Lesa Hefner was humble and surprised when she won Duncan Public Schools teacher of the year in February of this year as the nominees who met certain criteria and were chosen by their peers.

When Hefner was named the winner, she said she was “shocked.”

“Thank you so much. At the lunch today, I met all of these ladies and it’s such an honor just to be nominated,” she said. “You know you give your heart to your students and that’s what matters. All of these people do such a wonderful job so it is a shock to me.”

Hefner is the Pathways to Future Careers Internship Instructor/Coordinator at the high school.

“I treat these students like they’re mine or how I want my kids or grandkids to be taken care of. That really is the biggest part because if you do that, then you are doing all you can for them to help them in the future.”

Since she won the district, she was able to throw her hat in the ring for State Teacher of the Year, where on July 23 she was named one of the 12 finalists. Hefner had been humbled and said she has already gotten to spend time with the other finalists.

“All of those teachers really want to do a good job. I feel like most teachers do or I feel like you wouldn’t have come to this career to begin with unless you really wanted to make a difference,” she said. “It’s not about me, it’s about representing all teachers in this area that go above and beyond to give their students love and learning.”

In the last two years Hefner has been working on programs for Career Pathways doing things like employability skills which are now being copied all over the state. The most watched however is the internship program Hefner had built with the business community in Duncan. Seniors express what their interests are from manufacturing, to healthcare and Hefner finds a related business to pair them with for a semester.

“I’m just better at doing the work … I’m a good boots on the ground person,” she said. “What’s interesting is I read a book this summer and it was talking about students and helping them to find their passion. You know we can find a job, we can find a career or we can find a mission. I feel like this is my mission … working with young people and helping them to be successful and to get a path for that is my mission. I feel blessed to do this job. So the extra acknowledgment that I am doing a job … I am happy for that.”

Growing the program is one of Hefner’s main goals, she only reaches less than 20 percent of the students. However, the programs are going into lower grades, like the iCAP (Individual Career Assessment Plan) which is a career planning guide.

“I want success for all my students but that’s going to be different for every student and to do that I feel blessed and honored in and of itself,” she said. “So this (nomination) is like extra — the cherry on top.”

The 2020 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year will be named Sept. 17 in a ceremony at State Fair Park in Oklahoma City.

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