Grade - Gale Blevins
My name is Gale Blevins, and I currently teach at the Wilson 6th Grade Center. I grew up in Oklahoma City graduating from the public school system. After graduation high school with honors and receiving scholarships for college, I attended Southwestern Oklahoma State University; where I received my BS of Ed.
My 6th grade teacher influenced me to be a teacher. She connected with her students and cared about their successes. I remember her working with special needs students before school; at a time when those students were often just managed in a separate school setting. She created hands-on activities instead of relying only on the textbook. She was a teacher who kept in touch with her students, myself included. In a sentence, she was simply the best and I wanted to be just like her. She died in 1998.
I have modeled my teaching, to a great deal, after her; and hope I am as good a teacher to my students as she was to me.
My teaching has evolved over my career. When I taught 5th grade, I utilized as much hands-on opportunities as I could. I have seen much more success when the curriculum is geared toward student led discovery. Some of those experiences that proved to be successful were:
A Starry, Starry Night This experience was a collaboration with the Tulsa Astronomy Club that allowed students and parents to view stellular objects in the night sky through telescopes. Students would bring their newly found knowledge back to the classroom for more in-depth research creating constellation projects with unconventional materials. Learning doesnt just take place in the classroom. Over the years, this outside the classroom activity became a community experience.
Washington DC Trips -- Having led 14 trips to DC, I was able to offer students and parents first hand opportunities to learn about our nations history. These experiences change the way students engage in discussions and perspectives of government & history. The trips have sparked an interest in knowledge of government which led some of the students to pursue careers in law, government, and even politics. My next trip is scheduled for 2018 and will include repeat travelers, as well as, children of past travelers. I guess you could say the legacy continues.
Cadaver Cats -- One of my more memorable out of the box experiences occurred when I asked the high school Anatomy teacher to bring her students and cadaver cats to my classroom for a lesson on dissection. We were studying human systems and this hands-on learning activity brought the textbook to life. One student informed me she wanted to be a heart surgeon, and asked if she could cut out the heart?. I told her yes, and today a couple of those students are practicing physicians.
National Board Certified Teacher I consider this one of my greatest achievements. The experience of achieving National Board certification helped me assess my teaching strategies and develop more effective ways to help my students be successful.
Other areas of achievement -- I have served as a mentor teacher for interns preparing for the teaching profession, collaborated with and participated in co-teaching curriculum, served on the Teacher Works committee to establish the criteria for the OAM & VAM portions of the OK TLE, I was a part of the Oklahoma Office of Educational Quality and Accountability (OEQA) team that validated test questions for the Oklahoma Social Studies Teacher certification test, and I am currently a member of the Oklahoma Alliance for Geographic Education (OKAGE). I think my most cherished awards are the Whos Who of Americas Teachers.
These awards are special because they are given anonymously by students who nominate a teacher they feel has made an impact in their learning.
Currently I teach 6th grade Social Studies, and work at creating a highly effective curriculum that includes hands-on projects for every unit of study. Projects focus on research to create A-Z posters, power point presentations, student created Jeopardy games, and panel discussions. These projects offer opportunities for students to make learning relevant; so when they do return to the textbook, they have additional knowledge and background that gives them a better understanding of the world in which they live. Recently I have also begun working with the 6th, 7th, & 8th grade Gifted and Talented groups. In addition to the GT groups, I also sponsor the CMS Academic Teams.
Over the years, Ive heard, read, and put into practice different philosophies of teaching. All teachers believe children can and do learn and that including outside the box and hands-on activities as part of our teaching practice positively impacts student learning. But, I believe to make a difference, to truly create effective learning, we must adopt a philosophy that includes forging relationships with our students and parents; this affects student learning. . I believe it is the relationships we form as teachers that will become our legacies. It was one of those things I loved about my 6th grade teacher. I have always had a love for learning and I believe teaching is a calling God puts in our hearts as teachers; a true gift. Ive never considered teaching a chore or unproductive. As teachers, we do what we do regardless of the lack of materials, funding or even a lack of teachers; but because we love to teach. We do so to continue bringing a quality education to our students that will ensure their successes.
School - Bonnie Moore
My name is Bonnie Moore, and I teach Geometry at Collinsville High School. I have been married to Walter Moore for almost forty years; and we have two sons, Eric and Sam. Eric is married and has two children, Mia and Dominic. Sam is married and has one child, Ava. The most important things in my life are my relationship with Jesus, my relationships with my family, my church family and my school family. I am very involved at my church, Friendship Baptist Church in Owasso. I work in the youth department and in the nursery. I have gone on mission trips with other church members seven times during the lasts nine years, and I go to youth camp during the summer. When I have extra time, I enjoy spending time with my grandchildren, doing home improvement projects, sewing, hunting and reading.
