Outstanding Mentors Honored During National Mentoring Month

OKLAHOMA CITY – Twenty-two outstanding Oklahoma mentors are being recognized by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence and their community mentoring organizations during National Mentor Month in January.

The honored mentors were submitted by their respective mentoring organizations across the state, and each received certificates of achievement from the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence. The certificates are being presented in the communities where the mentors volunteer.

“We salute these outstanding mentors for the important role they play in helping young people achieve better academic, social and economic futures,” said Emily Stratton, executive director of the Foundation for Excellence. “Oklahoma mentors are truly changing lives!”

The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence is a statewide nonprofit that recognizes and encourages academic excellence in Oklahoma’s public schools. Through its statewide mentoring initiative, the foundation promotes the growth and development of quality youth mentoring programs. The foundation works with school districts and mentoring organizations to promote mentoring as a positive step toward academic success.

 “Through a statewide survey of mentoring organizations, we found that the most positive program outcomes were improved academic performance, positive mentor-mentee relationships, improved behavior, increased self-esteem and greater enrichment opportunities for participating youth,” Stratton said. “Mentoring also helps students develop resilience and feel supported as they face difficult life challenges.”

National Mentoring Month is a campaign sponsored by MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership to celebrate the power of mentoring relationships and recruit new volunteer mentors. The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence provides a directory of mentoring organizations across the state seeking volunteers. For more information and a list of this year’s honored mentors, visit www.okmentors.org.

 (EDITOR: The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence and community mentoring organizations are recognizing 20 outstanding Oklahoma mentors during National Mentoring Month. Honorees are listed below by their hometown and the city in which they mentor. Honored mentor bios and program descriptions are posted online at www.okmentors.org and linked below.)

BARTLESVILLERachelle Wilson, commercial banker at Arvest Bank, is the outstanding mentor for the Lowe Family Young Scholars Program.

BEAVEROlene Hale, a retired community volunteer, is the outstanding mentor for Beaver Duster Mentoring Program.

BIG CABINRoyden Heginbotham, a retired volunteer, is the outstanding mentor for the Thunderbird Challenge Program in Pryor.

CLAREMOREGarrett Ewell, a quality engineer with The Nordam Group LLC, is the outstanding mentor for STARBASE Oklahoma 2.0. Ewell is a resident of Claremore.

John Lingenfelter, a retired community volunteer, is the outstanding mentor for Volunteers for Youth.

DUNCANTerry Dennard, vice president at Legacy Bank, is the outstanding mentor for Link ONE Mentoring, ONE True Light Inc.

ELGINOlivia Long, a senior electrical engineering major at Oklahoma State University, is the outstanding mentor for the College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology Scholars Mentor Program. Long is from Elgin.

EL RENOKathy Hill, a sign language interpreter from Yukon, is the outstanding mentor for House of Healing in El Reno.

LAWTONElizabeth Nalley, professor of chemistry at Cameron University, is the outstanding mentor for the Oklahoma Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation.  

Bryan and Ida Mae Wheeler, a retired couple from Lawton, are the outstanding mentors for Southwest Oklahoma Juvenile Center in Manitou.

LEEDEYConnie Quattlebaum, a retired community volunteer, is the outstanding mentor for Believe In Some One Now (B.I.S.O.N.) Mentors, a program of Leedey Public Schools.

MANITOUBryan and Ida Mae Wheeler, a retired couple from Lawton, are the outstanding mentors for Southwest Oklahoma Juvenile Center in Manitou.

NORMANRonald Anderson, assistant professor of management at the University of Oklahoma, is the outstanding mentor for the Division of Management & International Business Mentoring Program, Price College of Business.

Shavonne Evans, a real estate agent for Keller Williams-Mullinix of Norman, is the outstanding mentor for Bridges of Norman Inc.

Mallory Lambert, a senior international business and accounting major at the University of Oklahoma, is the outstanding mentor for the JCPenney Leadership Program, Price College of Business. Lambert is from Tomball, Texas.

Taylor Thacker, a senior chemical, biological and materials engineering major, is the outstanding mentor for the Chevron Phillips Scholar-Mentor Program at the University of Oklahoma.

OKLAHOMA CITYJolene Ingram, a retired community volunteer, is the outstanding mentor for Whiz Kids Oklahoma.

Nancy Nathaniel, a retired community volunteer, has been named the outstanding mentor for the INTEGRIS Positive Directions Mentoring Program at Stanley Hupfeld Academy.

PRYORRoyden Heginbotham, a retired volunteer from Big Cabin, is the outstanding mentor for the Thunderbird Challenge Program in Pryor.

STILLWATERSarah Casey, a senior chemical engineering major at Oklahoma State University, is the outstanding mentor for the College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology Peer Mentor Program. Casey is from Houston, Texas.

Scott Cornelius, a fifth-year architecture major at Oklahoma State University, is the outstanding mentor for the Architecture Mentoring Program. He is a resident of Stillwater.

Olivia Long, a senior electrical engineering major at Oklahoma State University, is the outstanding mentor for the College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology Scholars Mentor Program. Long is from Elgin.

Brooke Ryan, a fifth-year architecture major from Oklahoma State University, is the outstanding mentor for the College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology Summer Bridge Program. Ryan is from El Dorado, Kansas.

Patrick Williams, a junior mechanical and aerospace engineering major at Oklahoma State University, is the outstanding mentor for the Parker Engineering, Architecture and Technology Experts program. Williams is a resident of Stillwater.

TULSAGarrett Ewell, a quality engineer with The Nordam Group LLC, is the outstanding mentor for STARBASE Oklahoma 2.0. Ewell is a resident of Claremore.

 YUKONKathy Hill, a sign language interpreter from Yukon, is the outstanding mentor for House of Healing.

 

Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence Announces New Board Members

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, a statewide charitable organization that recognizes and encourages academic excellence in Oklahoma’s public schools, has announced the addition of 14 new members to its Board of Trustees.

Appointed to serve three-year terms are Matt Trentham, vice president and branch manager, Farm Credit of Western Oklahoma, BALKO; Terry Davidson, retired superintendent, COMANCHE; Jerrod Murr, professional speaker, Paradigm Shift, MUSKOGEE; Erika Wright, president, Noble Public Schools Foundation for Academic Excellence, NOBLE; Emily Virgin, minority leader, Oklahoma House of Representatives, NORMAN; Aletha Burrage, retired educator, OKLAHOMA CITY; Corinne Simon, corporate counsel, Ascent Resources, OKLAHOMA CITY; Alyson Willis, physician, SSM Health, OKLAHOMA CITY; Jason F. Kirksey, chief diversity officer, Oklahoma State University, STILLWATER; Ed Fite, vice president of water quality, Grand River Dam Authority, TAHLEQUAH; Diane Eason Contreras, director of immigrant & refugee services, YWCA Tulsa, Stephanie Horne, former director, Owasso Education Foundation, TULSA; John Waldron, Oklahoma House of Representatives, District 77, TULSA; and Dayna Rowe, executive director of external affairs, Redlands Community College, YUKON.

Five of the new trustees – Contreras, Murr, Trentham, Virgin, and Willis – received Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence Academic All-State Awards when they were high school seniors. Two of the new trustees – Davidson and Waldron – received the foundation’s Medal for Excellence Awards recognizing their innovation and impact as outstanding educators.

“It is our honor to welcome such exemplary community leaders to our Board of Trustees,” said Emily Stratton, executive director of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence. “Our foundation and our commitment to quality public education in Oklahoma will be strengthened by their talents and contributions, and we look forward to their partnership with us.” 

One of the keys to the foundation’s success is the leadership of its 180 trustees. They are leaders in business, education and public service, who represent every region of the state and help promote the foundation’s mission and its programs.

The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence was founded in 1985 by then U.S. Sen. David L. Boren to strengthen support for public education in Oklahoma. Through its flagship Academic Awards Program, the foundation has presented more than $5 million in cash awards to honor outstanding public school students and educators. Through its Oklahoma School Foundations Network, the foundation provides training and networking opportunities to more than 200 public education foundations across the state.

Among its other initiatives, the Foundation for Excellence coordinates a summer fellowship program to send Oklahoma fifth- and eighth-grade teachers to the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute. Through its statewide mentoring initiative, the foundation promotes quality youth mentoring as a positive step toward academic success.

