Duncan Public Schools submitted their choices for teacher of the year this past week, where they chose eight deserving teachers to represent the district.

Lesa Hefner, Pathways to Future Careers Internship Instructor/Coordinator and Teacher of the Year Committee Chairman, said they love to be able to recognize each teacher specifically, as well as “getting to know each of these outstanding teachers better.”

“We spotlight the work they do each day in their classrooms as they interact with our most valuable community members — our children and young adults,” she said. “Teachers have a tremendous opportunity and responsibility to positively impact the future of students each and every day.”

On March 29, at First Baptist Church, the district will announce the Duncan Teacher of the Year.

According to Hefner, district staff feels honoring these teacher’s uplifts and encourage their hard work and dedication throughout the years.

“(To) bring positive attention to the wonderful work teachers do every day,” Hefner said. “We know teachers are humble and it is hard for teachers to take time to be recognized for the important work they do.”

Hefner said as a district, they want to continue to recognize qualifying and dedicated teachers.

“If we want outstanding people to come into this career field and teach our children and grandchildren in the future, we have an obligation to do all we can to bring honor and recognition to the profession,” she said. “We need to let our community see how thankful we are for the opportunity to positively impact the lives of our students.”

Though overcoming the challenges of the recent years, there’s still highlights to look forward to and accomplishments to celebrate.

Hefner said the teachers have become most flexible during many situations and circumstances.

“Teachers are some of the most resilient and flexible people in the world,” Hefner said. “Many teachers have had to overcome technological challenges that they weren't prepared to face to interact with their students.”

According to Hefner, these teachers have gone above and beyond to check in on their students.

“Teachers have become more adept at social emotion learning so that students feel supported and secure,” Hefner said. “Teachers have checked in on students, helped distribute meals to families and have cared for students in a host of additional unseen ways, all while facing personal situations just like the rest of the world.”

Oklahoma Teacher of the Year recognitions are also underway and they start at a local level.

After being chosen as Duncan Teacher of the Year, the teacher can move on to the state competition.

For this, there is an application process.

“After the district selects the Teacher of the Year from the site candidates, the district Teacher of the Year will then complete the application for Oklahoma Teacher of the Year,” Hefner said. “That application has to be submitted in August or early September and the finalists are usually announced in October.”

Nominees include Jane Loafman, Will Rogers Pre-K; Lauren Halleran, Emerson Elementary; Brandi Jones, Horace Mann Elementary; Patty Jennings, Mark Twain Elementary; Amy Armstrong, Plato Elementary; Kathy Barton, Woodrow Wilson Elementary; Sonia Norton, Duncan Middle School; Todd Ledford, Duncan High School.

The process of requirements have changed this year since a new Teacher of the Year committee was formed last fall Hefner said.

Requirements for nominees is for teachers to have a minimum of five years of teaching experience, as well as to be employed in the district for three years.

Next, according Hefner, candidates need to be fully certified, not be on a plan of improvement, have not been selected as the DPS District Teacher of the Year in the last ten years, they are expected to complete and submit an application for Oklahoma State Teacher of the Year, continue as a teacher within the DPS District for the upcoming school year, plan to continue their teaching career and have no plans to retire before or during the upcoming school year.   

Hefner said if the teachers meet all of the qualifications, they will follow up with a few questions from the Oklahoma Teacher of the Year.

“Each of the eight teachers will complete an application for the district Teacher of the Year and must submit the application by the end of February,” Hefner said. “The Teacher of the Year Committee will meet in March to review and score each of the applications to determine the district winner to be announced on March 29.”

District officials recently announced the candidates as they went to the schools and the kids cheered their teachers on.

“It is always very exciting to announce the site winners in their classrooms, especially in the younger grades,” Hefner said. “All of the students are always so excited for their own teacher to be selected as the site Teacher of the Year.”

The Teacher of the Year Ceremony along with the announcement of the 2021-2022 District Teacher of the Year will begin at 4:15 p.m. on March 29 at First Baptist Church.

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