan to teach U.S. history in their schools in 2022-2023. Their sessions will focus on the daily life of colonial Virginians and the transition from subject to citizen that occurred during the Revolutionary War period. Teachers will be immersed in content and hands-on activities that highlight the stories of the people who lived and worked in 18th-century Williamsburg.

Oklahoma eighth-grade classroom teachers who will teach U.S. history as part of their social studies curriculum can apply for fellowships to attend the Teacher Institute’s program for secondary teachers. Their sessions will examine how the concept of American identity began in the colonial period and continues to evolve and transform with each generation. Through inquiry-based analysis of primary sources, teachers will explore how that identity influenced American citizens to shape and change the Republic through the 1860s.

The fellowships are available to public and private school teachers. The Teacher Institute requires participants to be fully COVID-19 vaccinated prior to attendance. Participants are asked to share materials, skills and experiences with fellow teachers through two workshops or in-service programs upon their return from the institute.

The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence has coordinated Oklahoma’s participation in the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute since 1993. The program is made possible through the leadership and support of the late Oklahoma City businessman Edward C. Joullian III, who was an active supporter and former board member of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Joullian was also a trustee of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, a nonprofit organization that recognizes and encourages academic excellence in Oklahoma’s public schools. Joullian’s family, along with a group of loyal donors, continues to support the fellowship program, which has served more than 880 Oklahoma teachers.

For more information, visit the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence website at www.ofe.org or call Brenda Wheelock at (405) 236-0006, Ext. 11

Oklahoma fifth-grade teachers meet a historical interpreter portraying James Madison during the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute. Applications are now available on the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence website at www.ofe.org for Oklahoma fifth- and eighth-grade teachers to apply for summer 2022 teacher institute fellowships.

Three Public School Foundation Programs to Be Recognized for Outstanding Achievement

A fully equipped bookmobile, a book dispensing vending machine and a program connecting school site needs with community resources have been selected as recipients of the 2021 Outstanding Program Awards for Oklahoma School Foundations presented by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence and its Oklahoma School Foundations Network.

The awards recognize innovative programs sponsored or administered by public school foundations in Oklahoma. Receiving plaques and monetary awards of $1,000 each will be the Trojans Read the Way Bookmobile sponsored by the Jenks Public Schools Foundation; the Get Books, Not Twix! Book Vending Machine sponsored by the Grove Education Foundation for Excellence; and the Community and Schools Together Initiative sponsored by the Putnam City Schools Foundation.

“We are honoring these programs for their creativity and the positive impact they have in supporting academic excellence in their communities,” said Katy Leffel, director of the Oklahoma School Foundations Network. “In addition, program award winners will present a free webinar on Oct. 27 to share their ideas so other school foundations might emulate or adapt these programs in their own school districts.”

Trojans Read the Way Bookmobile
Jenks Public Schools Foundation

A grassroots effort by Jenks Public Schools educators to provide access to books and literacy support during the summer and their vision to expand the program into a dedicated bookmobile led the Jenks Public Schools Foundation to support the Trojans Read the Way literacy initiative. The initiative raised the funds needed to transform a retired Jenks school bus into a fully functional bookmobile.

In summer 2019, a group of dedicated educators determined a population of Jenks Public Schools students may not have access to books during the summer months. To provide these students with equitable access to books, multiple teachers volunteered their time and resources to load donated books into a van, travel to nearby apartment complexes, and offer books to families. The makeshift book- mobile was well received, and families lined up each week to take home a selection of books. These

teachers presented the positive outcomes of their summer literacy effort to the Jenks Board of Education, along with their vision of expanding the program.

Jenks Public Schools Foundation leaders heard their request and approved a Trojans Read the Way funding initiative. In February 2020, the foundation issued a call to action at its annual Dinner and Auction, raising funds to repurpose a retired Jenks school bus into the Trojans Read the Way Bookmobile.

Jenks carpenters removed the interior seating and worked with the Trojans Read the Way team to create a colorful interior equipped with bookshelves, seating, and a generator to provide air conditioning during the hot summer months. Once the interior of the bookmobile was completed, a Jenks business produced a wrap with a fun design to cover the bus. The Jenks Public Schools Foundation logo is proudly included in the design. Funds raised for the initiative also provided a permanent canopy for the bookmobile. A call for donated books was made throughout the district with Trojan Read the Way donation receptacles placed at all school sites. Several Foundation board members also offered to place receptacles at their businesses. Thousands of books have been collected.

“Jenks Public Schools Foundation leaders and the Trojans Read the Way team all agree that the Trojans Read the Way literacy program was extremely successful,” said foundation executive director Elizabeth Inbody. “It has grown from a grassroots effort of delivering books out of a van to an air conditioned, colorful, inviting bookmobile where students can experience the joy of selecting a book that will become part of their own home library. The number of students served increased dramatically, and three times as many books were given away with the addition of the bookmobile.”

During the summer of 2021, over 2,300 books were distributed to students and families. An average of 150 students were served each week, greatly expanding equitable access to learning for Jenks students during the summer months. The Trojans Read the Way team has plans to increase the impact of the program going forward by adding additional routes and taking the Bookmobile out to serve families during holiday breaks.

 

Get Books, Not Twix! Book Vending Machine
Grove Education Foundation for Excellence

 

Grove Upper Elementary School librarians were looking to reinforce positive behavior, reward students for reaching reading goals, encourage student reading and self-selection of books, and create a culture of excitement around reading. The Grove Education Foundation for Excellence stepped in to fund a book vending machine to provide an experience that fosters those important student achievement objectives.

Vending machines are a ubiquitous feature in many schools around the country, but creating a machine that dispenses a selection of brand new, high-interest books with a variety of reading levels rather than soda or candy has motivated students to focus on positive behaviors at Grove Upper Elementary. Students can earn a golden token to use in the book vending machine by demonstrating positive behavior, showing good character traits, reaching reading goals, going above and beyond in the classroom, or celebrating a birthday.

Giving books to students is also a great way to build bridges between schools, families, and the community. Community members who donate the books can write positive, uplifting messages in the books for students. The books in the vending machine are high-interest, diverse, and high quality, reaching students at all different reading levels. Students choose the book they want based on interest, regardless of reading level.

“The book vending machine brings new excitement to reading!” said Grove Upper Elementary Principal Charla Matthews. “Our students, no matter their academic level or socioeconomic status, are excited to earn a coin. They love to choose a book of their own and to receive it in a way that is FUN!

“Whole classes will come to watch the recipient spend their coin which builds excitement for others,” Matthews added. “We have some students who will save their coin for months until ‘just the right book’ becomes available. It’s an amazing tool for both our positive behavior plan and our schoolwide literacy initiative.”

The Grove Education Foundation for Excellence strives to provide grants that feature new and innovative ways to improve education for Grove students. Reading skills and good behavior are critical components of classroom success, and foundation leaders said they are thrilled to see the book vending machine encourage those objectives for years to come.

 

Community and Schools Together Initiative
Putnam City Schools Foundation

Recognizing that there are many community members, businesses and organizations that want to help public education and that there is always a need for community support for schools, Putnam City Schools Foundation created the Community and Schools Together Initiative (CAST) to help connect community resources to school needs.

Each of the district’s three feeder school patterns has a CAST liaison who works with school staff to identify and to fill needs and to build lasting relationships with community donors that improve educational opportunities for students.

During the pilot year for the CAST program, several opportunities for community engagement occurred. A group of church members painted games on the blacktop at one school while another repainted the United States flag. A women’s group came together to build a Girls’ Closet full of feminine hygiene and care products at a middle school. A youth group replaced the shingles on the roof of a shed at an elementary school. The Energy soccer club donated soccer equipment to enhance an elementary PE program. A local business donated two refrigerators for teacher lounges, replacing long outdated ones. During COVID school closures, the foundation’s CAST liaisons worked with three churches to collect and distribute school supply packets to students in need.

“The outcomes of the CAST program, from providing supplies for girls and sports equipment to books and school supplies, show that we are meeting the needs our schools have,” said foundation President Jennifer Seal. “Those things may not represent major breakthroughs in test scores, but they represent an improved community spirit and the building of a culture of mutual support throughout our area. Putnam City is not an actual city, which makes it difficult for people to feel that ownership and pride one might have in an actual town. This program will foster those feelings as it grows.”

The impact of the Community and Schools Together Initiative continues to expand as relationships are built and school needs are met in big and small ways across the district. Over 2,400 students received school supply packets during distance learning, and countless more have been impacted with donations big and small, thanks to community partnerships formed and fostered through CAST.

Nominations Open for 2022 Academic All-State, Outstanding Educator Awards

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, a nonprofit organization that recognizes and encourages academic excellence in Oklahoma’s public schools, is seeking nominations for its 2022 Academic All-State Scholarships and Medal for Excellence Awards.

Scholarships and educator awards totaling $125,000 will be presented at the foundation’s 36th annual Academic Awards Banquet on May 21, 2022, at the Omni Hotel in Oklahoma City. The event, which has been described as the “Academy Awards for public education in Oklahoma,” is attended by more than 800 guests and is broadcast statewide on public television.

“The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence Academic Awards Program is Oklahoma’s premiere awards program honoring academic achievement, innovation and leadership among students and educators in our public schools,” said OFE President Jami Rhoades Antonisse. “By working together to give outstanding students and educators the recognition they deserve, we send a strong message to our state and to the nation that Oklahomans value academic excellence.”

Academic Awards nominations are being accepted through an online portal at www.ofe.org in the following categories:

  1. Academic All-State, which honors 100 public high school seniors with $1,000 merit-based scholarships. To qualify, students must meet at least one of the following requirements: a composite ACT score of at least 30; a combined SAT evidence-based reading & writing and math score of at least 1370; or be selected as a semi-finalist for a National Merit, National Achievement or National Hispanic Scholarship. Eligibility must be verified by the district superintendent or high school principal. Academic All-State nominations must be submitted by 5 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 2.

Given the unique circumstances surrounding ACT and SAT testing during the COVID-19 pandemic, an alternative nomination criterion is available to students who have been unable to take the ACT and/or SAT test in 2021. For those students, the principal must certify that the student was unable to take the test due to COVID-19 and that the student ranks in the top 4 percent (weighted cumulative GPA) of their senior class. Students who took the ACT or SAT in 2021 but did not receive the minimum required score are not eligible for this alternative.