The foundation partners with the national Fund for Teachers and the Tulsa Community Foundation to provide grants for self-designed summer professional development opportunities for teachers in locations around the world. This year, the foundation launched the Teachers of English Learners Pilot Project, an online learning and networking platform to support classroom teachers in elementary schools with high enrollment of English Learners.

Since 1987, the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence and its partners have invested more than $12.1 million in teacher grants, scholarships and awards directly benefiting Oklahoma public school teachers and students.

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(EDITORS: New trustees are listed below by hometown.)

BALKO – Matt Trentham is vice president and branch manager of Farm Credit of Western Oklahoma. He is chairman of the board of directors for the Baptist Village Communities and a member of the Oklahoma Cattleman’s Association, Oklahoma Farm Bureau, the Oklahoma State University Alumni Association, and the National Rifle Association. He was selected by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence as an Academic All-Stater in 2000.

COMANCHE – Terry Davidson is retired superintendent of Comanche Public Schools, where he served 24 years. He is currently serving as part-time finance director for the district. Davidson received the Oklahoma Medal for Excellence in Elementary/Secondary Administration in 2010 and the Superintendent of the Year Award from the Oklahoma Association of School Administrators in 2012.

MUSKOGEE – Jerrod Murr is a speaker, leadership trainer and cultural entrepreneur. He was selected by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence as an Academic All-Stater in 2000 and graduated from Northeastern State University. He is the founder and chief executive officer of Paradigm Shift, a leadership training and development company. He serves on the advisory board for the Salvation Army and was named a Partner Expert for The Forge, a business startup incubator administered by the Tulsa Regional Chamber.

NOBLE – Erika Wright is an architectural consultant for Burgess Company. She is currently the president of the Noble Public Schools Foundation and is a former member of the Noble Public Schools Board of Education. She is also secretary and den leader for Cub Scouts, Noble Pack 222.

NORMAN – Emily Virgin is a state representative and minority leader for the Oklahoma House of Representatives. She is an active member of the Oklahoma Bar Association. She serves on the boards of Bridges of Norman and Human Rights for Kids. She is a past board member of the Norman Arts Council and Thunderbird Clubhouse. Virgin was selected by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence in 2005 as an Academic All-Stater.

OKLAHOMA CITY – Aletha Burrage is a retired educator and a member of the Oklahoma Retired Educators Association. She is also a board member of the Semple Family Museum of Native American Art located on the campus of Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant.

Corinne Simon is corporate counsel for Ascent Resources, an oil and gas exploration and production company based in Oklahoma City. She is a member of the Oklahoma Bar Association, the Oklahoma City Bar Association, the Energy and Mineral Law Foundation, and the Ohio Oil and Gas Association. She currently serves on the Wilson Elementary PTA and the Junior League of Oklahoma City. In addition, she is a mentor for Oklahoma City Public Schools.

Alyson Willis is a physician at SSM Health St. Anthony. She is a member of the American College of Osteopathic Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Osteopathic Association and the Oklahoma Osteopathic Association. She is also a participant in the Oklahoma County Medical Society Leadership Academy. Willis received the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence Academic All-State Award in 2000.

STILLWATER – Jason F. Kirksey is vice president for institutional diversity and the chief diversity officer at Oklahoma State University. He is also an associate professor in the university’s Department of Political Science and is the principal investigator for the Oklahoma Lois Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Program, designed to increase the number of minority STEM graduates. Under his leadership, OSU has significantly increased enrollment and graduation rates of students of color. In 2014, he pioneered a $6.4 million capital campaign that resulted in 50 new privately endowed scholarships focused on diversity and inclusion. He currently serves on the board of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education and the Oklahoma Diversity Officers and Practitioners Consortium.

TAHLEQUAH – Ed Fite is vice president for Rivers Operations and Water Quality with the Grand River Dam Authority, having previously served 30 years as the administrator for the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission. He serves as president of Keep Oklahoma Beautiful and the Midwest Chapter-River Management Society. In addition, he is active on the boards of Cherokee Nation Environmental Protection Commission, the Solid Waste Research Institute of Northeast Oklahoma and the Illinois River Watershed Partnership. A co-founding member of Save the Illinois River, Fite instructs swift water rescue technicians and is a floodplain manager. He is also active in the Tahlequah Kiwanis Club.      

TULSA – Diane Eason Contreras is the director of immigrant and refugee services at YWCA Tulsa. She is a member of the Oklahoma Bar Association, Tulsa County Bar Association, American Immigration Lawyers Association and the OU Alumni Association. She was selected by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence as an Academic All-Stater in 1996.

Stephanie Horne is former director of the Owasso Education Foundaton and an active community volunteer. She a member of the American Indian Science & Engineering Group and the American Legion. She is active in Hunger Free Oklahoma, the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association, Junior League and the Foundation for Tulsa Schools.

John Waldron is a state representative with the Oklahoma House of Representatives and a member of the House Democratic Caucus. A former history teacher at Booker T. Washington High School, he is a member of the Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association and the Oklahoma Educators Association. Waldron received the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence Medal for Excellence in Secondary Teaching in 2013.

YUKON – Dayna Rowe is the executive director of external affairs for Redlands Community College. Prior to joining Redlands, she served as Communications and Program Outreach Specialist for the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence. Rowe is a member of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education Communicators Council, the Oklahoma College Public Relations Association, and the National Council for Marketing and Public Relations. She is also a graduate of Leadership Canadian County and Leadership El Reno.

Oklahoma City Attorney Jami Rhoades Antonisse Named Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence President

October 22, 2020 (Oklahoma City) – Oklahoma City attorney Jami Rhoades Antonisse has been elected president of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, a statewide nonprofit that recognizes and encourages academic excellence in Oklahoma’s public schools.

The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence was founded in 1985 by then U.S. Sen. David L. Boren to strengthen support for public education in Oklahoma. Through its flagship Academic Awards Program, the foundation has presented more than $5 million in cash awards to honor outstanding public high school seniors as Academic All-Staters and to recognize innovative educators as Medal for Excellence winners. Through its Oklahoma School Foundations Network, the foundation provides training and networking opportunities to more than 200 public education foundations across the state.

Among its other initiatives, the Foundation for Excellence coordinates a summer fellowship program to send Oklahoma fifth- and eighth-grade teachers to the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute. Through its statewide mentoring initiative, the foundation promotes quality youth mentoring as a positive step toward academic success. The foundation partners with the national Fund for Teachers and the Tulsa Community Foundation to provide grants for self-designed summer professional development opportunities for teachers in locations around the world. This year, the foundation launched the Teachers of English Learners Pilot Project, an online learning and networking platform to support classroom teachers in elementary schools with high enrollment of English Learners.

Since 1987, the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence and its partners have invested more than $12.1 million in teacher grants, scholarships and awards directly benefiting Oklahoma public school teachers and students.

Antonisse was one of five seniors from Midwest City High School to be selected to the foundation’s inaugural class of Academic All-Staters in 1987. She earned her bachelor’s degree in French from Georgetown University, her master’s degree in library science from the University of Maryland, and her juris doctorate from the University of Oklahoma College of Law. She is a partner in the law firm of Miller & Johnson, PLLC.

A self-described “groupie” of public school teachers, Antonisse was proud to be one of the “Girl Attorneys” who marched on the Oklahoma state capitol during the Teacher Walkout of 2018. She said she supports OFE’s mission because “Oklahoma students deserve the very best we can give them — roots and wings. By promoting excellence in education, the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence invests in our state’s future in a very meaningful way.”

Antonisse has served on the foundation’s Board of Trustees since 2009 and was a member of the Fund for Teachers selection committee and the Academic Awards Banquet planning committee for several years. In 2016, after chairing the Academic Awards Banquet for the second time, she was presented with the foundation’s Distinguished Service Award.

“Through my long association with OFE, I have found so many excellent mentors and dear friends who share my commitment to lifelong learning and community service,” Antonisse said, upon being elected foundation president. “I am especially proud that 18 other Academic All-State Alumni, including President-Elect Andrew Morris, are serving with me on the foundation’s Board of Trustees, and I invite other alumni to join us in supporting public education in Oklahoma.”

Antonisse is also active with the Mid-Del Public Schools Foundation, the P.E.O. International Sisterhood (Chapter EI, Midwest City), and the Georgetown University Alumni Association. She and her husband, Col. Richard H. Antonisse (ret.), are the parents of two sons, Hunter, a student at the University of Illinois College of Law, and Evan, a student at American University in Washington, D.C.

