Vogel -- District &
High School Teacher of the Year
The ABCs are attitude, behavior and communication skills.
Born 1966 to a kindergarten teacher and radio moderator in Berlin,
Germany, I grew up during a time when communication had failed its
people. My hometown was divided in half by a huge wall and the Cold
War at its height. To make matters worse, the political climate
made any effort to communicate freely and uncensored next to impossible.
After graduating from high school, I completed a social year in
Denver, Colorado, lived with a host family and taught water aerobics
and exploratory German classes at the local YMCA. I had learned
English, French, bits and pieces of Italian by the time I graduated
from high school, exercised polo ponies for the British stationed
in Berlin, traveled all over Europe and yet, communication wasnt
As a foreigner who had been raised in a different culture, I lacked
vocabulary, idioms, had a funny accent, and more often than not
was misunderstood. Even after 30 years of life in an English speaking
society, and having lived on three continents, Siri still does not
understand me. I realized then that effectively communicating meant
survival and that I had found my passion. Communication creates
the world we live in, yet communication is always flawed; we can
never be sure that the message we send is the message that received.
Anais Nin said: We dont see things as they are, we see
them as we are. Face to face communication has almost gone
out of style as technology has left its mark on how we communicate
with one another. How can we possibly communicate when we do not
even look at one another anymore?
I am Christiana Vogel and I live to communicate and have been doing
so professionally for the past 28 years. Currently, I teach Spanish
at Collinsville High School and Academic Strategy classes at Tulsa
Community College. I pursued my BA in Spanish/ German followed by
an MA in Spanish/Latin American Literature of the 19th/20th Century.
While in graduate school, I began teaching Spanish as well as German
at the University level. I added a secondary teaching certificate
and taught German and Spanish at a Middle School in Utah before
my husbands job took us to Venezuela. In Venezuela, I taught
English out of my home and once we were stateside again, continued
to teach Spanish at numerous colleges and universities, added ESL,
Professional Development and Academic Strategies to the list.
Jan Koum said: Communication is at the very core of our society.
Thats what makes us human. Yet, the lack of interpersonal
communication skills among our teenagers is alarming. I not only
teach my students to communicate in a foreign language (which is
challenging and scary enough), learn about a different culture,
(which in turn helps them understand and appreciate their own culture)
but I teach them to communicate with one another, with understanding
and empathy, with tolerance and curiosity! As Johann Wolfgang von
Goethe puts it: He who knows no foreign languages knows nothing
of his own. My students may not remember much of the Spanish
they learned in high school, but they will have learned about themselves
and others, they will have experienced how difficult and frightening
true communication can be, and with that experience they will be
able to communicate better and be the creators of the world they
live in rather than mere subjects. Ludwig Wittgenstein said it all:
The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.
In order to communicate effectively, we must realize or better yet
embrace the fact that we are all different in the way we perceive
the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication
with others. I feel privileged that my audience of my communication
efforts is such an impressionable one, and in turn, I am rewarded
immensely and forever grateful. I have the best job of all. I am
a teacher, an educator, a communicator at heart and would not want
to do anything else.
Soto -- Ealy Childhood Center Teacher
of the Year
As a junior
at Mid-America Christian University, and a newlywed, I went searching
for a job that provided insurance. My sister worked at a low-income
school in Tulsa and prompted me to apply to be an assistant at
the same school. I jumped at the opportunity to work fewer hours
attending school, and to have medical insurance. I was determined
to work in Womens Ministry at a church, and this job was
just a means to get me there. From day one, those kids captured
The way they loved so unconditionally, the way they were intrigued
and curious about learning, and the way their energy and passion
for life spilled over, changed me; it truly improved me. These
kids needed someone to love them, someone to care whether they
had eaten breakfast that day or
walked to school in freezing temperatures, and someone that believed
they were smart, brave, and important. I wanted nothing more than
to be that someone for them. Within a month, I changed
the direction of my degree and set out to be a teacher. Two years
later, that dream came true for me. Teaching has empowered me
to make a mark on this world in a
way that I never dreamed. In the same way, these children have
taught me more than I ever thought possible. Though they are small,
they are mighty. One of my favorite parts of the day is our morning
greeting. They stand at the door and give me a hug with their
sincerest of hearts and a smile that
helps me believe today will be a great day. When I
draw pictures on a graph, next to the words the kids call out,
they begin throwing compliments almost immediately about my extraordinary
illustrations. (Little do they know that my artistry needs tons
of work!) However, that is exactly what
teaching these little ones has been for me.