  1. The Oklahoma Medal for Excellence in Elementary Teaching, which honors one outstanding public school elementary teacher.

  2. The Oklahoma Medal for Excellence in Secondary Teaching, which honors one outstanding public school secondary teacher.

  3. The Oklahoma Medal for Excellence in Elementary/Secondary Administration, which honors an exceptional public school administrator at the elementary or secondary level.

  4. The Oklahoma Medal for Excellence in Teaching at a Regional University or Community College, which honors an innovative teacher at a public regional university or community college.

  5. The Oklahoma Medal for Excellence in Teaching at a Research University, honoring an outstanding educator at a public research university.

Oklahoma Medal for Excellence honorees each receive a $5,000 cash award and a glass Roots and Wings sculpture. Anyone may nominate an educator for a Medal for Excellence Award. Nominees must be full-time employees of their public school or institution and have demonstrated excellence as an educator. All Medal for Excellence nominations must be submitted by 5 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 30.

Scholarship and award recipients are chosen by an independent selection committee, chaired by retired Tulsa attorney Teresa B. Adwan, and comprised of business, education and civic leaders, as well as former Academic All-Staters and Medal for Excellence winners. Since 1987, the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence has awarded more than $5.1 million in academic awards and scholarships.

For more information, visit the foundation’s website at www.ofe.org or call (405) 236-0006.

Tulsa-Area Educator Cassaundra Walker Named BancFirst ESL Teacher of the Year

Cassaundra Walker, a newly appointed Title III English Language Development Coordinator for Jenks Public Schools, has been named the BancFirst ESL Teacher of the Year by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, a statewide nonprofit that recognizes and encourages academic excellence in public schools.

The $3,000 award sponsored by BancFirst recognizes an exceptional Oklahoma English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) teacher who has participated in the foundation’s Teachers of English Learners Project and has demonstrated exemplary professionalism and practice in teaching English Learner students.

Walker, a Broken Arrow resident who recently served as Bixby Public Schools’ EL coordinator and an English Learner teacher at Bixby Middle School, was nominated for the award by Bixby district administrators. The award was presented Aug. 16 at the Bixby Public Schools Administration Building, where Walker was recognized by colleagues from both districts as well as representatives from BancFirst and the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence.

“English Learner teachers get to try on a new hat every day – actor, linguist, singer, artist, technical support and my favorite – tour guide,” said Walker, describing how she had edited her middle school’s map last year to include the languages of her students and spotlighting her classroom so EL students knew where to go for help.

Walker traces her love for teaching and learning language back to her childhood when she was selected by her fifth-grade teacher to become a buddy with a new student from Mexico.

“We would trade words in English and Spanish with each other at lunch, sing songs we learned, or draw pictures to communicate with each other at first,” she recalls. “My fifth-grade buddy and I graduated together and are still friends today. Becoming a ‘buddy’ was my first experience with teaching and learning simultaneously. I knew then that teaching could be in my future.”

As an undergraduate English student at Northeastern State University, Walker earned her certificate to teach ESL and developed her Spanish language proficiency. She was “hooked on helping others,” volunteering to tutor exchange students and teach ESL classes at a local church. Her journey as an ESL educator later led her to teach English kindergarten for three years in Asia, to run ESL classes for inmates at the David L. Moss Criminal Justice Center in Tulsa, and to serve as an adjunct instructor at Tulsa Community College guiding adults through grammar and speaking classes. Walker, who earned a master’s degree in English from Oklahoma State University with a Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) focus, has taught in Bixby for the past seven years, with the last five dedicated to both teaching a coordinating the EL Program.

More than 800 educators from 104 districts who participated in the Teachers of English Learners Pilot Project in 2020-21 were eligible to be nominated for the BancFirst Teacher of the Year Award. Criteria for selection included demonstrated commitment to professional learning; professional practice; knowledge sharing; teacher leadership; parent, family and community engagement and communication; student growth; and effective use of technology.

Bixby colleagues praised Walker as a role model who goes above and beyond in her work as an ESL teacher and trusted resource to fellow teachers and families.

“As an ESL teacher and EL Coordinator, Cassaundra is constantly researching best practices and participating in professional learning,” her administrators wrote in their nomination. “In perhaps her most impactful skill, she shares these strategies with classroom teacher colleagues and EL teachers to help improve their content presentations. Her dedication to improving environments for her students outside her personal classroom illustrates her commitment to improving all aspects of her students’ experience.”

Walker has reached out to surrounding school districts to develop a list of resources and ideas to support classroom teachers in meeting the needs of their EL students. She also developed an outreach plan with the local YWCA to provide information sessions for the parents of Bixby immigrant students. When EL students were faced with the challenges of adapting to new Chromebook computers and distance learning during the pandemic, Walker tailored lessons to fit each student’s needs and make them comfortable with the technology and skills needed to operate in a digital world.

“The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence is proud to partner with BancFirst in presenting the ESL Teacher of the Year Award to Cassaundra Walker,” said Executive Director Emily Stratton. “Her commitment to supporting English Learner students and their families and to sharing ideas and best practices with fellow educators is second to none.”

Walker was one of many Oklahoma educators who participated in the foundation’s Teachers of English Learner Project, which uses a collaborative online platform to provide professional development, networking and support for classroom teachers in schools with high enrollment of EL students. The project, which recently completed its pilot phase, is now available to teachers statewide on the Oklahoma State Department of Education Oklahoma EDGE website at  https://osdeconnect.ok.gov. The platform includes an ESL Certification Test prep course. 

“Nearly 60,000 students in Oklahoma’s public schools do not speak English as their first language, presenting a challenge for classroom teachers who often do not have the training or resources to effectively integrate English Learners into their classroom activities,” said Lisa Pryor, Teachers of English Learners project manager. “As part of our teacher professional development activities, the foundation created the Teachers of English Learners Project to provide an anytime, anyplace professional learning hub for classroom teachers committed to providing quality instruction for their English Learners.”

Walker said she has been fortunate to have an EL team in her districts to collaborate with, but not all educators in the field are that lucky.

“Being an English language teacher can be quite isolating,” she said. “That’s why professional learning communities, like those fostered by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, are so important. They provide teachers with a feeling of value and belonging – a place to be heard, to learn, connect and grow.”

Cassaudra Walker (center), the Title III English Language Development Coordinator for Jenks Public Schools, receives the BancFirst ESL Teacher of the Year Award from the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence. Congratulating Walker on the honor are (from left) Russ Smith, executive vice president of BancFirst, Jenks; Doug Tippens, executive vice president of BancFirst; and Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence representatives Lisa Pryor, Teachers of English Learners Program Manager; Emily Stratton, executive director; and Charlotte Jones, virtual facilitator coordinator.
Emily Stratton (right), executive director of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, presents Cassaundra Walker a custom glass sculpture in honor of her selection as BancFirst EL Teacher of the Year.

Foundation Completes Teachers of English Learners Pilot Project: Resource Now Available Statwide

Nearly 100 Teachers Complete Exam Prep Course

An online professional development platform for Teachers of English Learners created by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence has completed its pilot phase and is now open for teachers statewide on the Oklahoma State Department of Education Oklahoma EDGE website at https://osdeconnect.ok.gov.

As part of its Teacher Professional Development programs, the foundation created the Teachers of English Learners Pilot Project to address a critical need for Oklahoma classroom teachers and their English Learners, said Emily Stratton, executive director of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, a statewide nonprofit that recognizes and encourages academic excellence in public schools.

“Nearly 60,000 students in Oklahoma’s public schools do not speak English as their first language, presenting a challenge for classroom teachers who often do not have the training or resources to effectively integrate English Learner students into their classroom activities,” Stratton said.

The Teachers of English Learners project uses a collaborative online learning platform to provide professional development, networking and support for classroom teachers in schools with high enrollment of English Learner (EL) students. The project was developed by advisory and content committees made up of Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence trustees and English Learner specialists from school districts and colleges. In addition, six English-as-a-Second-Language certified teachers served as virtual facilitators for the pilot project to answer questions and provide resources for participants.

“Our ultimate goal was to provide an anytime, anyplace professional learning hub for classroom teachers committed to improving instruction for their English Learners,” said Project Manager Lisa Pryor. “This goal was accomplished through the curation of high-quality content and the ability for teachers to share information and network organically.”

When the foundation launched the platform in February 2020, the program was available to educators in 17 schools with approximately 360 registered teachers. Today, more than 800 Oklahoma educators from 95 districts have utilized the online platform, thanks to the additions of an ESL Certification Prep Course, a webinar series and opportunities to network with other English Learner teachers.

“The project has provided a platform to unite English Learner teachers who desire collaboration with others working in our subject area,” said Payne County EL teacher Anastasia Mendoza. “Many EL teachers are the only one in their school or district. The online project has given teachers from across the state a common place to collaborate, build relationships and learn from each other.”

Last September, facilitators added the free ESL Certification Prep Course created by veteran ESL teachers Ellen Kraft and Marcie Levy of Norman. The course readings, videos, activities, and quizzes are tied to six state standards and keyed to 14 competencies addressed in the state certification exam. To date, 98 Oklahoma educators have completed the prep course and are working their way towards achieving state ESL certification. The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence has awarded $80 exam fee vouchers to teachers who completed the course and will continue to award vouchers – on a first-come basis – for those who complete the prep course by Sept. 15.

Organizers are hopeful that the number of teachers will increase exponentially with the new statewide access to the program. “We are particularly pleased that the Oklahoma State Department of Education is taking on the operations of continuing and expanding these supports to Oklahoma educators,” Pryor said. “We expect that this will translate to improved instruction for English Learners in classrooms across the state.”

The Teachers of English Learners project was managed by EDUTAS at the University of Oklahoma Outreach/College of Continuing Education. The online learning technology was developed by NextThought, an Oklahoma company that specializes in online professional development and community networking.

Project sponsors are the Sarkeys Foundation, BancFirst, The Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation, Home Creations, Gene Rainbolt, Bar S Foods, Cherokee Strip Community Foundation, Dillingham Foundation, The Joullian Foundation, the Office of Education Quality and Accountability, ARVEST Bank of Tulsa and Oklahoma City, Lopez Foods, Kirk and Sue Morris, Junior Welfare Leagues of Enid, Stephen and Sherrel Jones, Central Machine and Tool LLC, Dick Sias, Lisa Pryor, Oklahoma Bank & Trust Co., Cheryl & GW Lowry Jr., and Dick Ebrey.