Three Public School Foundation Programs to Be Recognized for Outstanding Achievement

A successful running-based mentoring program, bilingual and diversity teacher training program, and a program designed to feed students in the midst of the pandemic have been selected as recipients of the 2020 Outstanding Program Awards for Oklahoma School Foundations presented by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence and its Oklahoma School Foundations Network.

The awards recognize innovative programs sponsored or administered by public school foundations in Oklahoma. Receiving plaques and monetary awards of $1,000 each will be the Bruins on the Run student mentoring and running program sponsored by the Bartlesville Public Schools Foundation, the Teacher Pipeline Program sponsored by the Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools and the Picnic in the Park feeding program sponsored by the Weatherford Public Schools Foundation.

“We are honoring these programs for their creativity and the positive impact they have in supporting academic excellence in their communities,” said Katy Leffel, director of the Oklahoma School Foundations Network. “In addition, program award winners will present a free webinar on October 30th to share their ideas so other school foundations might emulate or adapt these ideas in their own school districts.”

Bruins on the Run Mentoring Program
Bartlesville Public Schools Foundation

The Bartlesville Public School District’s desire to increase student focus in the classroom, improve relationships between students and teacher-mentors, encourage a healthy lifestyle, increase student collaboration and friendships and provide a no-cost after school program were the driving factors that led the Bartlesville Public Schools Foundation to start the Bruins on the Run mentoring program.

Bruins on the Run is a free after school club that meets three times a week for fifth-grade students to run with teacher mentors and near peer mentors from the middle and high school. Student participants receive a quality pair of running shoes and t-shirt to eliminate the financial barriers to participate and are provided with healthy snacks at each club meeting. In addition to running, each meeting sets aside time for participants to work with teacher-mentors on setting goals, overcoming training obstacles, and building relationships.

“The running component is merely the vehicle used to connect with students,” said foundation executive director Blair Ellis. “Mentors are trained to engage with their students before, after, and during the runs. They model behavior beneficial to a classroom environment, like supporting and collaborating with peers, being determined and maintaining a positive attitude.”

After a successful first season with 30 students and 12 mentors participating from two elementary schools, last year the program was expanded to include all six elementary schools, serving 87 students with 48 teacher-mentors. Though the program is on pause this fall due to the pandemic, the foundation is excited to get started again in the Spring.

Teacher Pipeline Program Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools

Role modeling, setting high expectations and culturally informed teaching are three primary ways The Brookings Institute has determined a diverse teacher workforce encourages academic excellence in students. This study, among many others, also shares how difficult it is to “go out and hire” a diverse teacher. The Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools Teacher Pipeline Program works within the confines of current Oklahoma City Public School paraprofessionals, helping them become certified teachers and working to increase the number of bilingual and Black teachers in the district.

The program pays 100% of participants’ tuition, fees and books as they complete their degrees and become certified teachers for OKCPS. Participants make a commitment to remain employed by OKCPS for at least three years once they earn their teacher certification.  The Bilingual Teacher Pipeline Program has 39 active participants, with four more approved to start in the spring. The Diversity Teacher Pipeline Program has 12 active participants with three more approved to start in the spring.

“Data proves that students’ success in school can be directly attributed to having teachers who look like them, and a strategic focus for the foundation is Recruiting and Retaining Urban Ready Teachers. This program is making a real impact in increasing teacher diversity in our district” said Mary Mélon, President and CEO of The Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools. “It is exciting to see program graduates teaching in their own classrooms.”

All program participants continue full time employment with the district during the time they are completing their degree, with the goal to have long-term retention of all program graduates. Three participants have graduated from the program so far, with three more on track to finish their degrees this spring.

Picnic in the Park Community Outreach Program Weatherford Public Schools Foundation

 Teachers are often on the front lines in recognizing the terrible effect of hunger in the lives of many of their students. With the devastating effects of the COVID pandemic and a severe downturn in the oil and gas industry impacting finances of many families, the Weatherford Public Schools Foundation recognized that more students than ever are impacted by hunger issues. With no school feeding program available over the summer months, the foundation stepped in to create and implement their Picnic in the Park program.

Each weekday, in partnership with the Weatherford Daily News, Ben E. Keith food company and with generous community donations, the foundation provided sack lunches in the park to give children and their families a fun, casual and safe way to pick up needed food. Volunteers were able to serve and stay socially distant, while still checking on students and providing smiles and encouraging words. Each Friday an ice cream truck was on hand to serve free ice cream to the kids.

“As kids rode by on their bicycles each day to pick up lunch, the smiles, high-fives and looks on the faces of all involved let volunteers know how deeply appreciated these lunches were,” said Weatherford Daily News publisher Phillip Reid. “Surprisingly, some of the biggest winners were the volunteers themselves, who had the opportunity to take their minds of the stress and sadness of COVID and re-focus on helping others.”

Picnic in the Park provided over 3,800 lunches thanks to donations totaling $8,250. 426 volunteers helped hand out lunches, and over 900 ice cream bars were given out during the course of the summer.

 

Thompson Receives Distinguished Service Award from Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence

Longtime Tulsa television journalist Scott Thompson accepts the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence 2020 Distinguished Service Award from outgoing OFE President Cathy Render of Tulsa during the foundation’s recent Virtual Annual Meeting in Oklahoma City.

October 20, 2020 (Oklahoma City) – Scott Thompson, a veteran television news journalist from Tulsa, has been named the recipient of the 2020 Distinguished Service Award from the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, a nonprofit organization that recognizes and encourages academic excellence in Oklahoma’s public schools.

Thompson, who is a foundation trustee, was honored for sharing his talents as communications expert to help promote the work of the foundation. He was particularly recognized for serving as emcee for the foundation’s Academic Awards Banquet in 2019 and as host for a special televised Academic Awards Tribute on OETA in May 2020, when the foundation’s banquet was canceled due to COVID-19.

As a former news anchor for KOTV and later KJRH in Tulsa, Thompson did features on students and teachers who have benefited from the foundation’s Academic Awards Program, Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute, Mentoring Initiative and Oklahoma School Foundations Network. 

“Scott is positive, creative and compassionate in his support of Oklahoma’s teachers and students and is a tremendous trustee team member and champion for excellence in public education,” said outgoing OFE President Cathy Render of Tulsa, who presented the award. “We are so grateful for his exceptional dedication to our foundation.”

Thompson has served since 2010 as a trustee of the Sand Springs Education Foundation and was named a trustee of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence in 2016. He was later named to serve on OFE’s Executive Committee.

Thompson is one of Oklahoma’s most honored broadcast journalists. He has received six national and nine regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for writing and for Best News Series. He is the recipient of eight Emmy Awards and three national Telly Awards for Best Feature Reporting. His work has been honored with national awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, the American Legion Auxiliary and the National Catholic Communicators, among others.

Thompson and his wife, Holly, are the parents of two Academic All-State Alumni, Will (2014) and Jack (2018).

Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence Seeking Nominations for 2021 Academic All-State Scholars

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, a nonprofit organization that recognizes and encourages academic excellence in Oklahoma’s public schools, is seeking nominations for its 2021 Academic All-State Awards.

Scholarships totaling $100,000 will be presented at the foundation’s 35th annual Academic Awards Banquet on May 15, 2021, at the Cox Business Convention Center in Tulsa.  In addition, the foundation will recognize five innovative public school educators who were selected in 2020 as Medal for Excellence winners but were unable to be honored last spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Academic Awards Banquet, which has been described as the “Academy Awards for public education in Oklahoma,” is typically attended by nearly 1,000 guests and is broadcast statewide on public television.

“The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence Academic Awards Program is the Oklahoma’s premiere awards program honoring academic achievement, innovation and leadership among students and educators in our public schools,” said Executive Director Emily Stratton. “By working together to give outstanding students and educators the recognition they deserve, we send a strong message to our state and to the nation that Oklahomans value academic excellence.”

Academic All-State Award nominations are being accepted through an online portal at www.ofe.org. The award honors 100 public high school seniors with a $1,000 merit-based scholarship. To qualify, students must meet at least one of the following requirements: a composite ACT score of at least 30; a combined SAT evidence-based reading & writing and math score of at least 1370; or be selected as a semi-finalist for a National Merit, National Achievement or National Hispanic Scholarship.