When Sam was about to begin first grade, I decided that I would go to college. I knew that if I did not go at that time, that in ten years, I would look back and regret that I had not gone to college. I chose to pursue a career in teaching because I had worked in the youth group at church for several years, and I enjoyed the time I spent with the teenagers. As I prayed about the direction I should take, I felt that God made it clear that teaching was definitely what He wanted me to do. I attended Rogers State College for a year and a half, and I finished my education at Northeastern State University. I worked hard, and I graduated Summa Cum Laude.
In August, 1995, I was hired at Bartlesville High School. While there I taught Geometry, Algebra II, College Algebra/Trigonometry, Pre-Calculus and AP Statistics. I worked hard to help my students be successful and to help my school. I served on several committees at Bartlesville, some to give awards to students, some to discipline students, some to determine whether change would benefit education and some to train teachers. I developed good relationships with students, teachers, and administrators which made it difficult when it became evident to me that it was time to open a new chapter in my life.
At the end of seventeen years at Bartlesville God prompted me to apply for a position at Collinsville High School, and I was hired to teach Geometry. This is my fifth year to teach Geometry at Collinsville; and of the subjects that I have taught over the years, Geometry is definitely one of the more challenging to teach. Geometry covers a broad spectrum of mathematical concepts and for that reason it can seem quite intimidating, but that makes it very rewarding when students are successful.
I consider my greatest contribution in education to be my dedication to my students. It is my desire that each student I have be successful. Math is not easy for everyone, and I try to make students realize that having difficulty in a subject does not mean they are not intelligent. I try to see from their perspective and then explain in terms I think they will understand. That is not always easy which is why I encourage them to ask questions about any part of a problem they do not understand. I will show them more examples, come early, or stay late to help someone overcome the challenges they may have. I also know that sometimes a students biggest challenges are because of factors beyond the classroom, so I try to show compassion and provide support when I have the means to help in some situation. The truth is I love them all and I want each student to be successful in Geometry and beyond the classroom.
Even if they never use Geometry later in life, I desire that they learn behaviors and attitudes that will help them make good choices so they can be successful in any career they choose when they have finished their education.
Jo Lynn Cash
School - Jo Lynn Cash
My name is Jo Lynn Cash, and I am proud to represent the Collinsville Middle School as the Teacher of the Year for their school site. I was born and raised in Pawnee, Oklahoma and completed my first twelve years of schooling there. After graduating in 1974, I continued my college education where the brightest orange exists, Oklahoma State University.
I dont think I was strongly influenced by any particular person in my younger years, but when choosing what I wanted to do with my life, education spoke to me. At that time in education, Special Education was the new thing, at least to me. This appeared something unique and I was drawn to seek this as where and what I wanted to teach. So began my journey of majoring in this area and graduated four years later in May of 1978. Not only did I complete the basics of the general education classes that prepare you for a career in teaching, but I spent designated time in the on-campus clinic for children with disabilities, a very eye-opening experience for this very broad field.
My first year of this teaching career began in Owasso, Oklahoma. There I was given the daunting task of setting up my fourth and fifth grade Learning Disabilities class at Barnes Elementary Grade School, from ordering chalk to the Distar Reading program for my class. Yes, you will notice I began in the days of chalk and erasers. Im appreciative to have been given the opportunity of this position as a first year teacher with no experience.
Then in August of 1979, I learned of a middle school position which had just come open in Collinsville, Oklahoma. I was extremely excited! This was the level of teaching I had been assigned when undertaking my student teaching, at Ponca West Junior High. I was employed at that time by Collinsville Public Schools, and as they say the rest is history.
Collinsville has felt like home. It has been a great fit for me. The continuation of my teaching career has been spent at The Collinsville Middle School to date. In the course of my time here, I have had the opportunity to be Cheerleader and Pep Club Sponsor, as part of tackling extra-curricular activity responsibilities within the general education setting, which was oh-so many years ago. Also, in the many years of being in special education, I have seen many changes, which have actually circled around a few times. From hand-written Individual Education Plans (IEPs), to computer generated paperwork. Direct instruction core classes to co-teaching with tremendously qualified colleagues. I have been exposed to varied teaching styles, and have implemented in my own as well.
Its my hope I have either educationally or emotionally helped a student be successful in some aspect of their life. I want the efforts that I advocate for on a given day, to help each student become the best well-rounded individuals as possible. Sometimes, academics are just beside the point-and maybe, just maybe more learning happens on those particular days. In the course of the day I attempt to re-present material, redirect instruction, allow extra time or other modified teaching strategies which might give the student the edge to complete or comprehend the standard being taught.
Collinsville Middle School is not the only aspect of my life. I am most proud of my family, and they are my greatest accomplishment! I am married to a former Collinsville Cardinal, David Cash, and we have two children. Jordan and Alex Cash, both recent graduates of Oklahoma State University. They have been, and are my everything in life. Their activities are where I spend my spare time outside of school.