OETA Academic Awards Broadcast May 29, 30 To Honor Outstanding Students, Educators 

Program to Feature Education Activist, Author Erin Gruwell

OKLAHOMA CITY – Five outstanding Oklahoma educators and 100 of the state’s top public high school seniors will be recognized when OETA Public Television broadcasts the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence 35th Academic Awards Ceremony at 3 p.m. Saturday, May 29, and 10 a.m. Sunday, May 30.

Keynote speaker Erin Gruwell, an education activist and author, will also be featured in the program. The broadcast will air on OETA Channel 13 in Oklahoma City and Channel 11 in Tulsa. Subsequent broadcasts will be shown on OETA’s OKLA channel. For digital broadcast listings, visit the station’s website at www.oeta.tv. A link to the broadcast will also be available in June on the foundation website at www.ofe.org.

The celebration, recorded May 22 at the Cox Business Convention Center in Tulsa, is sponsored by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, a nonprofit organization that recognizes and encourages academic excellence in Oklahoma’s public schools. This year’s ceremony was emceed by Tulsa veteran television news journalist Scott Thompson, a trustee of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence.

 The awards ceremony recognizes 100 public high school seniors from throughout the state as Academic All-Staters. Also honored are this year’s recipients of Oklahoma Medal for Excellence Awards: Elementary Teaching recipient Michelle Rahn, a sixth-grade STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) teacher at Will Rogers Junior High School, Claremore; Secondary Teaching winner Shelley Self, an art teacher at Coweta High School; Elementary/Secondary Administration recipient Chuck McCauley, superintendent, Bartlesville Public Schools; Regional University/Community College Teaching winner Dr. David Bass, professor of biology, University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond; and Research University Teaching honoree Dr. Edralin Lucas, professor of nutritional sciences, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater. Bios of this year’s honored students and educators are available online at www.ofe.org.

Education activist and author Erin Gruwell (third from right), keynote speaker for the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence Academic Awards Celebration, gathers with Medal for Excellence-winning educators (from left) Dr. David Bass, Dr. Edralin Lucas, Shelley Self, Chuck McCauley and Michelle Rahn prior to the ceremony on May 22. The event, which also honored 100 outstanding public high school seniors as Academic All-Staters, will be broadcast statewide at 3 p.m. Saturday, May 29, and 10 a.m. Sunday, May 30 on OETA Public Television.

The broadcast will include Gruwell’s keynote address, “Be a Change Maker,” in which she recounts her journey as a rookie teacher at Long Beach, California, working with students whose lives had been plagued by gangs and violence. Gruwell’s innovative teaching methods gave new hope to students forgotten by a broken system, motivating them not only to graduate high school, but to aspire for college, become published authors and more. Inspired by the personal essays of Anne Frank, a Jewish teenager in hiding in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands, Gruwell’s students captured their collective experience in the book “The Freedom Writers Diary,” which inspired a major film in 2007. Inspired by her students, Gruwell began The Freedom Writers Foundation, which shares her unique teaching methods with educators and inspires young people to be change makers.

Stratton Named Multicultural Citizen of the Year

OKLAHOMA CITY – Norman resident Emily Stratton, executive director of the nonprofit Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, has been awarded the 2021 Multicultural Citizen of the Year by the Multicultural Education Institute at the University of Central Oklahoma.

Stratton was recognized at the institute’s recent virtual conference for her leadership in developing and coordinating the Teachers of English Learners Project, a collaborative online training platform to provide professional development, networking and support for classroom teachers in schools with a high enrollment of English Learner students.

 

The Multicultural Education Institute at the University of Central Oklahoma is a two-day networking and training opportunity for education professionals that embraces diversity in the classroom and seeks to improve academic success. Each year, the institute honors individuals and organizations for their positive influence in diversity and cross-cultural efforts in Oklahoma.

“I am very honored to be the recipient of this special award and represent the team that brought success to our Teachers of English Learners Pilot Program,” Stratton said.

Stratton and her team, which included advisory and content committees made up of foundation trustees and English Learner specialists from school districts and colleges, created the platform in response to the rapidly growing diversity of Oklahoma’s students, and the unique challenges that this represents for classroom teachers.

“When we heard that 42 percent of the more than 50,000 English Learner students in our public schools were not graduating, we knew we had to do some type of teacher professional development to help teachers better assimilate these students into their classrooms,” Stratton said.

The online learning platform for the Teachers of English Learners Project was developed by NextThought, an Oklahoma company that specializes in online professional development and community networking. Following a successful pilot year serving more than 800 educators, organizers are planning a state-wide roll-out in partnership with the Oklahoma State Department of Education.

The platform includes a comprehensive English as a Second Language Certification Exam Prep Course complete with readings, videos, activities and quizzes tied to the 14 competencies required for state certification. As an incentive, the program provided exam fee vouchers for teachers who completed the course.

“This program fits the mission of our Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence so well – to recognize and encourage academic excellence in Oklahoma’s public schools,” Stratton said. “We hope the program will make a difference for the future of these English Learner students and the future of our state.”

Since 1999, Stratton has served as executive director of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, a nonprofit that seeks to recognize and encourage academic excellence in Oklahoma’s public schools. A strong advocate for public education in Oklahoma, she serves on the boards of OU’s Jeanine Rainbolt College of Education and the OU School of Dance and is active in the Downtown Rotary Club of Oklahoma City, where she was named Rotarian of the Year in 2009. She is a graduate of Leadership Oklahoma and has served on its Board of Directors. In addition, Stratton is a founding member of the Oklahoma Arts Institute and the Clinton Public School Foundation, for which she served as interim president.

Outstanding Mentors Honored During National Mentoring Month

OKLAHOMA CITY – Twenty-two outstanding Oklahoma mentors are being recognized by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence and their community mentoring organizations during National Mentor Month in January.

The honored mentors were submitted by their respective mentoring organizations across the state, and each received certificates of achievement from the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence. The certificates are being presented in the communities where the mentors volunteer.

“We salute these outstanding mentors for the important role they play in helping young people achieve better academic, social and economic futures,” said Emily Stratton, executive director of the Foundation for Excellence. “Oklahoma mentors are truly changing lives!”

The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence is a statewide nonprofit that recognizes and encourages academic excellence in Oklahoma’s public schools. Through its statewide mentoring initiative, the foundation promotes the growth and development of quality youth mentoring programs. The foundation works with school districts and mentoring organizations to promote mentoring as a positive step toward academic success.

 “Through a statewide survey of mentoring organizations, we found that the most positive program outcomes were improved academic performance, positive mentor-mentee relationships, improved behavior, increased self-esteem and greater enrichment opportunities for participating youth,” Stratton said. “Mentoring also helps students develop resilience and feel supported as they face difficult life challenges.”

National Mentoring Month is a campaign sponsored by MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership to celebrate the power of mentoring relationships and recruit new volunteer mentors. The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence provides a directory of mentoring organizations across the state seeking volunteers. For more information and a list of this year’s honored mentors, visit www.okmentors.org.

 (EDITOR: The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence and community mentoring organizations are recognizing 20 outstanding Oklahoma mentors during National Mentoring Month. Honorees are listed below by their hometown and the city in which they mentor. Honored mentor bios and program descriptions are posted online at www.okmentors.org and linked below.)

BARTLESVILLERachelle Wilson, commercial banker at Arvest Bank, is the outstanding mentor for the Lowe Family Young Scholars Program.

BEAVEROlene Hale, a retired community volunteer, is the outstanding mentor for Beaver Duster Mentoring Program.

BIG CABINRoyden Heginbotham, a retired volunteer, is the outstanding mentor for the Thunderbird Challenge Program in Pryor.

CLAREMOREGarrett Ewell, a quality engineer with The Nordam Group LLC, is the outstanding mentor for STARBASE Oklahoma 2.0. Ewell is a resident of Claremore.

John Lingenfelter, a retired community volunteer, is the outstanding mentor for Volunteers for Youth.

DUNCANTerry Dennard, vice president at Legacy Bank, is the outstanding mentor for Link ONE Mentoring, ONE True Light Inc.

ELGINOlivia Long, a senior electrical engineering major at Oklahoma State University, is the outstanding mentor for the College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology Scholars Mentor Program. Long is from Elgin.

EL RENOKathy Hill, a sign language interpreter from Yukon, is the outstanding mentor for House of Healing in El Reno.

LAWTONElizabeth Nalley, professor of chemistry at Cameron University, is the outstanding mentor for the Oklahoma Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation.  

Bryan and Ida Mae Wheeler, a retired couple from Lawton, are the outstanding mentors for Southwest Oklahoma Juvenile Center in Manitou.

LEEDEYConnie Quattlebaum, a retired community volunteer, is the outstanding mentor for Believe In Some One Now (B.I.S.O.N.) Mentors, a program of Leedey Public Schools.

MANITOUBryan and Ida Mae Wheeler, a retired couple from Lawton, are the outstanding mentors for Southwest Oklahoma Juvenile Center in Manitou.

NORMANRonald Anderson, assistant professor of management at the University of Oklahoma, is the outstanding mentor for the Division of Management & International Business Mentoring Program, Price College of Business.

Shavonne Evans, a real estate agent for Keller Williams-Mullinix of Norman, is the outstanding mentor for Bridges of Norman Inc.

Mallory Lambert, a senior international business and accounting major at the University of Oklahoma, is the outstanding mentor for the JCPenney Leadership Program, Price College of Business. Lambert is from Tomball, Texas.

Taylor Thacker, a senior chemical, biological and materials engineering major, is the outstanding mentor for the Chevron Phillips Scholar-Mentor Program at the University of Oklahoma.

OKLAHOMA CITYJolene Ingram, a retired community volunteer, is the outstanding mentor for Whiz Kids Oklahoma.

Nancy Nathaniel, a retired community volunteer, has been named the outstanding mentor for the INTEGRIS Positive Directions Mentoring Program at Stanley Hupfeld Academy.

PRYORRoyden Heginbotham, a retired volunteer from Big Cabin, is the outstanding mentor for the Thunderbird Challenge Program in Pryor.