Given the unique circumstances surrounding ACT and SAT testing during the COVID-19 pandemic, an alternative nomination criterion will be available to students who were unable to take the ACT or SAT test in 2020. For those students, the principal must certify that the student was unable to take the test due to COVID-19 and that the student ranks in the top 4 percent (GPA cumulative) of their senior class. Students who took the ACT or SAT in 2020 but did not receive the minimum required score are not eligible for this alternative.

Eligibility for all Academic All-State nominations must be verified by the district superintendent or high school principal. Academic All-State nominations must be submitted by 5 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 3.

The foundation will not be doing a selection process for Medal for Excellence Awards for educators this year so that it may honor the 2020 Medal winners, whose recognition was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Academic All-State Award recipients are chosen by an independent selection committee, chaired by retired Tulsa attorney Teresa B. Adwan, and comprised of business, education and civic leaders, as well as former Academic All-Staters and Medal for Excellence winners. Since 1987, the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence has awarded more than $5 million in academic awards and scholarships.

For more information, visit the foundation’s website at www.ofe.org or call (405) 236-0006.

Local Teachers Encouraged to Participate in Free English Learner Certification Exam Prep Course

 Teachers from 17 elementary schools in 10 school districts are invited to participate in a free, online English as a Second Language (ESL) certification exam prep course as part of a Teachers of English Learners Pilot Project coordinated by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, a nonprofit that supports public schools.

 The free Oklahoma ESL Exam preparation course is available to certified teachers from these participating pilot schools and districts: Lynn Wood and Timber Ridge elementary schools in BROKEN ARROW;  Southwest, Washington and Nance elementary schools in CLINTON; Central Oak Elementary in CROOKED OAK; Eisenhower, Monroe and Coolidge elementary schools in ENID; Hennessey Lower Elementary in HENNESSEY; Hooker Elementary in HOOKER; Marietta Elementary and Upper Elementary schools in MARIETTA; Adams Elementary in NORMAN; Purcell Elementary and Intermediate schools in PURCELL; and Santa Fe South Early Childhood Center in Santa Fe South Charter Schools, OKLAHOMA CITY.

“The course is ideal for classroom teachers who want to improve their knowledge and skills about serving English Learners (ELs) and those who may be interested in earning additional certifications needed for site and district ESL leadership roles,” said Lisa Pryor, project manager. “The course may also be a helpful refresher to those who already hold ESL certification, as requirements do change over time.”

Created by two veteran elementary and middle school ESL teachers, Ellen Kraft and Marcie Levy of Norman, the new self-paced course may be started at any time. With six standards to explore, teachers could expect to spend approximately 18 hours across the course readings, activities, interactive assignments, and quizzes keyed to the 14 competencies addressed in the state certification exam. Experienced teachers may move through the course more quickly. Teachers who complete the course before Dec. 31 are eligible for an $80 exam fee voucher to be used at the time of registration for the ESL certification exam.

Emily Stratton, executive director of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, said the new course is part of a pilot project designed to address a critical need for Oklahoma classroom teachers and their English Learner students. The pilot project is part of the foundation’s teacher professional development programs.

“Nearly 60,000 students in Oklahoma’s public schools do not speak English as their first language, presenting a challenge for classroom teachers who often do not have the training or resources to effectively integrate English Learner students into their classroom activities,” Stratton said.

To support classroom teachers and their English Learner students, the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence has launched the Teachers of English Learners Pilot Project this year. The project uses an online learning platform to provide professional development, networking and support for classroom teachers in 17 elementary schools with a high enrollment of English Learner students.  The heart of the project is an online learning platform developed by NextThought, an Oklahoma company that specializes in online professional development and community networking.

The pilot project was developed by advisory and content committees made up of Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence trustees and English Learner specialists from school districts and colleges. In addition, six ESL-certified teachers serve as virtual facilitators for the pilot project to answer questions and provide resources for participants. Following the pilot project, organizers are planning a statewide roll-out in partnership with the Oklahoma State Department of Education.

Sponsors of the Teachers of English Learners Pilot Project are Sarkeys Foundation, BancFirst, The Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundations, Home Creations, Gene Rainbolt, Bar S Foods, Cherokee Strip Community Foundation, Dillingham Foundation, The Joullian Foundation, the Office of Education Quality and Accountability, ARVEST Bank of Tulsa and Oklahoma City, Lopez Foods, Kirk and Sue Morris, Junior Welfare Leagues of Enid, Stephen and Sherrel Jones, Central Machine and Tool LLC, Dick Sias, Lisa Pryor, Oklahoma Bank & Trust Co., Cheryl & GW Lowry Jr., and Dick Ebrey.

For more information, call or text Project Manager Lisa Pryor at (405) 808-3457.

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Teacher Selected for Proposal to Help Students Fight Food Waste

Diane Wood, gifted resource coordinator at Norman’s Lincoln Elementary School, has been named the inaugural recipient of the Donna Gradel Fund for Teachers Fellowship, which recognizes a teacher whose innovative, self-designed professional development will help students become problem solvers and world changers.

The fellowship is named in honor of two-time Fund for Teachers Fellow Donna Gradel, a Broken Arrow High School environmental science teacher, whose own fellowships paved the way for student projects providing clean water and high-protein foods for Kenyan children suffering from protein deficiency. Gradel’s problem-solving and service-learning approach to teaching led her to be recognized as an Oklahoma Medal for Excellence winner, Oklahoma’s 2018 Teacher of the Year and a top-four finalist for National Teacher of the Year.

Wood is one of 37 Oklahoma educators selected to receive 2020 Fund for Teachers fellowships, which provide self-designed professional development opportunities in locations around the world. Among those Fellows, the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence selected Wood as the recipient of the 2020 Gradel Fellowship because her proposal “best exemplifies Gradel’s vision of inspiring teachers and students to identify real-world problems, design and implement solutions, and to inspire others to seek lasting change,” said Emily Stratton, executive director of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence. “Wood’s planned fellowship – learning about responsible food production and consumption in Italy – will help her students explore ways to reduce food waste at school and in the community and make healthier, more environmentally friendly food choices.”

Wood’s fellowship – deferred till summer 2021 because of COVID-19 – will take her on an 18-day journey through Italy to investigate the Italian Slow Food Movement, which seeks to prevent the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions; counteract the rise of fast food; and combat people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from and how it impacts the world around us. She will also explore the European Union’s plan to end food waste, examine Italian school cafeteria standards and gain firsthand experience in organic farming and sustainability practices. Her research is inspired by an interest in the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, which address such global issues as ending poverty, improving health and education, and protecting the environment.

“The primary goal of my fellowship is to be able to offer my students service-learning and project-based learning that are centered around the Sustainable Development Goals,” Wood said. “How can I get students to think seriously about eating, a daily activity most of us do mindlessly? What choices can we make personally to consume responsibly? What can we do to attack the food waste problem at our school? What are the ways we can work toward the Sustainable Development Goals locally and serve our community? How can we become more globally competent citizens?”

Wood plans to use her experiential learning to inspire her Pre-K through fifth-grade students to design projects that address these questions and implement solutions by engaging in community partnerships with local nonprofits. She also plans to connect her students with peers at Eco Schools in Italy via Skype and Google Classroom to collaborate on global learning activities.

“I foresee great development of school-community partnerships and activism as my students work on passion projects that focus on Sustainable Development Goals,” Wood said. “I have found that involving students in real world problem-solving provides the rich and cognitively complex learning experiences they crave.”

Oklahoma Fund for Teachers grants are made possible through a partnership between the national nonprofit Fund for Teachers, the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence and the Tulsa Community Foundation. An Oklahoma Tribal Alliance, which began supporting the program last year, has expanded its support this year to help increase the Oklahoma fellowship funding to its highest level in five years. Additional funding was provided by the Stuart and Temple Foundations of Tulsa. The program awards grants of up to $5,000 for individual teachers and up to $10,000 for teams of two or more educators for self-designed summer professional development experiences.

Since 2002, more than 1,000 Oklahoma teachers have received Fund for Teachers grants totaling more than $3.6 million. In 2006, Oklahoma became the first state in the nation to offer grants to educators statewide when the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence joined Fund for Teachers and the Tulsa Community Foundation as state partners. Fund for Teachers fellowships empower teachers to explore their academic passions, deepen their scholarship and enhance their craft, said Karen Eckhoff, executive director of the national nonprofit organization.