Finally, Collinsville Schools, thank you to the five Superintendents, seven Principals, two Special Education Directors, five counselors, five-learning disability co-teachers and numerous general educators. You are an enormous part of why I am receiving this honor, and am humbled to represent this school site as Teacher of the Year.
- Jennifer Christian
Mom, I want to be a teacher when I grow up were the first words I uttered to my mother after my first day of Kindergarten. During the next twelve years of my educational career, those words never faltered. In fact, during those years I was the student that watched, studied, and envied my teachers. I would ask for books that the teachers didnt want anymore, to take home over the summer. My stuffed animals were the smartest stuffed animals in the whole neighborhood. My little brother would even tell me to stop talking like a teacher. I truly feel God placed a calling in my heart at such a young age so I could gain as much knowledge about education as possible.
My family was instrumental in helping me become a teacher. We moved to Oklahoma from Illinois when I was four years old. My mother, father, sister, and brother were there to support me in all my endeavors. Even though I wanted to be a professional soccer player, I knew one day I would teach young students. My family saw my dedications and helped to make that dream come true. It was so important to have their support, especially since no one in my family was in the educational field. Most educators have someone in their family who was also in education that helped them to become the teacher they are. I, however, did not have a mentor, therefore my familys unwavering belief in my ability to become an educator was the best thing I could have asked for.
Mrs. Watson, my seventh-grade English teacher, was also instrumental in helping me to become the teacher I am today. She was not only a wonderful teacher, but had a way of connecting with her students that made them want to achieve more. I remember her coming in dressed up as a character to introduce new books, challenging us with academic games, and overall helping us become better people. She is the reason my love of teaching is so strong. I knew I wanted to teach like her. I wanted to be the teacher who had a great relationship with my students, so they knew I cared enough to push them to be the best versions of themselves.
Finding your weaknesses as a teacher is always easy; finding your strengths is a little more difficult. As a teacher, I am always wanting to improve myself for my students. I feel that a teacher will never be perfect, and that assumption is what makes my teaching even better and makes me a stronger teacher. Every day, I strive to improve my teaching ability. I will constantly look back at my lesson, how I teach it, and try to find new ways to connect the content to my students. I want them to enjoy learning!
Having a great relationship with my students is also one of my greatest contributions as a teacher. I work very hard at building a relationship with each individual student that comes through my door. I want to understand them, help them, and overall be their strongest support system for their education. My belief in them, along with our relationship, makes them feel safe in the classroom, which in turn allows them to learn freely without fear of ridicule or failure.
Flexibility and structure, although they sound contradictory together, are two of my greatest strengths. Being able to read my students attitude and understanding of a concept lets me change my lessons and helps me reach out to them so they gain a full understanding. If my lesson is not going well, if the students are not understanding the content, or even if it is just a bad day all around, being able to adapt for the day makes my students feel like they will be successful regardless of what happens that day. Being able to say in front of my students, this isnt working, lets try something else today, lets them know I am there for them and we will work together to make the day great. In turn, they also know that my structure is consistent. When they walk into my room, my students know my expectations never change, nor does our work ethic. Our job (mine and the students) is to work hard every day while following eth same procedures, and having the same diligent work skills, no matter what the day may bring. Consistency is the key to feeling successful. Overall, I truly feel that teaching is a calling God gave to me. I am blessed to have a job I love, and have the ability to truly make a difference in the lives of students.
Elementary - Ali Ryder
First Grade Teacher
When I was a 7-year-old in second grade, I told my mother that I wanted to be a substitute teacher when I grew up. I explained that I would be able to enjoy writing on the chalkboard anytime I wanted, but stay home some days so that I could paint my nails and watch PG movies (my mother never allowed me to paint my nails nor watch any movies that werent rated G). The silly idea of becoming a substitute teacher stuck, and soon I was playing school instead of Barbies. I found that teaching my siblings and friends- even if it was just pretend- was my idea of fun. Growing up, my life goal became to be a teacher in Collinsville- the same town in which I grew up and was a student. While in high school, I had the opportunity to mentor one of our first grade classes. This experience made it official: My dream job was teaching first grade in Collinsville.
I had some great teachers growing up, and still stay in touch with many of them. They each left special impressions on me. My first grade teacher, Mrs. Burr, was waiting on the other side of the stage at my graduation, ready to give me a big hug as soon as I came down the steps. My third grade teacher, Mrs. Gillespie, pulled me aside sometimes to teach me a more advanced math skill than the class was learning because she could see that I quickly grasped our current concepts and my brain needed to be challenged. Mrs. Prickett, a sixth grade teacher of mine, always asked how my life was going, and let me be my silly self in her class. She always made me feel more confident, and that was the year that my shyness faded and I gained more confidence than I ever would have without her. I will always remember these things.