STILLWATERSarah Casey, a senior chemical engineering major at Oklahoma State University, is the outstanding mentor for the College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology Peer Mentor Program. Casey is from Houston, Texas.

Scott Cornelius, a fifth-year architecture major at Oklahoma State University, is the outstanding mentor for the Architecture Mentoring Program. He is a resident of Stillwater.

Olivia Long, a senior electrical engineering major at Oklahoma State University, is the outstanding mentor for the College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology Scholars Mentor Program. Long is from Elgin.

Brooke Ryan, a fifth-year architecture major from Oklahoma State University, is the outstanding mentor for the College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology Summer Bridge Program. Ryan is from El Dorado, Kansas.

Patrick Williams, a junior mechanical and aerospace engineering major at Oklahoma State University, is the outstanding mentor for the Parker Engineering, Architecture and Technology Experts program. Williams is a resident of Stillwater.

TULSAGarrett Ewell, a quality engineer with The Nordam Group LLC, is the outstanding mentor for STARBASE Oklahoma 2.0. Ewell is a resident of Claremore.

 YUKONKathy Hill, a sign language interpreter from Yukon, is the outstanding mentor for House of Healing.

 

Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence Announces New Board Members

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, a statewide charitable organization that recognizes and encourages academic excellence in Oklahoma’s public schools, has announced the addition of 14 new members to its Board of Trustees.

Appointed to serve three-year terms are Matt Trentham, vice president and branch manager, Farm Credit of Western Oklahoma, BALKO; Terry Davidson, retired superintendent, COMANCHE; Jerrod Murr, professional speaker, Paradigm Shift, MUSKOGEE; Erika Wright, president, Noble Public Schools Foundation for Academic Excellence, NOBLE; Emily Virgin, minority leader, Oklahoma House of Representatives, NORMAN; Aletha Burrage, retired educator, OKLAHOMA CITY; Corinne Simon, corporate counsel, Ascent Resources, OKLAHOMA CITY; Alyson Willis, physician, SSM Health, OKLAHOMA CITY; Jason F. Kirksey, chief diversity officer, Oklahoma State University, STILLWATER; Ed Fite, vice president of water quality, Grand River Dam Authority, TAHLEQUAH; Diane Eason Contreras, director of immigrant & refugee services, YWCA Tulsa, Stephanie Horne, former director, Owasso Education Foundation, TULSA; John Waldron, Oklahoma House of Representatives, District 77, TULSA; and Dayna Rowe, executive director of external affairs, Redlands Community College, YUKON.

Five of the new trustees – Contreras, Murr, Trentham, Virgin, and Willis – received Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence Academic All-State Awards when they were high school seniors. Two of the new trustees – Davidson and Waldron – received the foundation’s Medal for Excellence Awards recognizing their innovation and impact as outstanding educators.

“It is our honor to welcome such exemplary community leaders to our Board of Trustees,” said Emily Stratton, executive director of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence. “Our foundation and our commitment to quality public education in Oklahoma will be strengthened by their talents and contributions, and we look forward to their partnership with us.” 

One of the keys to the foundation’s success is the leadership of its 180 trustees. They are leaders in business, education and public service, who represent every region of the state and help promote the foundation’s mission and its programs.

The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence was founded in 1985 by then U.S. Sen. David L. Boren to strengthen support for public education in Oklahoma. Through its flagship Academic Awards Program, the foundation has presented more than $5 million in cash awards to honor outstanding public school students and educators. Through its Oklahoma School Foundations Network, the foundation provides training and networking opportunities to more than 200 public education foundations across the state.

Among its other initiatives, the Foundation for Excellence coordinates a summer fellowship program to send Oklahoma fifth- and eighth-grade teachers to the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute. Through its statewide mentoring initiative, the foundation promotes quality youth mentoring as a positive step toward academic success.

The foundation partners with the national Fund for Teachers and the Tulsa Community Foundation to provide grants for self-designed summer professional development opportunities for teachers in locations around the world. This year, the foundation launched the Teachers of English Learners Pilot Project, an online learning and networking platform to support classroom teachers in elementary schools with high enrollment of English Learners.

Since 1987, the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence and its partners have invested more than $12.1 million in teacher grants, scholarships and awards directly benefiting Oklahoma public school teachers and students.

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(EDITORS: New trustees are listed below by hometown.)

BALKO – Matt Trentham is vice president and branch manager of Farm Credit of Western Oklahoma. He is chairman of the board of directors for the Baptist Village Communities and a member of the Oklahoma Cattleman’s Association, Oklahoma Farm Bureau, the Oklahoma State University Alumni Association, and the National Rifle Association. He was selected by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence as an Academic All-Stater in 2000.

COMANCHE – Terry Davidson is retired superintendent of Comanche Public Schools, where he served 24 years. He is currently serving as part-time finance director for the district. Davidson received the Oklahoma Medal for Excellence in Elementary/Secondary Administration in 2010 and the Superintendent of the Year Award from the Oklahoma Association of School Administrators in 2012.

MUSKOGEE – Jerrod Murr is a speaker, leadership trainer and cultural entrepreneur. He was selected by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence as an Academic All-Stater in 2000 and graduated from Northeastern State University. He is the founder and chief executive officer of Paradigm Shift, a leadership training and development company. He serves on the advisory board for the Salvation Army and was named a Partner Expert for The Forge, a business startup incubator administered by the Tulsa Regional Chamber.

NOBLE – Erika Wright is an architectural consultant for Burgess Company. She is currently the president of the Noble Public Schools Foundation and is a former member of the Noble Public Schools Board of Education. She is also secretary and den leader for Cub Scouts, Noble Pack 222.

NORMAN – Emily Virgin is a state representative and minority leader for the Oklahoma House of Representatives. She is an active member of the Oklahoma Bar Association. She serves on the boards of Bridges of Norman and Human Rights for Kids. She is a past board member of the Norman Arts Council and Thunderbird Clubhouse. Virgin was selected by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence in 2005 as an Academic All-Stater.

OKLAHOMA CITY – Aletha Burrage is a retired educator and a member of the Oklahoma Retired Educators Association. She is also a board member of the Semple Family Museum of Native American Art located on the campus of Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant.

Corinne Simon is corporate counsel for Ascent Resources, an oil and gas exploration and production company based in Oklahoma City. She is a member of the Oklahoma Bar Association, the Oklahoma City Bar Association, the Energy and Mineral Law Foundation, and the Ohio Oil and Gas Association. She currently serves on the Wilson Elementary PTA and the Junior League of Oklahoma City. In addition, she is a mentor for Oklahoma City Public Schools.

Alyson Willis is a physician at SSM Health St. Anthony. She is a member of the American College of Osteopathic Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Osteopathic Association and the Oklahoma Osteopathic Association. She is also a participant in the Oklahoma County Medical Society Leadership Academy. Willis received the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence Academic All-State Award in 2000.

STILLWATER – Jason F. Kirksey is vice president for institutional diversity and the chief diversity officer at Oklahoma State University. He is also an associate professor in the university’s Department of Political Science and is the principal investigator for the Oklahoma Lois Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Program, designed to increase the number of minority STEM graduates. Under his leadership, OSU has significantly increased enrollment and graduation rates of students of color. In 2014, he pioneered a $6.4 million capital campaign that resulted in 50 new privately endowed scholarships focused on diversity and inclusion. He currently serves on the board of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education and the Oklahoma Diversity Officers and Practitioners Consortium.

TAHLEQUAH – Ed Fite is vice president for Rivers Operations and Water Quality with the Grand River Dam Authority, having previously served 30 years as the administrator for the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission. He serves as president of Keep Oklahoma Beautiful and the Midwest Chapter-River Management Society. In addition, he is active on the boards of Cherokee Nation Environmental Protection Commission, the Solid Waste Research Institute of Northeast Oklahoma and the Illinois River Watershed Partnership. A co-founding member of Save the Illinois River, Fite instructs swift water rescue technicians and is a floodplain manager. He is also active in the Tahlequah Kiwanis Club.      

TULSA – Diane Eason Contreras is the director of immigrant and refugee services at YWCA Tulsa. She is a member of the Oklahoma Bar Association, Tulsa County Bar Association, American Immigration Lawyers Association and the OU Alumni Association. She was selected by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence as an Academic All-Stater in 1996.

Stephanie Horne is former director of the Owasso Education Foundaton and an active community volunteer. She a member of the American Indian Science & Engineering Group and the American Legion. She is active in Hunger Free Oklahoma, the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association, Junior League and the Foundation for Tulsa Schools.

John Waldron is a state representative with the Oklahoma House of Representatives and a member of the House Democratic Caucus. A former history teacher at Booker T. Washington High School, he is a member of the Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association and the Oklahoma Educators Association. Waldron received the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence Medal for Excellence in Secondary Teaching in 2013.

YUKON – Dayna Rowe is the executive director of external affairs for Redlands Community College. Prior to joining Redlands, she served as Communications and Program Outreach Specialist for the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence. Rowe is a member of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education Communicators Council, the Oklahoma College Public Relations Association, and the National Council for Marketing and Public Relations. She is also a graduate of Leadership Canadian County and Leadership El Reno.

Oklahoma City Attorney Jami Rhoades Antonisse Named Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence President

October 22, 2020 (Oklahoma City) – Oklahoma City attorney Jami Rhoades Antonisse has been elected president of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, a statewide nonprofit that recognizes and encourages academic excellence in Oklahoma’s public schools.

The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence was founded in 1985 by then U.S. Sen. David L. Boren to strengthen support for public education in Oklahoma. Through its flagship Academic Awards Program, the foundation has presented more than $5 million in cash awards to honor outstanding public high school seniors as Academic All-Staters and to recognize innovative educators as Medal for Excellence winners. Through its Oklahoma School Foundations Network, the foundation provides training and networking opportunities to more than 200 public education foundations across the state.

Among its other initiatives, the Foundation for Excellence coordinates a summer fellowship program to send Oklahoma fifth- and eighth-grade teachers to the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute. Through its statewide mentoring initiative, the foundation promotes quality youth mentoring as a positive step toward academic success. The foundation partners with the national Fund for Teachers and the Tulsa Community Foundation to provide grants for self-designed summer professional development opportunities for teachers in locations around the world. This year, the foundation launched the Teachers of English Learners Pilot Project, an online learning and networking platform to support classroom teachers in elementary schools with high enrollment of English Learners.