“Through experiential learning, bold experimentation and the realization of personal ambition, teachers are better equipped to impart tools and skills which serve their students far beyond the boundaries of the classroom,” Eckhoff said. “Fund for Teachers knows that good teachers become great teachers when they have the resources to explore their subject matter in the real world and translate it to their students and communities.”

Diane Wood (center), gifted resource coordinator at Lincoln Elementary School in Norman, receives a certificate recognizing her as Oklahoma’s inaugural recipient of the Donna Gradel Fund for Teachers Fellowship. Presenting the award are Emily Stratton (left), executive director of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, and Donna Gradel, a two-time Fund for Teachers Fellow and award-winning educator from Broken Arrow. The Gradel Fellowship recognizes a teacher whose innovative, self-designed professional development will help students become problem solvers and world changers.

OETA To Broadcast Tribute to Academic Award Winners

With the cancellation of its May 16 Academic Awards Banquet due to COVID-19, the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence is partnering with OETA Public Television to broadcast a 30-minute tribute to award winning-students and educators at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, May 16, and 3:30 p.m. Sunday, May 17. The program will also be shown on OETA World Channel at 8:30 p.m. May 23 and 7:30 p.m. May 30.

The program, featuring videos submitted by the 2020 Academic All-Staters and other special guests, will be hosted by longtime Tulsa television anchor Scott Thompson, a trustee of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence. The program is produced in partnership with Red Rock Video Services of Edmond.

“When we learned that our Academic Awards Banquet would need to be canceled, we immediately began seeking creative ways to give our honorees the statewide recognition and honor they deserve,” said Emily Stratton, executive director of the foundation. “OETA has been a loyal supporter of our Academic Awards Program, broadcasting our banquet for many years. We are so grateful they agreed to help us pay special tribute to our award winners through a broadcast to premiere May 16 – the same evening we would have held our banquet.”

The televised program will honor 100 of the state’s top public high school seniors as Academic All-Staters. Selected from 495 nominations statewide, the student honorees hail from 75 schools in 69 Oklahoma school districts. The 2020 Academic All-State class is the 34th to be selected by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence in what has been described as “Oklahoma’s most rigorous academic competition.”

Since the award program’s inception in 1987, some 3,400 high school seniors from 326 school districts have been named Academic All-State scholars. Each of this year’s All-Staters will receive a $1,000 merit-based scholarship and a medallion. This year’s All-Staters scored an average of 33.9 on the ACT, with 15 recipients scoring a perfect 36. The students’ average GPA was 4.20. In addition, 40 of this year’s All-Staters are National Merit semifinalists, and two are National Hispanic Scholar semifinalists.

The program will also recognize five innovative public school educators as recipients of its $5,000 Oklahoma Medal for Excellence Awards. This year’s honorees are elementary teaching winner Michelle Rahn, a sixth-grade STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) teacher at Will Rogers Junior High in Claremore; secondary recipient Shelley Self, an art teacher at Coweta High School; elementary/secondary administration winner Chuck McCauley, superintendent of Bartlesville Public Schools; regional university/community college teaching winner Dr. David Bass, professor of biology at the University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond; and research university teaching recipient Dr. Edralin Lucas, professor of nutritional sciences, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater.

Educator and author Erin Gruwell, who was scheduled to be the keynote speaker for this year’s Academic Awards Banquet, plans to deliver the address at the 2021 banquet. All 2020 honorees will be invited to attend next year’s banquet as guests of the foundation. The annual gala event, which is attended by nearly 1,000 people, has been described as the” Academy Awards of public education in Oklahoma.”

The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence is a nonprofit, charitable organization founded in 1985 to recognize and encourage academic excellence in Oklahoma’s public schools. Through its Academic Awards Program, the foundation has awarded more than $4.8 million in merit-based scholarships and cash awards to outstanding students and educators.

Following the OETA broadcast, the tribute will also be available on the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence website at www.ofe.org.

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Bob and Marion Wilson Teacher Institute of Colonial Williamsburg on-site Summer 2020 Sessions Cancelled Due to COVID-19

Special online programming under development; all 2020 teacher scholarships can be deferred to 2021

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (May 4, 2020) – On-site sessions of the Bob and Marion Wilson Teacher Institute of Colonial Williamsburg are cancelled for summer 2020 as part of the foundation’s continued effort to limit health risks associated with COVID-19.

Teachers who received scholarships for 2020 can defer them to 2021. In addition, special summer 2020 online programs are under development for the scholarship recipients and other interested teachers.

“We’re inspired every day by the work of our nation’s teachers, particularly during the COVID- 19 crisis,” said Tab Broyles, Colonial Williamsburg’s Peter L. and Patricia O. Frechette director of teacher development. “Cancelling the 2020 Bob and Marion Wilson Teacher Institute of Colonial Williamsburg is a difficult decision but one based on public health guidance, and it is the best solution for the safety of teachers, staff, students and our communities.”

Since 1989, the Teacher Institute has hosted more than 10,000 primary and secondary school educators for week-long sessions and three-day themed seminars, immersing them in an interdisciplinary approach to teaching social studies with a focus on American history.

“We are grateful to the program’s dedicated teachers for their patience, and to the generous donors who funded 2020 Teacher Institute scholarships,” Broyles said. “We look forward to hosting our 2020 scholarship recipients next year.”

Teacher Institute participants experience includes:

  • Presentation of primary source-centered, standards-based historical content
  • Immersive living-history experiences with classroom applications
  • An inclusive approach to analyzing people and events of the past from multiple perspectives
  • Innovative, engaging teaching strategies to bring history to life in the classroom
  • Collaborative idea sharing with Colonial Williamsburg staff and fellow teachers

Additional information about the Teacher Institute is available by visiting colonialwilliamsburg.org/cwti, by calling 1-855-296-6627 toll-free, and by following Colonial Williamsburg Education on Facebook.

Colonial Williamsburg public sites are closed through May 31 to limit health risks associated with COVID-19.

A growing library of virtual program content and resources for parents, teachers, other educators, lifelong learners and lovers of history is available by visiting the “Explore from

Home” section of colonialwilliamsburg.org, by following Colonial Williamsburg on Facebook and @colonialwmsburg on Twitter and Instagram, and on the Colonial Williamsburg streaming channel, which is free to account holders via the “Education” sections of Amazon Fire TV and Roku TV.

Media contact:                   
Joe Straw
757-220-7287
jstraw@cwf.org

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation preserves, restores and operates Virginia’s 18th-century capital of Williamsburg. Innovative and interactive experiences highlight the relevance of the American Revolution to contemporary life and the importance of an informed, active citizenry. The Colonial Williamsburg experience includes more than 600 restored or reconstructed original buildings, renowned museums of decorative arts and folk art, extensive educational outreach programs for students and teachers, lodging, culinary options from historic taverns to casual or elegant dining, the Golden Horseshoe Golf Club featuring 45 holes designed by Robert Trent Jones and his son Rees Jones, a full-service spa and fitness center, pools, retail stores and gardens. Philanthropic support and revenue from admissions, products and hospitality operations sustain Colonial Williamsburg’s educational programs and preservation initiatives.




 

– CWF –

Fund for Teachers has announced that 37 Oklahoma PreK through 12th-grade teachers have been selected for grants totaling more than $132,000 for self-designed professional development opportunities in locations around the world.

The Oklahoma grants are made possible through a partnership between the national nonprofit Fund for Teachers, the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence and the Tulsa Community Foundation. An Oklahoma Tribal Alliance, which began supporting the program last year, has expanded its support this year to help increase the Oklahoma fellowship funding to its highest level in five years. Additional funding was provided by the Stuart and Temple Foundations of Tulsa.

The Tribal Alliance is comprised of the Chickasaw Nation, Osage Nation, Cherokee Nation, Citizen-Potawatomi Nation, Choctaw Nation, Sac and Fox Nation, the Seminole Nation and the Ponca Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma. This year, grants were awarded to six tribal members representing the Citizen Potawatomi, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Cherokee tribes.

Since 2002, more than 1,000 Oklahoma teachers have received Fund for Teachers grants totaling over $3.6 million. In 2006, Oklahoma became the first state in the nation to offer grants to educators statewide when the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence joined Fund for Teachers and the Tulsa Community Foundation as state partners. Fund for Teachers fellowships empower teachers to explore their academic passions, deepen their scholarship and enhance their craft, said Karen Eckhoff, executive director of the national nonprofit organization.

