2019 Medal for Excellence in Elementary Teaching
Edmond resident Catherine Adams, winner of the Oklahoma Medal for Excellence in Elementary Teaching, teaches social-emotional learning and bullying prevention as the school counselor for Piedmont Elementary School. A 30-year teaching veteran, Adams began her career as a special education teacher and became a school counselor after earning her master’s degree in 1990. She was a 2018 finalist for Oklahoma Teacher of the Year and two-time Teacher of the Year honoree for her school.
“Children often arrive at school each day carrying more than just their backpacks,” Adams said. “They are carrying traumas they have endured, poverty, emotional issues and varying degrees of learning challenges into their classrooms.”
Adams teaches students in small groups and works directly with classroom teachers to help students learn empathy, goal setting, coping skills and how to make responsible decisions. “I am building a foundation of essential building blocks that every child needs,” she said.
To teach bullying prevention and empathy, Adams uses literature to immerse students in someone else’s world and expand their vocabulary. She uses role-playing exercises to help students practice empathetic listening and how to stand up for themselves and others. She has created several small groups to help students navigate specific issues. Her Cool Kids Club teaches anger management, while the Chillax Club offers skills for coping with anxiety. Her Hero Huddle and Butterfly Bunch help students learn goal setting and gain confidence. This past fall, she launched Good Grief, a small group for students grieving the loss of a loved one.
Adams is the founder of two mentoring programs, Piedmont’s Awesome Leaders (P.A.L), which matches high school students with fourth-graders, and Developing Relationships, Encouraging and Mentoring (D.R.E.A.M.) Team, which pairs teachers with children in need of additional emotional and academic support. Adams also works with colleagues to help them understand the effects of trauma and its impact on learning.
Courtney Lockridge, a parent and colleague, said she has seen first-hand Adams’ ability to help students overcome incidents that had a tremendous impact on their hearts and minds. When Lockridge and her young sons were injured in a car accident caused by a drunk driver, Adams spent countless hours listening to the boys’ fears and helping them cope and heal. “Because of her, I knew my family would be okay again,” said Lockridge’s son, Peyton.