Since 1987, the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence and its partners have invested more than $12.1 million in teacher grants, scholarships and awards directly benefiting Oklahoma public school teachers and students.

Antonisse was one of five seniors from Midwest City High School to be selected to the foundation’s inaugural class of Academic All-Staters in 1987. She earned her bachelor’s degree in French from Georgetown University, her master’s degree in library science from the University of Maryland, and her juris doctorate from the University of Oklahoma College of Law. She is a partner in the law firm of Miller & Johnson, PLLC.

A self-described “groupie” of public school teachers, Antonisse was proud to be one of the “Girl Attorneys” who marched on the Oklahoma state capitol during the Teacher Walkout of 2018. She said she supports OFE’s mission because “Oklahoma students deserve the very best we can give them — roots and wings. By promoting excellence in education, the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence invests in our state’s future in a very meaningful way.”

Antonisse has served on the foundation’s Board of Trustees since 2009 and was a member of the Fund for Teachers selection committee and the Academic Awards Banquet planning committee for several years. In 2016, after chairing the Academic Awards Banquet for the second time, she was presented with the foundation’s Distinguished Service Award.

“Through my long association with OFE, I have found so many excellent mentors and dear friends who share my commitment to lifelong learning and community service,” Antonisse said, upon being elected foundation president. “I am especially proud that 18 other Academic All-State Alumni, including President-Elect Andrew Morris, are serving with me on the foundation’s Board of Trustees, and I invite other alumni to join us in supporting public education in Oklahoma.”

Antonisse is also active with the Mid-Del Public Schools Foundation, the P.E.O. International Sisterhood (Chapter EI, Midwest City), and the Georgetown University Alumni Association. She and her husband, Col. Richard H. Antonisse (ret.), are the parents of two sons, Hunter, a student at the University of Illinois College of Law, and Evan, a student at American University in Washington, D.C.

Three Public School Foundation Programs to Be Recognized for Outstanding Achievement

A successful running-based mentoring program, bilingual and diversity teacher training program, and a program designed to feed students in the midst of the pandemic have been selected as recipients of the 2020 Outstanding Program Awards for Oklahoma School Foundations presented by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence and its Oklahoma School Foundations Network.

The awards recognize innovative programs sponsored or administered by public school foundations in Oklahoma. Receiving plaques and monetary awards of $1,000 each will be the Bruins on the Run student mentoring and running program sponsored by the Bartlesville Public Schools Foundation, the Teacher Pipeline Program sponsored by the Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools and the Picnic in the Park feeding program sponsored by the Weatherford Public Schools Foundation.

“We are honoring these programs for their creativity and the positive impact they have in supporting academic excellence in their communities,” said Katy Leffel, director of the Oklahoma School Foundations Network. “In addition, program award winners will present a free webinar on October 30th to share their ideas so other school foundations might emulate or adapt these ideas in their own school districts.”

Bruins on the Run Mentoring Program
Bartlesville Public Schools Foundation

The Bartlesville Public School District’s desire to increase student focus in the classroom, improve relationships between students and teacher-mentors, encourage a healthy lifestyle, increase student collaboration and friendships and provide a no-cost after school program were the driving factors that led the Bartlesville Public Schools Foundation to start the Bruins on the Run mentoring program.

Bruins on the Run is a free after school club that meets three times a week for fifth-grade students to run with teacher mentors and near peer mentors from the middle and high school. Student participants receive a quality pair of running shoes and t-shirt to eliminate the financial barriers to participate and are provided with healthy snacks at each club meeting. In addition to running, each meeting sets aside time for participants to work with teacher-mentors on setting goals, overcoming training obstacles, and building relationships.

“The running component is merely the vehicle used to connect with students,” said foundation executive director Blair Ellis. “Mentors are trained to engage with their students before, after, and during the runs. They model behavior beneficial to a classroom environment, like supporting and collaborating with peers, being determined and maintaining a positive attitude.”

After a successful first season with 30 students and 12 mentors participating from two elementary schools, last year the program was expanded to include all six elementary schools, serving 87 students with 48 teacher-mentors. Though the program is on pause this fall due to the pandemic, the foundation is excited to get started again in the Spring.

Teacher Pipeline Program Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools

Role modeling, setting high expectations and culturally informed teaching are three primary ways The Brookings Institute has determined a diverse teacher workforce encourages academic excellence in students. This study, among many others, also shares how difficult it is to “go out and hire” a diverse teacher. The Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools Teacher Pipeline Program works within the confines of current Oklahoma City Public School paraprofessionals, helping them become certified teachers and working to increase the number of bilingual and Black teachers in the district.

The program pays 100% of participants’ tuition, fees and books as they complete their degrees and become certified teachers for OKCPS. Participants make a commitment to remain employed by OKCPS for at least three years once they earn their teacher certification.  The Bilingual Teacher Pipeline Program has 39 active participants, with four more approved to start in the spring. The Diversity Teacher Pipeline Program has 12 active participants with three more approved to start in the spring.

“Data proves that students’ success in school can be directly attributed to having teachers who look like them, and a strategic focus for the foundation is Recruiting and Retaining Urban Ready Teachers. This program is making a real impact in increasing teacher diversity in our district” said Mary Mélon, President and CEO of The Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools. “It is exciting to see program graduates teaching in their own classrooms.”

All program participants continue full time employment with the district during the time they are completing their degree, with the goal to have long-term retention of all program graduates. Three participants have graduated from the program so far, with three more on track to finish their degrees this spring.

Picnic in the Park Community Outreach Program Weatherford Public Schools Foundation

 Teachers are often on the front lines in recognizing the terrible effect of hunger in the lives of many of their students. With the devastating effects of the COVID pandemic and a severe downturn in the oil and gas industry impacting finances of many families, the Weatherford Public Schools Foundation recognized that more students than ever are impacted by hunger issues. With no school feeding program available over the summer months, the foundation stepped in to create and implement their Picnic in the Park program.

Each weekday, in partnership with the Weatherford Daily News, Ben E. Keith food company and with generous community donations, the foundation provided sack lunches in the park to give children and their families a fun, casual and safe way to pick up needed food. Volunteers were able to serve and stay socially distant, while still checking on students and providing smiles and encouraging words. Each Friday an ice cream truck was on hand to serve free ice cream to the kids.

“As kids rode by on their bicycles each day to pick up lunch, the smiles, high-fives and looks on the faces of all involved let volunteers know how deeply appreciated these lunches were,” said Weatherford Daily News publisher Phillip Reid. “Surprisingly, some of the biggest winners were the volunteers themselves, who had the opportunity to take their minds of the stress and sadness of COVID and re-focus on helping others.”

Picnic in the Park provided over 3,800 lunches thanks to donations totaling $8,250. 426 volunteers helped hand out lunches, and over 900 ice cream bars were given out during the course of the summer.

 

Thompson Receives Distinguished Service Award from Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence

Longtime Tulsa television journalist Scott Thompson accepts the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence 2020 Distinguished Service Award from outgoing OFE President Cathy Render of Tulsa during the foundation’s recent Virtual Annual Meeting in Oklahoma City.

October 20, 2020 (Oklahoma City) – Scott Thompson, a veteran television news journalist from Tulsa, has been named the recipient of the 2020 Distinguished Service Award from the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, a nonprofit organization that recognizes and encourages academic excellence in Oklahoma’s public schools.

Thompson, who is a foundation trustee, was honored for sharing his talents as communications expert to help promote the work of the foundation. He was particularly recognized for serving as emcee for the foundation’s Academic Awards Banquet in 2019 and as host for a special televised Academic Awards Tribute on OETA in May 2020, when the foundation’s banquet was canceled due to COVID-19.

As a former news anchor for KOTV and later KJRH in Tulsa, Thompson did features on students and teachers who have benefited from the foundation’s Academic Awards Program, Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute, Mentoring Initiative and Oklahoma School Foundations Network. 

“Scott is positive, creative and compassionate in his support of Oklahoma’s teachers and students and is a tremendous trustee team member and champion for excellence in public education,” said outgoing OFE President Cathy Render of Tulsa, who presented the award. “We are so grateful for his exceptional dedication to our foundation.”

Thompson has served since 2010 as a trustee of the Sand Springs Education Foundation and was named a trustee of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence in 2016. He was later named to serve on OFE’s Executive Committee.

Thompson is one of Oklahoma’s most honored broadcast journalists. He has received six national and nine regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for writing and for Best News Series. He is the recipient of eight Emmy Awards and three national Telly Awards for Best Feature Reporting. His work has been honored with national awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, the American Legion Auxiliary and the National Catholic Communicators, among others.

Thompson and his wife, Holly, are the parents of two Academic All-State Alumni, Will (2014) and Jack (2018).

Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence Seeking Nominations for 2021 Academic All-State Scholars

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, a nonprofit organization that recognizes and encourages academic excellence in Oklahoma’s public schools, is seeking nominations for its 2021 Academic All-State Awards.

Scholarships totaling $100,000 will be presented at the foundation’s 35th annual Academic Awards Banquet on May 15, 2021, at the Cox Business Convention Center in Tulsa.  In addition, the foundation will recognize five innovative public school educators who were selected in 2020 as Medal for Excellence winners but were unable to be honored last spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Academic Awards Banquet, which has been described as the “Academy Awards for public education in Oklahoma,” is typically attended by nearly 1,000 guests and is broadcast statewide on public television.

“The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence Academic Awards Program is the Oklahoma’s premiere awards program honoring academic achievement, innovation and leadership among students and educators in our public schools,” said Executive Director Emily Stratton. “By working together to give outstanding students and educators the recognition they deserve, we send a strong message to our state and to the nation that Oklahomans value academic excellence.”

Academic All-State Award nominations are being accepted through an online portal at www.ofe.org. The award honors 100 public high school seniors with a $1,000 merit-based scholarship. To qualify, students must meet at least one of the following requirements: a composite ACT score of at least 30; a combined SAT evidence-based reading & writing and math score of at least 1370; or be selected as a semi-finalist for a National Merit, National Achievement or National Hispanic Scholarship.