“Through experiential learning, bold experimentation and the realization of personal ambition, teachers are better equipped to impart tools and skills which serve their students far beyond the boundaries of the classroom,” Eckhoff said. “Fund for Teachers knows that good teachers become great teachers when they have the resources to explore their subject matter in the real world and translate it to their students and communities.”

Grant recipients, named Fund for Teachers Fellows, were awarded the grants after submitting proposals that explained the need for professional development opportunities to fill both teacher and student learning gaps in their classrooms. The applicants could request up to $5,000 for individual fellowships or up to $10,000 for teams of two or more. Applications are reviewed through a rigorous selection process that adheres to the Fund for Teachers scoring rubric. To eliminate bias, all applications are read without reference to teacher name, school district or demographics.

This year’s grants will be deferred to the summer of 2021 due to precautions regarding the COVID-19 global pandemic. At that time, Fellows will journey to 14 countries pursuing learning opportunities that range from professional conferences, educational tours and trainings, interviews, cultural experiences and much more. This year’s Oklahoma Fellows hail from 17 districts and 20 schools.

Fund for Teachers enriches the personal and professional growth of teachers by recognizing and supporting their pursuit of opportunities that have the greatest impact on their careers, classrooms and school communities. For more information about the application process, grant winners or student outcomes, visit fundforteachers.org.

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(EDITORS: Oklahoma’s Fund for Teachers 2020 Fellows are listed below by cities in which they teach. Each listing includes a brief fellowship description. If you would like to interview a local recipient, contact Sara Wilson at swilson@ofe.org for information.)

 

ALTUS – Stacey Davis teaches at Southwest Technology Center in Altus. She will document Hawaii’s environmentally conscious culture to heighten student awareness of how their actions affect the global community through authentic real-world problem solving. Students’ projects will culminate in an Earth Day celebration. She is teaming up with Renee Tanner of Tri County Technology Center in Bartlesville for the collaborative project.

BARTLESVILLE – Erin Rakes and Julie Pattison teach at Jane Phillips Elementary School. They will explore the history and culture of Vienna, Salzburg and Munich to create trauma-informed classrooms that incorporate hands-on learning experiences grounded in the arts for pK-5th grade students.

Renee Tanner teaches at Tri County Technology Center in Bartlesville. She will document Hawaii’s environmentally conscious culture to heighten student awareness of how their actions affect the global community through authentic real-world problem solving. Students’ projects will culminate in an Earth Day celebration. She is teaming up with Stacy Davis of Southwest Technology Center in Altus for the collaborative project.

CHANDLER – Pam Anderson teaches at Chandler Junior High School, and Ann Taylor teaches at Park Road Elementary School. The duo will visit Ireland and Scotland, exploring how storytelling bridges the past and present to help students develop an understanding and respect for other cultures. The project will build students’ reading, writing, and oral presentation skills and help them gain exposure to and an appreciation for their own cultural roots and diverse cultures.

CUSHING – Bill Peeper teaches at Cushing High School. He will explore the “crossroads of conflict” between Berlin, Krakow, Prague and Budapest to research the extensive unrest and political conflict during the 20th century. The project goal is to inspire students with the resilience and recovery of the people through personal narratives and local histories. 

EDMOND – Katie Donaghue and Jill Auten teach at Deer Creek High School. They will create mini video lessons with correlating essential questions from sites associated with the birth of our nation in Philadelphia, PA, to enhance the learning of U.S. history and U.S. government.

INOLA – Cambry Riedl, Becky Robinson and Courtney Tice teach at Inola High School. They will participate in the Broadway Teacher Workshop in New York City to enhance an emerging theater program and better prepare students for collegiate auditions.

JENKS – Lana Bible, Michelle Diaz, Chari Paredes and Sophia Quiroz teach at Jenks East Elementary School. They will attend the Network of Immersion & CLIL Educators (Content and Language Integrated Learning) Conference in Seville, Spain, to learn strategies for addressing the needs of language learners who are emotionally and behaviorally fragile due to trauma and those with interrupted formal education.

Beth Wilson teaches at Jenks East Intermediate School. She will research outdoor education programs and facilities in Alaska that embed a respect for the local environment to develop hands on learning experiences for special education students with mild to moderate learning disabilities and/or emotional disturbances.

KETCHUMKim Byrd, Sabrina Chandler, Andrea Frost and Kandi Osburn teach at Ketchum Elementary School. They will research historic sites in Washington, D.C. to instill in students a stronger love for U.S. history, inspire them with stories of the endurance and fortitude of our Founding Fathers, and introduce to the curriculum a History Bowl that incorporates the community members as judges.

MANNFORD – Daphne Gaebler and Denise Wilson teach at Mannford Middle School. They will document U.S. Japanese American relocation sites and related museums in Washington, California, Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado and Utah to develop materials for learning focused on the lasting effects of America’s impact and role in World War II.

MOORE – Amy Branch, Josh McMartin and Melissa Moseley teach at West Junior High School, Oklahoma City, which is in the Moore Public Schools district. They will attend the TEACCH (Treatment and Education of Autistic and Communication related handicapped CHildren) training at the University of North Carolina to develop proficiencies in teaching functional academic, vocational, and leisure skills that increase lifelong independence for students with disabilities.

NORMAN – Michale Gentry and Lynn Susanto teach at Lincoln Elementary School. The pair will explore key places on historic Route 66 to create digital learning resources about Oklahoma history, with a focus on how stories are shared both past and present to spark their student’s interest in citizenship and the state’s future.

Diane Wood also teaches at Lincoln Elementary School. She will investigate the Italian Slow Food movement, the European Union’s plan to end food waste, Italian school cafeteria standards, and organic farming and sustainability practices to implement a food waste prevention plan in the school cafeteria that incorporates service learning and project-based learning experiences.

OKLAHOMA CITY – Philip Moll teaches at Odyssey Leadership Academy. He will explore characteristics of Paris, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Houten, Copenhagen, and San Francisco while simultaneously researching the history of 20th century government sanctioned racial segregation to study in depth Charles Montgomery’s “Happy City” and Richard Rothstein’s “Color of Law.” The project will help students reflect on their role within their city and use design thinking to create real project proposals for a happier, more equitable, and more ecologically stable world.

Tasha McKinney teaches at Emerson Alternative High School. She will attend the American Library Association (ALA) annual conference in Chicago to learn about the most innovative practices for technology integration, student collaboration, and reading intensification as a means of enhancing educational opportunities for at-risk youth and their families.

SHAWNEE – Norma Neely teaches at Horace Mann Elementary School. She will retrace the expedition of Lewis and Clark via the Columbia and Snake Rivers to authenticate learning about the Pacific Northwest and inspire a student driven, community-wide learning event that compares and contrasts regional climate, flora and fauna, uses of natural resources and Native American groups.

STROUD – Tina Livingstone teaches at Parkview Elementary School. She will learn techniques for fostering imagination and ingenuity through the Creativity Workshop in Florence and, afterwards, explore museums there and in New York City. Her goal is to find inspiring ways to incorporate visual art into core subjects and to produce students who are inventors and problem-solvers.

TULSA – Michelle Newberry and Christa Wallace teach at Hamilton Elementary School. They will participate in the Creativity Workshop in Barcelona to explore techniques to increase creative potential and help students transcend emotional trauma and develop self-esteem and confidence.

Betty Foshee and Elizabeth Martin teach at Lee Elementary School. They will attend Project Zero Classroom in Cambridge, Mass., to continue schoolwide integration of flexible, systematic and research-based practices. Their professional development focuses on three core practices: thinking routines, documentation of child thinking, and reflective professional practice.Ch

The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence puts the health and safety of students, teachers, their families, and their communities first. After monitoring recommendations from state and local health officials to contain the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), we have decided to cancel the May 16 Academic Awards Banquet.

We will continue to pay tribute to our 2020 Academic All-Staters and Medal for Excellence-winning educators in statewide media and social media, as well as through cash awards. We are proud of our honorees and we will do all that we can to celebrate and publicize their remarkable achievements.

REFUND POLICY: Those who have submitted payment for banquet registration will receive a full refund. 

We appreciate your patience and understanding as we navigate this unprecedented public health crisis and its impact on Oklahoma’s premier event honoring excellence in public education.

