If you experienced any interruptions in Duncan Thursday afternoon, my apologies, but when a string of black limousines full of superstars crisscrosses Duncan, traffic stops. Such treatment is generally reserved for a-list celebrities attending Hollywood premieres, but those occasions pale in comparison to Duncan Public Schools’ 2020 Teacher of the Year reception.
The caravan entered from the north, turning east onto Plato road to pick up Plato Elementary’s teacher of the year, Ms. Abby Leonard. A police escort then led them down 5th street for a quick cut-across to rendezvous with Woodrow Wilson Elementary’s very own Samantha Nahass. By then, news choppers gathered in the sky and crowds of cheering parents and students waived and cheered along the way.
Careening through neighborhoods, the entourage soon scooped up Kim Blalock from Will Rogers and sped down Elk to Duncan Middle School where co-teachers of the year, Marinda Cook and Sonia Norton waved adoringly to raucous middle schoolers. Mark Twain’s Sharon Banks joined them next, followed soon by Larra McPherson from Horace Mann. The final school was Duncan High, where men in black suits and dark glasses escorted Dawn Wainscott and Jeremy Haas through throngs of paparazzi and screaming teenagers. Finally, full of all the TOY candidates, the convoy rushed downtown to the red carpet reception at First Baptist Church for the annual Teacher of the Year ceremonies . . . at least, that is how I remember it!
The actual ceremony was lovelier than anything Hollywood or my feeble imagination could concoct. Friends, family, and educators filled First Baptist, cheering as finely dressed courtiers escorted each finalist to the stage. One honoree was missing, however, but Emerson Elementary staff stood on behalf of Carol Klingensmith, who was posthumously chosen to represent her colleagues. When the envelope was finally opened, the crowd celebrated Samantha Nahass of Woodrow Wilson Elementary as Duncan Public Schools’ 2020 Teacher of the Year.
As people mingled afterwards, I felt honored to be part of such an event and to be associated with such esteemed educators. There may not have been any stretch Caddies or national press covering the event, but maybe there should have been, for teachers rarely get the credit or attention they deserve. On the other hand, they do not seek attention, glory, or fame. They work for hugs and “aha moments.”
As a newcomer to Duncan, I am impressed by a community that is closely knit but big enough to provide opportunities. Duncan maintains its own identity while still being able to compete with bigger communities swallowed up in the state’s metro areas. We are connected both locally and farther abroad. Duncan stands apart, but it certainly does not stand alone.
And hopefully, that is how our children feel as they attend each of our schools, for great things cannot happen in the classroom until children feel they are part of something great. I saw it Thursday night in the professionals that serve them, and I see it in our children’s eyes each time I visit their schools. If I had the power, I wouldn’t just parade our teachers around in limousines but our kids, too. Maybe that’s how we should think of school buses from now on – stretched yellow limousines! After all, they do frequently stop traffic and turn heads!
Congratulations to each of our teacher of the year finalists with special praise for Samantha Nahass, Duncan Public Schools’ 2020 Teacher of the Year. She has a strong chance of being our second state finalist in as many years. Each of you represented your schools superbly, and each of you deserve an escorted ride through Duncan in your own limo, but I am only a superintendent, so I may not be able to pull that off. Nevertheless, I can certainly arrange a ride around town in one of our school buses, if you are interested. God bless you all and congratulations.