Given the unique circumstances surrounding ACT and SAT testing during the COVID-19 pandemic, an alternative nomination criterion will be available to students who were unable to take the ACT or SAT test in 2020. For those students, the principal must certify that the student was unable to take the test due to COVID-19 and that the student ranks in the top 4 percent (GPA cumulative) of their senior class. Students who took the ACT or SAT in 2020 but did not receive the minimum required score are not eligible for this alternative.

Eligibility for all Academic All-State nominations must be verified by the district superintendent or high school principal. Academic All-State nominations must be submitted by 5 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 3.

The foundation will not be doing a selection process for Medal for Excellence Awards for educators this year so that it may honor the 2020 Medal winners, whose recognition was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Academic All-State Award recipients are chosen by an independent selection committee, chaired by retired Tulsa attorney Teresa B. Adwan, and comprised of business, education and civic leaders, as well as former Academic All-Staters and Medal for Excellence winners. Since 1987, the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence has awarded more than $5 million in academic awards and scholarships.

For more information, visit the foundation’s website at www.ofe.org or call (405) 236-0006.

Local Teachers Encouraged to Participate in Free English Learner Certification Exam Prep Course

 Teachers from 17 elementary schools in 10 school districts are invited to participate in a free, online English as a Second Language (ESL) certification exam prep course as part of a Teachers of English Learners Pilot Project coordinated by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, a nonprofit that supports public schools.

 The free Oklahoma ESL Exam preparation course is available to certified teachers from these participating pilot schools and districts: Lynn Wood and Timber Ridge elementary schools in BROKEN ARROW;  Southwest, Washington and Nance elementary schools in CLINTON; Central Oak Elementary in CROOKED OAK; Eisenhower, Monroe and Coolidge elementary schools in ENID; Hennessey Lower Elementary in HENNESSEY; Hooker Elementary in HOOKER; Marietta Elementary and Upper Elementary schools in MARIETTA; Adams Elementary in NORMAN; Purcell Elementary and Intermediate schools in PURCELL; and Santa Fe South Early Childhood Center in Santa Fe South Charter Schools, OKLAHOMA CITY.

“The course is ideal for classroom teachers who want to improve their knowledge and skills about serving English Learners (ELs) and those who may be interested in earning additional certifications needed for site and district ESL leadership roles,” said Lisa Pryor, project manager. “The course may also be a helpful refresher to those who already hold ESL certification, as requirements do change over time.”

Created by two veteran elementary and middle school ESL teachers, Ellen Kraft and Marcie Levy of Norman, the new self-paced course may be started at any time. With six standards to explore, teachers could expect to spend approximately 18 hours across the course readings, activities, interactive assignments, and quizzes keyed to the 14 competencies addressed in the state certification exam. Experienced teachers may move through the course more quickly. Teachers who complete the course before Dec. 31 are eligible for an $80 exam fee voucher to be used at the time of registration for the ESL certification exam.

Emily Stratton, executive director of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, said the new course is part of a pilot project designed to address a critical need for Oklahoma classroom teachers and their English Learner students. The pilot project is part of the foundation’s teacher professional development programs.

“Nearly 60,000 students in Oklahoma’s public schools do not speak English as their first language, presenting a challenge for classroom teachers who often do not have the training or resources to effectively integrate English Learner students into their classroom activities,” Stratton said.

To support classroom teachers and their English Learner students, the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence has launched the Teachers of English Learners Pilot Project this year. The project uses an online learning platform to provide professional development, networking and support for classroom teachers in 17 elementary schools with a high enrollment of English Learner students.  The heart of the project is an online learning platform developed by NextThought, an Oklahoma company that specializes in online professional development and community networking.

The pilot project was developed by advisory and content committees made up of Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence trustees and English Learner specialists from school districts and colleges. In addition, six ESL-certified teachers serve as virtual facilitators for the pilot project to answer questions and provide resources for participants. Following the pilot project, organizers are planning a statewide roll-out in partnership with the Oklahoma State Department of Education.

Sponsors of the Teachers of English Learners Pilot Project are Sarkeys Foundation, BancFirst, The Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundations, Home Creations, Gene Rainbolt, Bar S Foods, Cherokee Strip Community Foundation, Dillingham Foundation, The Joullian Foundation, the Office of Education Quality and Accountability, ARVEST Bank of Tulsa and Oklahoma City, Lopez Foods, Kirk and Sue Morris, Junior Welfare Leagues of Enid, Stephen and Sherrel Jones, Central Machine and Tool LLC, Dick Sias, Lisa Pryor, Oklahoma Bank & Trust Co., Cheryl & GW Lowry Jr., and Dick Ebrey.

For more information, call or text Project Manager Lisa Pryor at (405) 808-3457.

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OETA To Broadcast Tribute to Academic Award Winners

With the cancellation of its May 16 Academic Awards Banquet due to COVID-19, the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence is partnering with OETA Public Television to broadcast a 30-minute tribute to award winning-students and educators at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, May 16, and 3:30 p.m. Sunday, May 17. The program will also be shown on OETA World Channel at 8:30 p.m. May 23 and 7:30 p.m. May 30.

The program, featuring videos submitted by the 2020 Academic All-Staters and other special guests, will be hosted by longtime Tulsa television anchor Scott Thompson, a trustee of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence. The program is produced in partnership with Red Rock Video Services of Edmond.

“When we learned that our Academic Awards Banquet would need to be canceled, we immediately began seeking creative ways to give our honorees the statewide recognition and honor they deserve,” said Emily Stratton, executive director of the foundation. “OETA has been a loyal supporter of our Academic Awards Program, broadcasting our banquet for many years. We are so grateful they agreed to help us pay special tribute to our award winners through a broadcast to premiere May 16 – the same evening we would have held our banquet.”

The televised program will honor 100 of the state’s top public high school seniors as Academic All-Staters. Selected from 495 nominations statewide, the student honorees hail from 75 schools in 69 Oklahoma school districts. The 2020 Academic All-State class is the 34th to be selected by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence in what has been described as “Oklahoma’s most rigorous academic competition.”

Since the award program’s inception in 1987, some 3,400 high school seniors from 326 school districts have been named Academic All-State scholars. Each of this year’s All-Staters will receive a $1,000 merit-based scholarship and a medallion. This year’s All-Staters scored an average of 33.9 on the ACT, with 15 recipients scoring a perfect 36. The students’ average GPA was 4.20. In addition, 40 of this year’s All-Staters are National Merit semifinalists, and two are National Hispanic Scholar semifinalists.

The program will also recognize five innovative public school educators as recipients of its $5,000 Oklahoma Medal for Excellence Awards. This year’s honorees are elementary teaching winner Michelle Rahn, a sixth-grade STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) teacher at Will Rogers Junior High in Claremore; secondary recipient Shelley Self, an art teacher at Coweta High School; elementary/secondary administration winner Chuck McCauley, superintendent of Bartlesville Public Schools; regional university/community college teaching winner Dr. David Bass, professor of biology at the University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond; and research university teaching recipient Dr. Edralin Lucas, professor of nutritional sciences, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater.

Educator and author Erin Gruwell, who was scheduled to be the keynote speaker for this year’s Academic Awards Banquet, plans to deliver the address at the 2021 banquet. All 2020 honorees will be invited to attend next year’s banquet as guests of the foundation. The annual gala event, which is attended by nearly 1,000 people, has been described as the” Academy Awards of public education in Oklahoma.”

The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence is a nonprofit, charitable organization founded in 1985 to recognize and encourage academic excellence in Oklahoma’s public schools. Through its Academic Awards Program, the foundation has awarded more than $4.8 million in merit-based scholarships and cash awards to outstanding students and educators.

Following the OETA broadcast, the tribute will also be available on the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence website at www.ofe.org.

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Bob and Marion Wilson Teacher Institute of Colonial Williamsburg on-site Summer 2020 Sessions Cancelled Due to COVID-19

Special online programming under development; all 2020 teacher scholarships can be deferred to 2021

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (May 4, 2020) – On-site sessions of the Bob and Marion Wilson Teacher Institute of Colonial Williamsburg are cancelled for summer 2020 as part of the foundation’s continued effort to limit health risks associated with COVID-19.

Teachers who received scholarships for 2020 can defer them to 2021. In addition, special summer 2020 online programs are under development for the scholarship recipients and other interested teachers.

“We’re inspired every day by the work of our nation’s teachers, particularly during the COVID- 19 crisis,” said Tab Broyles, Colonial Williamsburg’s Peter L. and Patricia O. Frechette director of teacher development. “Cancelling the 2020 Bob and Marion Wilson Teacher Institute of Colonial Williamsburg is a difficult decision but one based on public health guidance, and it is the best solution for the safety of teachers, staff, students and our communities.”

Since 1989, the Teacher Institute has hosted more than 10,000 primary and secondary school educators for week-long sessions and three-day themed seminars, immersing them in an interdisciplinary approach to teaching social studies with a focus on American history.

“We are grateful to the program’s dedicated teachers for their patience, and to the generous donors who funded 2020 Teacher Institute scholarships,” Broyles said. “We look forward to hosting our 2020 scholarship recipients next year.”

Teacher Institute participants experience includes:

  • Presentation of primary source-centered, standards-based historical content
  • Immersive living-history experiences with classroom applications
  • An inclusive approach to analyzing people and events of the past from multiple perspectives
  • Innovative, engaging teaching strategies to bring history to life in the classroom
  • Collaborative idea sharing with Colonial Williamsburg staff and fellow teachers

Additional information about the Teacher Institute is available by visiting colonialwilliamsburg.org/cwti, by calling 1-855-296-6627 toll-free, and by following Colonial Williamsburg Education on Facebook.

Colonial Williamsburg public sites are closed through May 31 to limit health risks associated with COVID-19.

A growing library of virtual program content and resources for parents, teachers, other educators, lifelong learners and lovers of history is available by visiting the “Explore from

Home” section of colonialwilliamsburg.org, by following Colonial Williamsburg on Facebook and @colonialwmsburg on Twitter and Instagram, and on the Colonial Williamsburg streaming channel, which is free to account holders via the “Education” sections of Amazon Fire TV and Roku TV.