2020 Oklahoma Medal for Excellence-Winning Educators Announced

(March 2, 2020) OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence has announced the winners of its 2020 Oklahoma Medal for Excellence awards honoring five outstanding educators in Oklahoma’s public schools.

The awards will be presented at the foundation’s 34th annual Academic Awards Banquet on May 16 at the Embassy Suites Conference Center in Norman. Each of the five winners will receive a $5,000 cash prize and a glass “Roots and Wings” sculpture, designed by the late Oklahoma artist Ron Roberts and produced by Artistic Glass Studio of Edmond.

This year’s Medal for Excellence winners and their award categories are: Michelle Rahn, a sixth-grade STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) teacher at Will Rogers Junior High in CLAREMORE, elementary teaching; Shelley Self, an art teacher at COWETA High School, secondary teaching; Chuck McCauley, superintendent of BARTLESVILLE Public Schools, elementary/secondary school administration; Dr. David Bass, professor of biology at the University of Central Oklahoma, EDMOND, regional university/community college teaching; and Dr. Edralin Lucas, professor of nutritional sciences, Oklahoma State University, STILLWATER, research university teaching.

“Oklahomans know that education is the best investment we can make for our future,” said Cathryn Render, president of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, a non-profit organization that recognizes and encourages academic excellence in the state’s public schools. “By honoring these exceptional educators, we are sending a message that we value excellence in public schools and the professionals who have given so much of themselves to enrich the lives of our children.”

Michelle Rahn, winner of the Oklahoma Medal for Excellence in Elementary Teaching, teaches sixth-grade STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) at Will Rogers Junior High in Claremore. Rahn began her career as a small business owner, but discovered her true calling when she volunteered at a camp teaching children about nutrition and diabetes management. The experience prompted her to pursue a degree in elementary education.

Now a 12-year teaching veteran, Rahn has led the charge for her district to focus on STEM education, first by receiving a $23,000 grant to start Claremore’s first elementary STEM program at Westside Elementary School and now to expand STEM education at Will Rogers Junior High.

“Michelle encompasses all the qualities that make a great STEM teacher,” said colleague Ranetta Eidson. “She creates a classroom environment that allows students to problem-solve, work collaboratively in groups, construct with their hands, and think critically and creatively.” As a former business woman, Rahn is mindful to incorporate higher-level thinking skills and strategies such as cooperative learning and inquiry-based investigations to help students prepare for the future workforce.

In Rahn’s classroom, students have worked in teams to design a Mars Rover and lander that is tested by dropping it from a height of 20 feet to see if its precious cargo – a raw egg – will survive the fall. In a cross-curricular unit, her students have read the memoir “Rocket Boys” and designed and built their own rockets. Through inquiry-based investigations, students become young scientists, observing natural phenomena, collecting data to develop their own hypotheses and conducting peer reviews as teams. Rahn volunteers after school to host an all-girls STEM Club, which is currently re-engineering old toys to accommodate students with cognitive disabilities.

“Mrs. Rahn connects with students through interactive learning and inspires them to love science and science concepts,” said Alicia Doonkeen, who credits Rahn with inspiring her daughters’ fascination with science. “The students not only learn the subject, but they learn to love the subject!”

Committed to lifelong learning, Rahn invests her summers attending some of the nation’s top STEM teaching institutes and will soon earn her master’s degree in Teaching, Learning and Leadership with a focus on math and science from Oklahoma State University. Among her many honors, Rahn is a 2020 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year finalist and recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching.

Shelley Self, winner of the Medal for Excellence in Secondary Teaching, is a National Board Certified teacher who has taught art at Coweta High School for 28 years. Her impact in arts education reaches far beyond the students in her classroom, said Kathleen Blake, an Oklahoma City arts educator. “She is an over-the-top secondary teacher … committed to advancing the arts in her school, community and our state.”  

Whether she is teaching a first-time art student or helping an Advanced Placement student develop a portfolio for college credits, Self seeks to be a catalyst, “nudging students to question, to take risks and to rise to a higher level of artistic development.” She challenges students to discover creativity through researching, expanding their experiences, sharpening their synthesizing skills and discovering more about themselves. “In Shelley’s classroom, there is a written component to every project,” says colleague Jennifer Deal. “She believes students need to think … about what decisions they made and why, analyzing the work based on things like materials, processes, ideation and their application of the elements and principles of design.”

Self seeks out opportunities for students to showcase their talents and serve the community through their art. Her students have participated in UnSung Heroes, a national initiative that honors lesser known heroes who changed history. Her Art Club students paint the windows of local businesses each Christmas, provide face painting for carnivals and sporting events, and host an annual Family Glaze Night for the community to glaze ceramics. Last Christmas, her Art Club was honored to represent Oklahoma by creating Christmas ornaments for the National Tree Lighting Ceremony in Washington, D.C.

As a state leader in arts education, Self has been a mentor to countless art teachers and has served several years on the committee for Young Talent in Oklahoma, a juried high school art exhibition and senior portfolio competition. Self is the recipient of numerous teaching honors, including Oklahoma Art Educator of the Year and the Milken National Educator Award. Many of her former students have gone on to become artists, art educators and arts advocates.

“I have seen former students come back to visit her and share the impact her instruction has made on them and now, through them, is making on individuals she may never meet,” said colleague Kathleen Sanders.

The winner of the Medal for Excellence in Elementary/Secondary Administration is Chuck McCauley, superintendent of Bartlesville Public Schools. When he assumed the post in 2016, the district was facing a dire budget situation and low morale. In just three years, McCauley has led the passage of two historic bond issues, engaged stakeholders to develop and execute a strategic plan, and expanded opportunities for students.

“McCauley earned his way to the district’s top post through a soft-spoken leadership style combining humility with intelligence and drive – a combination that naturally attracts others toward a  shared vision of a better future for all children,” said Dan Droege, a founder of Bartlesville’s Public Education Advocates for Kids.

In his first 100 days as superintendent, McCauley engaged key stakeholders, from students and parents to district employees and community members, to help create a three-year strategic plan. Inspired by their input, the district has implemented several new programs, including a 1:1 Student Computing Initiative providing Chromebook computers for all students in grades 6-12; Project Lead the Way STEM curriculum for all K-5 classes; and a new agriculture program for secondary students. In addition, the district established an Alternative Therapeutic Learning Academic Setting (ATLAS) for elementary students who struggle in school due to trauma.

Many of those projects, as well as facility improvements, were made possible through the passage of a $19.4 million bond issue in 2016 and a $17.9 bond issue in 2019. The first bond issue was also critical in saving teaching positions and protecting class sizes.      

McCauley has also sought to improve school culture by engaging more with teachers through school site visits and community events. He hosts informal Coffee-with-Chuck discussions and has instituted the BPS Wellness Challenge, where school sites compete against each other for the highest participation in the Wooloroc 8K race.

During the education funding crisis in 2018, McCauley encouraged many fellow superintendents across the state to suspend school so teachers and parents could make their case at the State Capitol. He and his school board even worked with local Rep. Earl Sears to develop a bipartisan funding plan that would eventually provide for $6,000 teacher pay raises and other critical needs. “Chuck McCauley’s commitment to public education has been etched in stone,” Sears said. “Chuck’s action for students and teachers has moved Oklahoma forward.”

Dr. David Bass, the recipient of the Oklahoma Medal for Excellence in Teaching at a Regional University/Community College, is a professor of biology and curator of invertebrates at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond. A leading expert in aquatic invertebrates, Bass teaches courses ranging from beginning biology and ecology to invertebrate zoology and aquatic entomology. He also coaches UCO’s competitive sailing team.

“Even though Bass has been a professor at UCO for 35 years, he still works as if he were a green Ph.D. starting his first semester of teaching,” said Dr. Wei Chen, dean of the UCO College of Mathematics and Science. “He treats each class as a new adventure, constantly revising lecture notes, adding new contents and experimenting with new delivery approaches.”

Bass’s courses combine dynamic, well-organized lectures with lab work. He utilizes numerous strategies to accommodate different learning styles, including discussion, data analysis, writing, drawing, field work and problem-solving. “As I prepare for class, I imagine myself as a student in the course to better understand their situation,” Bass said. “I focus on the most important concepts and how they apply to the real world or use examples to which students relate.”

Most courses Bass teaches involve field studies where students make observations in nature. Bass instructs students to “get out of their human skin” and imagine they are the organisms being studied to gain a greater understanding of organisms and their environment.