The biggest plan I had dreamed of making a reality was beginning
a garden, right on the playground, and allowing the children to
be a huge part of it. I grew up watching my Papa, whom I admired
deeply, grow his garden and take pride in the scientific and beautiful
process of growing
food for the body and soul. Mrs. Boomer and the Education Foundation
helped bring that dream to fruition last year. The children planted
the seeds and the plants; they constantly kept an eye out for
any growing buds and watched the plants grow with the sun. They
also discovered new bugs around the
garden that they adored and checked on regularly around the garden.
We offered the vegetables to anyone in the community to enjoy
and sent them home with the students. They were always begging
to take home a new vegetable and try it for themselves. It meant
so much to me to unpack science and learning, along with their
interest and satisfaction in health, into the beauty that is their
garden. I hope to expand it more and allow more children
to experience the vegetables.
Teaching is making messes during exploration. Teaching is seeing
new things with curious eyes. Teaching is seeing the extraordinary
in the small. Teaching is my life, my heart, and my joy.
Herald Elementary Teacher of the Year
2nd Grade Teacher
of us at some point in our lives have been asked the question,
What do you want to be when you grow up? I remember
as a young child being asked this question and answering, a soccer
player, of course. No matter how huge that dream was, my little
league coach, who later happened to be one of my high school English
teachers, Mrs. Eason, made me feel like I could accomplish that
dream as long as I worked hard. Mrs. Eason made all of her students
feel important and special. She did this by taking time to get
to know them and help them discover their talents and passions.
Mrs. Eason, will always stick out to me as one of my
most influential teachers. She is also a big reason that I became
a teacher myself.
Fast forward ten years and I was faced with that same question.
I remember entering my first semester of college and being asked
what I wanted to major in. Having been part of a team most of
my life, I knew that I wanted to work in a profession where I
could work alongside
others to help impact the lives of children. As educators, that
is exactly what we do. We are all a part of a team. A team working
together to provide children the opportunity to grow their minds
and chase their dreams, no matter how big they may seem.
I graduated from Oklahoma State University (GO POKES) in 2012
with a degree in Elementary Education and started my teaching
career in a 3rd grade classroom. I now teach 2nd grade at Herald
Elementary and I am halfway through my seventh year as an educator.
In those seven years, I have learned alongside with my students.
I am always encouraging them to never stop wanting to learn and
to have fun doing it. I would say that my desire to learn and
my drive to constantly better myself as a teacher, is my greatest
contribution. I love
researching new and innovative ideas to implement in my classroom
and to share with my teammates. I work with so many knowledgeable
teachers who help me daily, and I am so thankful for each of them.
Because we are a team, I enjoy being able to help in any way that
to make one part of their day easier. Whether that be, helping
with an extra duty, running
copies, or sharing lesson plans and activities. Relationships
with my colleagues, students, and the families that enter my classroom,
are so important to me.
At the beginning of each year it is my goal to truly get to know
each of my students. It is essential to know how they learn best,
what makes them feel safe, and what interests them.
Curriculum is very important, however, for a child to want to
learn, they must first have trust in me. Trust that I will be
there every morning greeting them with a hug and smile. Trust
that I will provide them with extra snacks, if I know they won't
have any at home. Trust that I will hold
them accountable and challenge them daily.