Media contact:                   
Joe Straw
757-220-7287
jstraw@cwf.org

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation preserves, restores and operates Virginia’s 18th-century capital of Williamsburg. Innovative and interactive experiences highlight the relevance of the American Revolution to contemporary life and the importance of an informed, active citizenry. The Colonial Williamsburg experience includes more than 600 restored or reconstructed original buildings, renowned museums of decorative arts and folk art, extensive educational outreach programs for students and teachers, lodging, culinary options from historic taverns to casual or elegant dining, the Golden Horseshoe Golf Club featuring 45 holes designed by Robert Trent Jones and his son Rees Jones, a full-service spa and fitness center, pools, retail stores and gardens. Philanthropic support and revenue from admissions, products and hospitality operations sustain Colonial Williamsburg’s educational programs and preservation initiatives.




 

– CWF –

Fund for Teachers has announced that 37 Oklahoma PreK through 12th-grade teachers have been selected for grants totaling more than $132,000 for self-designed professional development opportunities in locations around the world.

The Oklahoma grants are made possible through a partnership between the national nonprofit Fund for Teachers, the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence and the Tulsa Community Foundation. An Oklahoma Tribal Alliance, which began supporting the program last year, has expanded its support this year to help increase the Oklahoma fellowship funding to its highest level in five years. Additional funding was provided by the Stuart and Temple Foundations of Tulsa.

The Tribal Alliance is comprised of the Chickasaw Nation, Osage Nation, Cherokee Nation, Citizen-Potawatomi Nation, Choctaw Nation, Sac and Fox Nation, the Seminole Nation and the Ponca Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma. This year, grants were awarded to six tribal members representing the Citizen Potawatomi, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Cherokee tribes.

Since 2002, more than 1,000 Oklahoma teachers have received Fund for Teachers grants totaling over $3.6 million. In 2006, Oklahoma became the first state in the nation to offer grants to educators statewide when the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence joined Fund for Teachers and the Tulsa Community Foundation as state partners. Fund for Teachers fellowships empower teachers to explore their academic passions, deepen their scholarship and enhance their craft, said Karen Eckhoff, executive director of the national nonprofit organization.

“Through experiential learning, bold experimentation and the realization of personal ambition, teachers are better equipped to impart tools and skills which serve their students far beyond the boundaries of the classroom,” Eckhoff said. “Fund for Teachers knows that good teachers become great teachers when they have the resources to explore their subject matter in the real world and translate it to their students and communities.”

Grant recipients, named Fund for Teachers Fellows, were awarded the grants after submitting proposals that explained the need for professional development opportunities to fill both teacher and student learning gaps in their classrooms. The applicants could request up to $5,000 for individual fellowships or up to $10,000 for teams of two or more. Applications are reviewed through a rigorous selection process that adheres to the Fund for Teachers scoring rubric. To eliminate bias, all applications are read without reference to teacher name, school district or demographics.

This year’s grants will be deferred to the summer of 2021 due to precautions regarding the COVID-19 global pandemic. At that time, Fellows will journey to 14 countries pursuing learning opportunities that range from professional conferences, educational tours and trainings, interviews, cultural experiences and much more. This year’s Oklahoma Fellows hail from 17 districts and 20 schools.

Fund for Teachers enriches the personal and professional growth of teachers by recognizing and supporting their pursuit of opportunities that have the greatest impact on their careers, classrooms and school communities. For more information about the application process, grant winners or student outcomes, visit fundforteachers.org.

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(EDITORS: Oklahoma’s Fund for Teachers 2020 Fellows are listed below by cities in which they teach. Each listing includes a brief fellowship description. If you would like to interview a local recipient, contact Sara Wilson at swilson@ofe.org for information.)

 

ALTUS – Stacey Davis teaches at Southwest Technology Center in Altus. She will document Hawaii’s environmentally conscious culture to heighten student awareness of how their actions affect the global community through authentic real-world problem solving. Students’ projects will culminate in an Earth Day celebration. She is teaming up with Renee Tanner of Tri County Technology Center in Bartlesville for the collaborative project.

BARTLESVILLE – Erin Rakes and Julie Pattison teach at Jane Phillips Elementary School. They will explore the history and culture of Vienna, Salzburg and Munich to create trauma-informed classrooms that incorporate hands-on learning experiences grounded in the arts for pK-5th grade students.

Renee Tanner teaches at Tri County Technology Center in Bartlesville. She will document Hawaii’s environmentally conscious culture to heighten student awareness of how their actions affect the global community through authentic real-world problem solving. Students’ projects will culminate in an Earth Day celebration. She is teaming up with Stacy Davis of Southwest Technology Center in Altus for the collaborative project.

CHANDLER – Pam Anderson teaches at Chandler Junior High School, and Ann Taylor teaches at Park Road Elementary School. The duo will visit Ireland and Scotland, exploring how storytelling bridges the past and present to help students develop an understanding and respect for other cultures. The project will build students’ reading, writing, and oral presentation skills and help them gain exposure to and an appreciation for their own cultural roots and diverse cultures.

CUSHING – Bill Peeper teaches at Cushing High School. He will explore the “crossroads of conflict” between Berlin, Krakow, Prague and Budapest to research the extensive unrest and political conflict during the 20th century. The project goal is to inspire students with the resilience and recovery of the people through personal narratives and local histories. 

EDMOND – Katie Donaghue and Jill Auten teach at Deer Creek High School. They will create mini video lessons with correlating essential questions from sites associated with the birth of our nation in Philadelphia, PA, to enhance the learning of U.S. history and U.S. government.

INOLA – Cambry Riedl, Becky Robinson and Courtney Tice teach at Inola High School. They will participate in the Broadway Teacher Workshop in New York City to enhance an emerging theater program and better prepare students for collegiate auditions.

JENKS – Lana Bible, Michelle Diaz, Chari Paredes and Sophia Quiroz teach at Jenks East Elementary School. They will attend the Network of Immersion & CLIL Educators (Content and Language Integrated Learning) Conference in Seville, Spain, to learn strategies for addressing the needs of language learners who are emotionally and behaviorally fragile due to trauma and those with interrupted formal education.

Beth Wilson teaches at Jenks East Intermediate School. She will research outdoor education programs and facilities in Alaska that embed a respect for the local environment to develop hands on learning experiences for special education students with mild to moderate learning disabilities and/or emotional disturbances.

KETCHUMKim Byrd, Sabrina Chandler, Andrea Frost and Kandi Osburn teach at Ketchum Elementary School. They will research historic sites in Washington, D.C. to instill in students a stronger love for U.S. history, inspire them with stories of the endurance and fortitude of our Founding Fathers, and introduce to the curriculum a History Bowl that incorporates the community members as judges.

MANNFORD – Daphne Gaebler and Denise Wilson teach at Mannford Middle School. They will document U.S. Japanese American relocation sites and related museums in Washington, California, Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado and Utah to develop materials for learning focused on the lasting effects of America’s impact and role in World War II.

MOORE – Amy Branch, Josh McMartin and Melissa Moseley teach at West Junior High School, Oklahoma City, which is in the Moore Public Schools district. They will attend the TEACCH (Treatment and Education of Autistic and Communication related handicapped CHildren) training at the University of North Carolina to develop proficiencies in teaching functional academic, vocational, and leisure skills that increase lifelong independence for students with disabilities.

NORMAN – Michale Gentry and Lynn Susanto teach at Lincoln Elementary School. The pair will explore key places on historic Route 66 to create digital learning resources about Oklahoma history, with a focus on how stories are shared both past and present to spark their student’s interest in citizenship and the state’s future.

Diane Wood also teaches at Lincoln Elementary School. She will investigate the Italian Slow Food movement, the European Union’s plan to end food waste, Italian school cafeteria standards, and organic farming and sustainability practices to implement a food waste prevention plan in the school cafeteria that incorporates service learning and project-based learning experiences.

OKLAHOMA CITY – Philip Moll teaches at Odyssey Leadership Academy. He will explore characteristics of Paris, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Houten, Copenhagen, and San Francisco while simultaneously researching the history of 20th century government sanctioned racial segregation to study in depth Charles Montgomery’s “Happy City” and Richard Rothstein’s “Color of Law.” The project will help students reflect on their role within their city and use design thinking to create real project proposals for a happier, more equitable, and more ecologically stable world.

Tasha McKinney teaches at Emerson Alternative High School. She will attend the American Library Association (ALA) annual conference in Chicago to learn about the most innovative practices for technology integration, student collaboration, and reading intensification as a means of enhancing educational opportunities for at-risk youth and their families.

SHAWNEE – Norma Neely teaches at Horace Mann Elementary School. She will retrace the expedition of Lewis and Clark via the Columbia and Snake Rivers to authenticate learning about the Pacific Northwest and inspire a student driven, community-wide learning event that compares and contrasts regional climate, flora and fauna, uses of natural resources and Native American groups.

STROUD – Tina Livingstone teaches at Parkview Elementary School. She will learn techniques for fostering imagination and ingenuity through the Creativity Workshop in Florence and, afterwards, explore museums there and in New York City. Her goal is to find inspiring ways to incorporate visual art into core subjects and to produce students who are inventors and problem-solvers.

TULSA – Michelle Newberry and Christa Wallace teach at Hamilton Elementary School. They will participate in the Creativity Workshop in Barcelona to explore techniques to increase creative potential and help students transcend emotional trauma and develop self-esteem and confidence.

Betty Foshee and Elizabeth Martin teach at Lee Elementary School. They will attend Project Zero Classroom in Cambridge, Mass., to continue schoolwide integration of flexible, systematic and research-based practices. Their professional development focuses on three core practices: thinking routines, documentation of child thinking, and reflective professional practice.Ch

2020 Oklahoma Medal for Excellence-Winning Educators Announced

(March 2, 2020) OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence has announced the winners of its 2020 Oklahoma Medal for Excellence awards honoring five outstanding educators in Oklahoma’s public schools.

The awards will be presented at the foundation’s 34th annual Academic Awards Banquet on May 16 at the Embassy Suites Conference Center in Norman. Each of the five winners will receive a $5,000 cash prize and a glass “Roots and Wings” sculpture, designed by the late Oklahoma artist Ron Roberts and produced by Artistic Glass Studio of Edmond.