Of course, there were a few teachers I had who were examples of what not to do, yet those experiences also helped form how I teach, think, and act each day at work. I found that a teacher could directly influence the mood of the classroom: a teacher could be the reason a student had a great or a horrible day. I always want to be a bright spot in each childs day.
I believe my greatest contributions and accomplishments in education are yet to come. This is only my fifth year of teaching, and I still have so much learning to do and experience to gain. Thus far, I consider my desire to help others to be my greatest contribution in education. Whether it be helping my coworkers with technological problems, spending extra one-on-one time with students to help them grasp a skill they are struggling with, finding a coat for a student whose parents struggle financially, or volunteering to cover a coworkers duty, I truly enjoy being able to help anyone who needs it. I believe that this is a common trait in many, many teachers.
As for my greatest accomplishment in education, I would say that it is finding a balance between proven old-school methods and newer research. I take time to read articles, blogs, and textbooks, as well as attend professional development trainings, and thus become more and more confident in what and how I teach. I want to know more. I have learned so much from my experienced coworkers and also bring my recent college education into consideration for my teaching practices. I have changed and evolved each year with my findings. My students deserve the best education that I can provide, and I want to make that happen. I know that I still have so much to learn. I am not a perfect teacher, but you can bet I am trying my hardest to teach to the best of my abilities.
My personality, life experiences, former teachers, and desire to help, learn, and teach have formed me into the teacher that I now am. My professional biography has only begun. Each day it changes and forms with my experiences, which are a mix of joy, sweat, tears, and magic.
Inspired, Fulfilled, and Achieved
As an adult, we can always reminisce about our childhood and remember those events, celebrations, and traditions that bring us happiness. Now, as a teacher I find myself thinking back to the days when I was a student. I remember those teachers who always listened to me when I had a special story to tell, gave me that extra hug each day, who encouraged me to try harder, and smiled and/or told me how happy they were that I was present that day at school. With all the good I experienced, there is always those teachers that left hurtful scars with me as well. However, my positive memories of my past teachers have always outweighed those negative memories and experiences. Now, as a teacher I want to make sure that each day I leave a positive memory with my students when they leave my classroom.
I began my career as a teacher by attending Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma. I graduated with a bachelors degree in elementary education. My first teaching job was in Kellyville, Oklahoma as a first grade teacher. By the next school year, I accepted a job closer to home in Owasso, Oklahoma where I spent the next four years. After choosing to stay home with my son for one year due to medical reasons, I had the privilege of teaching at Rejoice Christian School in Owasso, Oklahoma upon my return to the education field. This allowed me to return to the teaching world that I loved, but also allowed me to be close to my son during a difficult time. I spent the next three years at Rejoice. Our family began to grow even larger and we decided that it would be best for me to stay at home for a few years to take care of our five children. When I returned to teaching, I was then hired back to Owasso for one year but then accepted a position at the Collinsville Early Childhood Center in Collinsville, Oklahoma. I have taught both special education and pre-kindergarten as I finish up my ninth year at the Janice K. Pollard Early Childhood Center in Collinsville, Oklahoma. My husband and I reside in Collinsville, OK and share together in being a part of and raising my five children. My two oldest children have already graduated from high school, but three are still attending Collinsville schools.
My greatest influence that guided me to pursue my career in teaching was my experience as a childcare director/provider at the church that my family attended. I looked forward each week to seeing those sweet faces, interacting with each child, holding them, teaching, and feeding them. Looking back now, I realize that even though I was having a great time, I was also providing a sense of security for those children as well as their parents. As a classroom teacher now, I still know that even though I am enjoying each day teaching and instructing my students, that I am partnering with my parents by providing them with the security that I will use the best resources to provide for their children mentally, emotionally, physically, and educationally. My students walk into my classroom with feelings, emotions, thoughts, and energies to face their day. It is my job to be their stability and to be their biggest supporter and instructor for what they need that particular day.
As a teacher, I have the honor of feeling accomplishments each day. In the teaching world, we never experience two days that are exactly the same. After many years of teaching, I realized that there was a strong need in the special education classroom. I decided to go back and receive my minor endorsement in special education. I also received my minor endorsement in early childhood education. This allowed me the opportunity to have a better foundation and understanding of the students I would be working with at the Early Childhood Center. Even with all my formal educational accomplishments, my most rewarding accomplishments come when I am able to make that one special connection with each of my students. I have also attended many workshops and conferences, but some of my greatest lessons learned have simply come from my pre-kindergarten team at the Early Childhood Center. We share ideas, teaching techniques, and resources. We collaborate together every week over our lessons, struggles, and accomplishments. I believe that collaboration time allows all of us to be better educators, colleagues, friends, and drives us with the accountability we need to reach our daily expectations in our classrooms and with our students.