While I don't carry true titles of great accomplishments
or awards on my resume and my achievements may seem small to others,
they are the reason I come to work every day. To me, my greatest
accomplishments are when I see a childs face light up and
they have that aha moment after struggling with a
concept all year. Or when I can emotionally reach a child who
has had trouble trusting adults their whole life. My job is much
more than teaching curriculum and having my students pass tests.
In my classroom I am growing deep thinkers, problem solvers, lifelong
learners, and future leaders of our country!
I strongly believe God puts a desire to educate in certain peoples
hearts. He strategically placed people in my life, that helped
guide me to the most rewarding profession there is, and that is
teaching. I think about my classroom and my students when I wake
up in the morning. They
are on my mind when I am driving home from school and sometimes
they are the reason I lose sleep at night. I hope my students
past, present, and future can say they learned many things while
in my class, but more importantly, they felt safe and loved.
Wallstein -- Upper Elementary Teacher
of the Year
While attending high school, I knew that I wanted a career helping
people but did not know what that would be. The idea of becoming
a counselor crossed my mind; therefore, I began taking classes towards
this area of interest. I attended and graduated from Southern Nazarene
University in 2001 with a degree in sociology and psychology. I
followed my passion of helping people, which lead me to working
for AmeriCorp for a program called A Chance to Change.
This was a counseling facility for people overcoming addictions.
I assisted with an after school program and went into the schools
where I taught a substance abuse program to inner city kids. Activities
conducted with the students of the program included: camping, introducing
students to cultural groups, and aiding the students in learning
about potential job opportunities within the community (with and
without a college degree).
In 2005 I married my best friend, Derek Wallstein, and we began
our family. Our family moved to Collinsville after the birth of
our son, Jacob. After Jacob was born, I realized that I wanted to
work with youth in some aspect. I have always been drawn towards
helping people, especially youth; I was informed of a position opening
that would allow me to do both. I began working as a paraprofessional
for the Broken Arrow Public School System in 2006. I fell in love
with teaching special needs students and decided to begin my career
as a special education teacher.
After I passed the exams and earned my teaching credentials, I was
offered a teaching position for Broken Arrow Intermediate School
(9th & 10th grade) as a Special Education Teacher. At this time,
I worked with students with emotional impairments for one year.
During this time our little family grew and I became pregnant with
my daughter, Nora.
After finishing the year at Broken Arrow I applied for a Special
Educational teaching position within Collinsville Public School
District. In 2008 I was offered a position teaching at Collinsville
Middle School where I worked for a year and a half, then I was asked
to move to Herald Elementary to work in a mild/moderate classroom.
For the past nine years, I have worked with the elementary special
education program, grades first through fifth at the CUE and Herald
Elementary (back and forth as needed). Additionally, I have been
a coach for Collinsville Public Schools Special Olympic Team for
the past eleven years. Special Olympics allows students to have
the opportunity to shine, participate, and compete in sports on
an equal playing field. It is a great honor to help our students
expand and meet goals they never knew were possible.
It has been my privilege to work the last 12 years with such a diverse
population of students. I have learned the importance of flexibility
and teamwork. Each student that has come to my classroom has a different
story to tell. I find it an exciting challenge to meet each student
where they are and help them to grow. I enjoy thinking outside the
box and creating a fun atmosphere where students, no matter the
disability, can feel success. Working with parents, teachers, and
service providers to create a team that focuses on the abilities
of the student and builds a program to help each student meet his/her
individual education program successfully is something I take pride
in. I truly believe that my greatest contributions and accomplishments
involve what happens in my classroom: I ensure my students feel
successful and a part of their school, I ensure my students are
included in their general education classroom activities, I ensure
that my students meet their expected goals, and most of all I ensure
that my students feel loved!