This year’s Medal for Excellence winners and their award categories are: Michelle Rahn, a sixth-grade STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) teacher at Will Rogers Junior High in CLAREMORE, elementary teaching; Shelley Self, an art teacher at COWETA High School, secondary teaching; Chuck McCauley, superintendent of BARTLESVILLE Public Schools, elementary/secondary school administration; Dr. David Bass, professor of biology at the University of Central Oklahoma, EDMOND, regional university/community college teaching; and Dr. Edralin Lucas, professor of nutritional sciences, Oklahoma State University, STILLWATER, research university teaching.

“Oklahomans know that education is the best investment we can make for our future,” said Cathryn Render, president 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, we are sending a message that we value excellence in public schools and the professionals who have given so much of themselves to enrich the lives of our children.”

Michelle Rahn, winner of the Oklahoma Medal for Excellence in Elementary Teaching, teaches sixth-grade STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) at Will Rogers Junior High in Claremore. Rahn began her career as a small business owner, but discovered her true calling when she volunteered at a camp teaching children about nutrition and diabetes management. The experience prompted her to pursue a degree in elementary education.

Now a 12-year teaching veteran, Rahn has led the charge for her district to focus on STEM education, first by receiving a $23,000 grant to start Claremore’s first elementary STEM program at Westside Elementary School and now to expand STEM education at Will Rogers Junior High.

“Michelle encompasses all the qualities that make a great STEM teacher,” said colleague Ranetta Eidson. “She creates a classroom environment that allows students to problem-solve, work collaboratively in groups, construct with their hands, and think critically and creatively.” As a former business woman, Rahn is mindful to incorporate higher-level thinking skills and strategies such as cooperative learning and inquiry-based investigations to help students prepare for the future workforce.

In Rahn’s classroom, students have worked in teams to design a Mars Rover and lander that is tested by dropping it from a height of 20 feet to see if its precious cargo – a raw egg – will survive the fall. In a cross-curricular unit, her students have read the memoir “Rocket Boys” and designed and built their own rockets. Through inquiry-based investigations, students become young scientists, observing natural phenomena, collecting data to develop their own hypotheses and conducting peer reviews as teams. Rahn volunteers after school to host an all-girls STEM Club, which is currently re-engineering old toys to accommodate students with cognitive disabilities.

“Mrs. Rahn connects with students through interactive learning and inspires them to love science and science concepts,” said Alicia Doonkeen, who credits Rahn with inspiring her daughters’ fascination with science. “The students not only learn the subject, but they learn to love the subject!”

Committed to lifelong learning, Rahn invests her summers attending some of the nation’s top STEM teaching institutes and will soon earn her master’s degree in Teaching, Learning and Leadership with a focus on math and science from Oklahoma State University. Among her many honors, Rahn is a 2020 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year finalist and recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching.

Shelley Self, winner of the Medal for Excellence in Secondary Teaching, is a National Board Certified teacher who has taught art at Coweta High School for 28 years. Her impact in arts education reaches far beyond the students in her classroom, said Kathleen Blake, an Oklahoma City arts educator. “She is an over-the-top secondary teacher … committed to advancing the arts in her school, community and our state.”  

Whether she is teaching a first-time art student or helping an Advanced Placement student develop a portfolio for college credits, Self seeks to be a catalyst, “nudging students to question, to take risks and to rise to a higher level of artistic development.” She challenges students to discover creativity through researching, expanding their experiences, sharpening their synthesizing skills and discovering more about themselves. “In Shelley’s classroom, there is a written component to every project,” says colleague Jennifer Deal. “She believes students need to think … about what decisions they made and why, analyzing the work based on things like materials, processes, ideation and their application of the elements and principles of design.”

Self seeks out opportunities for students to showcase their talents and serve the community through their art. Her students have participated in UnSung Heroes, a national initiative that honors lesser known heroes who changed history. Her Art Club students paint the windows of local businesses each Christmas, provide face painting for carnivals and sporting events, and host an annual Family Glaze Night for the community to glaze ceramics. Last Christmas, her Art Club was honored to represent Oklahoma by creating Christmas ornaments for the National Tree Lighting Ceremony in Washington, D.C.

As a state leader in arts education, Self has been a mentor to countless art teachers and has served several years on the committee for Young Talent in Oklahoma, a juried high school art exhibition and senior portfolio competition. Self is the recipient of numerous teaching honors, including Oklahoma Art Educator of the Year and the Milken National Educator Award. Many of her former students have gone on to become artists, art educators and arts advocates.

“I have seen former students come back to visit her and share the impact her instruction has made on them and now, through them, is making on individuals she may never meet,” said colleague Kathleen Sanders.

The winner of the Medal for Excellence in Elementary/Secondary Administration is Chuck McCauley, superintendent of Bartlesville Public Schools. When he assumed the post in 2016, the district was facing a dire budget situation and low morale. In just three years, McCauley has led the passage of two historic bond issues, engaged stakeholders to develop and execute a strategic plan, and expanded opportunities for students.

“McCauley earned his way to the district’s top post through a soft-spoken leadership style combining humility with intelligence and drive – a combination that naturally attracts others toward a  shared vision of a better future for all children,” said Dan Droege, a founder of Bartlesville’s Public Education Advocates for Kids.

In his first 100 days as superintendent, McCauley engaged key stakeholders, from students and parents to district employees and community members, to help create a three-year strategic plan. Inspired by their input, the district has implemented several new programs, including a 1:1 Student Computing Initiative providing Chromebook computers for all students in grades 6-12; Project Lead the Way STEM curriculum for all K-5 classes; and a new agriculture program for secondary students. In addition, the district established an Alternative Therapeutic Learning Academic Setting (ATLAS) for elementary students who struggle in school due to trauma.

Many of those projects, as well as facility improvements, were made possible through the passage of a $19.4 million bond issue in 2016 and a $17.9 bond issue in 2019. The first bond issue was also critical in saving teaching positions and protecting class sizes.      

McCauley has also sought to improve school culture by engaging more with teachers through school site visits and community events. He hosts informal Coffee-with-Chuck discussions and has instituted the BPS Wellness Challenge, where school sites compete against each other for the highest participation in the Wooloroc 8K race.

During the education funding crisis in 2018, McCauley encouraged many fellow superintendents across the state to suspend school so teachers and parents could make their case at the State Capitol. He and his school board even worked with local Rep. Earl Sears to develop a bipartisan funding plan that would eventually provide for $6,000 teacher pay raises and other critical needs. “Chuck McCauley’s commitment to public education has been etched in stone,” Sears said. “Chuck’s action for students and teachers has moved Oklahoma forward.”

Dr. David Bass, the recipient of the Oklahoma Medal for Excellence in Teaching at a Regional University/Community College, is a professor of biology and curator of invertebrates at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond. A leading expert in aquatic invertebrates, Bass teaches courses ranging from beginning biology and ecology to invertebrate zoology and aquatic entomology. He also coaches UCO’s competitive sailing team.

“Even though Bass has been a professor at UCO for 35 years, he still works as if he were a green Ph.D. starting his first semester of teaching,” said Dr. Wei Chen, dean of the UCO College of Mathematics and Science. “He treats each class as a new adventure, constantly revising lecture notes, adding new contents and experimenting with new delivery approaches.”

Bass’s courses combine dynamic, well-organized lectures with lab work. He utilizes numerous strategies to accommodate different learning styles, including discussion, data analysis, writing, drawing, field work and problem-solving. “As I prepare for class, I imagine myself as a student in the course to better understand their situation,” Bass said. “I focus on the most important concepts and how they apply to the real world or use examples to which students relate.”

Most courses Bass teaches involve field studies where students make observations in nature. Bass instructs students to “get out of their human skin” and imagine they are the organisms being studied to gain a greater understanding of organisms and their environment.

Colleague Gloria Caddell has accompanied Bass and his students on weekend field trips to explore Oklahoma field biology. “David patiently gives each student individual attention and when they find an invertebrate, his excitement makes it seem like he is seeing it for the first time,” Caddell says. “He has never lost that joy of discovery, and his passion and curiosity are contagious.”

Because of Bass’s engaging teaching style and love for his subject, many non-majors have changed their major to become biologists. He mentors and encourages students to become involved in research and curation activities. At least 15 of his publications are co-authored by students.

“David taught me what is necessary to take a scientific project from idea generation to the final published project,” said Kinsey Tedford, a former nursing major turned biology grad, who is now a coastal ecologist and doctoral student at the University of Virginia.

The winner of the Medal for Excellence in Teaching at a Research University is Dr. Edralin Lucas, the Jim and Lynne Williams Endowed Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Oklahoma State University. Lucas’s research focuses on the role of nutrition in promoting cardiovascular health and preventing chronic disease. A 30-year teaching veteran, Lucas has been recognized at OSU as an educator and mentor who sets high standards for academic success and goes the extra mile to help students succeed.

“She is understanding, yet holds students accountable,” said colleague Brenda Smith. “She communicates the importance of values, including hard work, striving for excellence, compassion as well as personal and professional integrity.”

Lucas teaches courses ranging from introductory Principles of Human Nutrition to graduate courses in Macronutrients and Nutrition and Evidence-Based Practice. She promotes student-centered learning by incorporating student-led discussion, in-class group assignments, hands-on activities and case studies. Lucas encourages students to apply lessons to their own lives to assess their own dietary habits and physical activity, which she hopes will impact their health long after they leave her class. “I am convinced that true learning is not simply a matter of memorizing facts, but understanding fundamental principles and being able to use these principles in everyday situations,” Lucas said.

Department Director Stephen Clarke said Lucas has a unique ability to take complex topics involving nutrient metabolism and make them applicable to students’ lives. Dr. Lucas played a critical role in reorganization of the department’s capstone nutrition course, which has dramatically improved student’s capacity to read and critically evaluate nutrition-related research.

 “What I love most about Dr. Lucas is she always pushes us to reach higher, learn more, understand more and be more,” said undergraduate student Cole Dillman. “She does this in a way that is completely personalized to each student. She has the innate ability to push you just outside your comfort zone to promote expanded knowledge, yet ensuring to never push too hard as to cause regression.”

Lucas was also praised for her role as a research mentor to graduate students. She takes a hands-on approach to developing their skills related to scientific inquiry, communication and laboratory techniques. Dr. Lucas has been honored six times as her college’s outstanding graduate faculty mentor and has twice been honored with an OSU Regents Distinguished Teaching Award.

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 16 banquet. The Academic Awards Banquet is open to the public, with admission priced at $50. Registration will open online April 1 at www.ofe.org.