-- Wilson 6th Grade Center Teacher of the
I take Ralph Waldo Emerson's philosophy to heart that, What
lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared
to what lies within us. Having grown up in rural Labette County
in Kansas, it was instilled in me by my parents, that you have respect
for oneself and others by conducting yourself with grace sprinkled
with a little humor. I use this thinking to help me establish a
relationship with my students. I believe that every student who
I have the privilege of teaching has greatness inside of themselves.
I strive to make a connection with each student to let them know
how much I care about not only their education, but also about what
lies within them and to be a guide for them on their journey in
finding their purpose.
In 1995, I
graduated from Pittsburg State University with a Bachelor of Science
in Elementary Education. Then, I immediately moved to Collinsville
and substituted for a year before beginning my career as a school
librarian. I graduated with my Masters in Library and Information
Studies from the University of Oklahoma in 1999.
23 years of teaching experience as a Library Media Specialist
with Collinsville Schools I have taught Kindergarten through 8th
grade at Wilson Elementary, Washington Elementary (yes, I am old
enough to have taught at Washington) and Herald Elementary. I
am currently at Wilson 6th Grade Center and the Middle School.
Over the years, and at all of the schools, I have been fortunate
to work with the most amazing groups of teachers and staff. I
have learned to much from my coworkers both past and present and
it is my honor to continue to do so.
What I love
most about my position as a Librarian is that I get to spend more
than just one year with the students. Therefore, I can build a
bond with them based on mutual respect and watch them learn, grow
and mature into young adults. Carlos Maria Dominguez said, To
build up a library is to create life. Maybe somewhere along
the way a students life has been changed at least they will
leave my building knowing that I care.
I am blessed
to call Collinsville home for many reasons. The first is to be
able to raise my children in this close community where friends
and acquaintances are more like family. Another being, the genuine
staff and supportive administrators that I am honored to work
with. Thirdly, I have the benefit of now calling some of my former
students, colleagues, which says a lot about the Collinsville
community when graduates return to work and raise their families
here as well.
Johnston -- Middle School Teacher
of the Year
While studying as an undergraduate at Northeastern State University
(NSU), a fellow student changed his degree path from business to
education. I considered doing the same because thoughts of teaching,
coaching, and having a positive influence on young lives attracted
me. For whatever reason, I continued the business path but ultimately
ended up in the education system working as Parking Manager at NSU.
Early in my career at NSU, I was befriended by Dr. Jewell Linville,
an education professor who continually tried to convince me that
my place was in the classroom. She told me about the Alternative
Certification program and urged me to pursue it, but doing that
seemed to be economically unfeasible at the time.
In February of 2003, my employment at NSU was terminated unexpectedly
when the university president eliminated my position. The long and
winding path leading me to education continued and though a couple
of stops were still to come, doors were opened that eventually allowed
me to enter the classroom. The detours taken on this journey helped
prepare me to be a better teacher, co-worker, and subordinate to
Ever since the first thought of teaching entered my mind, I have
considered every vocation as an education opportunity. I educated
people about where to park on campus and counseled many students
who were away from home for the first time who needed the advice
of an elder. I educated customers while working at Walmart, and
educated clients about banking. I was also a financial advisor to
many clients, educating them on matters of budgets, recordkeeping,
and credit. My approach to every position held has been to educate
those around me. Every opportunity that has arisen has been approached
from the position of educator. Looking back, teaching and educating
seem natural to me and without this opportunity, my life work would
have never been fulfilled. Teaching new ideas, concepts, and procedures
gives me great satisfaction due to my desire to have a positive
impact on everyone I encounter. My goal every day is to be a leader,
motivator, and protector of each student who enters my classroom.
The greatest impact and accomplishments have been getting students
to understand the importance of their history. It gives me a feeling
of satisfaction when former students go out of their way to tell
me how my class inspired them to study history in a way they had
not previously. With such limited teaching experience, my experiences
are only beginning and I know without a doubt there are many more
accomplishments and contributions to come.