Colleague Gloria Caddell has accompanied Bass and his students on weekend field trips to explore Oklahoma field biology. “David patiently gives each student individual attention and when they find an invertebrate, his excitement makes it seem like he is seeing it for the first time,” Caddell says. “He has never lost that joy of discovery, and his passion and curiosity are contagious.”

Because of Bass’s engaging teaching style and love for his subject, many non-majors have changed their major to become biologists. He mentors and encourages students to become involved in research and curation activities. At least 15 of his publications are co-authored by students.

“David taught me what is necessary to take a scientific project from idea generation to the final published project,” said Kinsey Tedford, a former nursing major turned biology grad, who is now a coastal ecologist and doctoral student at the University of Virginia.

The winner of the Medal for Excellence in Teaching at a Research University is Dr. Edralin Lucas, the Jim and Lynne Williams Endowed Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Oklahoma State University. Lucas’s research focuses on the role of nutrition in promoting cardiovascular health and preventing chronic disease. A 30-year teaching veteran, Lucas has been recognized at OSU as an educator and mentor who sets high standards for academic success and goes the extra mile to help students succeed.

“She is understanding, yet holds students accountable,” said colleague Brenda Smith. “She communicates the importance of values, including hard work, striving for excellence, compassion as well as personal and professional integrity.”

Lucas teaches courses ranging from introductory Principles of Human Nutrition to graduate courses in Macronutrients and Nutrition and Evidence-Based Practice. She promotes student-centered learning by incorporating student-led discussion, in-class group assignments, hands-on activities and case studies. Lucas encourages students to apply lessons to their own lives to assess their own dietary habits and physical activity, which she hopes will impact their health long after they leave her class. “I am convinced that true learning is not simply a matter of memorizing facts, but understanding fundamental principles and being able to use these principles in everyday situations,” Lucas said.

Department Director Stephen Clarke said Lucas has a unique ability to take complex topics involving nutrient metabolism and make them applicable to students’ lives. Dr. Lucas played a critical role in reorganization of the department’s capstone nutrition course, which has dramatically improved student’s capacity to read and critically evaluate nutrition-related research.

 “What I love most about Dr. Lucas is she always pushes us to reach higher, learn more, understand more and be more,” said undergraduate student Cole Dillman. “She does this in a way that is completely personalized to each student. She has the innate ability to push you just outside your comfort zone to promote expanded knowledge, yet ensuring to never push too hard as to cause regression.”

Lucas was also praised for her role as a research mentor to graduate students. She takes a hands-on approach to developing their skills related to scientific inquiry, communication and laboratory techniques. Dr. Lucas has been honored six times as her college’s outstanding graduate faculty mentor and has twice been honored with an OSU Regents Distinguished Teaching Award.

In addition to presenting the Medal for Excellence awards, the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence will honor 100 of Oklahoma’s top public high school seniors as Academic All-Staters at its May 16 banquet. The Academic Awards Banquet is open to the public, with admission priced at $50. Registration will open online April 1 at www.ofe.org.

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence has announced the recipients of its prestigious 2020 Academic All-State Awards. These 100 top public high school seniors, selected from 495 nominations statewide, hail from 75 schools in 69 Oklahoma school districts.

The 2020 Academic All-State class is the 34th to be selected by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence.  Since the award program’s inception in 1987, some 3,400 high school seniors from 326 school districts have been named Academic All-State scholars. Three high schools will celebrate their first Academic All-Stater: Hooker High School, Oklahoma Virtual Charter Academy and Silo High School.

Each of this year’s All-Staters will receive a $1,000 merit-based scholarship and a medallion. The All-Staters will be recognized at the foundation’s 34th annual Academic Awards Banquet on Saturday, May 16, at the Embassy Suites Conference Center in Norman.

Cathryn Render, president of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, describes the selection of the scholars as “Oklahoma’s most rigorous academic competition.” To be nominated for Academic All-State, students must meet one of the following criteria: an American College Test (ACT) composite score of at least 30; a combined SAT evidence-based reading & writing and math score of at least 1370; or be selected as a semi-finalist for a National Merit, National Achievement or National Hispanic Scholarship.

This year’s All-Staters scored an average of 33.9 on the ACT, with 15 recipients scoring a perfect 36. The students’ average GPA was 4.20. In addition, 40 of this year’s All-Staters are National Merit semifinalists, and two are National Hispanic Scholar semifinalists.

Academic All-Staters are selected based on academic achievement, extracurricular activities and community involvement, as well as letters of recommendation and an essay submitted by each nominee. The selection committee, which is chaired by retired Tulsa attorney Teresa B. Adwan, works independently of all other foundation activities. The committee members are a diverse group of business, education and civic leaders, as well as past Academic Awards Program honorees.

The Academic Awards Banquet is open to the public, with admission priced at $50. The awards ceremony will later be televised statewide by OETA, the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority. For more information, call the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence office at (405) 236-0006 or visit its website at www.ofe.org.

Founded in 1985, the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence is a statewide, nonprofit organization dedicated to recognizing and encouraging academic excellence in Oklahoma’s public schools. Through its Academic Awards Program, the foundation has provided more than $4.8 million in merit-based scholarships and awards to honor outstanding graduating seniors as Academic All-Staters and exceptional educators as Medal for Excellence winners.

(EDITORS: The 100 Academic All-Staters are listed below alphabetically by school district, school and the city where they reside. For more information on a particular student in your area, contact Brenda Wheelock at 405/236-0006, Ext. 11.)

*Indicates the All-State Scholar is the sibling of a previous winner. ** Recipient is the child of a previous winner.

       

Name

School District

School

City

Michael Draper*

Ada

Ada High School

Ada

Michaella Reed

Altus

Altus High School

Altus

Tyson Vernon

Altus

Altus High School

Olustee

Pace Mittelstaedt

Amber-Pocasset

Amber-Pocasset High School

Chickasha

Stone Yang

Bartlesville

Bartlesville High School

Bartlesville

Reanna DeLozier

Battiest

Battiest High School

Battiest

Kegan Firey

Berryhill

Berryhill High School

Sand Springs

Piper Lloyd

Bethany

Bethany High School

OKC

Hudson Haskins

Bethel

Bethel High School

Shawnee

Tara Eldridge

Bixby

Bixby High School

Bixby

Aidan Sudler

Bixby

Bixby High School

Bixby

Jonah Wagner

Bixby

Bixby High School

Bixby

Peyton Pierson

Blanchard

Blanchard High School

Blanchard

Michael Musa

Broken Arrow

Broken Arrow High School

Broken Arrow

Emily Hurst

Broken Bow

Broken Bow High School

Broken Bow

Ava Gladwell

Cache

Cache High School

Cache

Ava Swanson

Cache

Cache High School

Lawton

Jared Cox

Canton

Canton High School

Canton

Lydia England

Charter

Oklahoma Virtual Charter Academy

OKC

Aaron Villaneuva

Charter

Santa Fe South Pathways Middle College

OKC

Danielle Dick

Chisholm

Chisholm High School

Enid

Bryant Chitsey

Choctaw-Nicoma Park

Choctaw High School

Choctaw

Aiyana Washington

Choctaw-Nicoma Park

Choctaw High School

Midwest City

Austin Haddock

Claremore

Claremore High School

Claremore

Sarah Willhoite

Claremore

Claremore High School

Claremore

Margaret Grace Baysinger*

Collinsville

Collinsville High School

Collinsville

Kirk Huseman

Cushing

Cushing High School

Cushing

Julie Dawkins

Deer Creek

Deer Creek High School

Edmond

Lauran Zheng

Deer Creek

Deer Creek High School

Edmond

Vanessa Cassidy*

Duncan

Duncan High School

Duncan

Ian McEntire

Duncan

Duncan High School

Duncan

Vivian Taylor

Durant

Durant High School

Durant

Fiza Sheikh

Edmond

Edmond Santa Fe High School

Edmond

Christopher Sipols

Edmond

Edmond North High School

Edmond

Lauren Smith

Edmond

Edmond Santa Fe High School

Edmond

Kevin Zhang

Edmond

Edmond Memorial High School

Edmond

Bradleigh Baker

El Reno

El Reno High School

El Reno

Hope Cunningham

Elgin

Elgin High School

Lawton

Alaina Spencer

Fort Gibson

Fort Gibson High School

Fort Gibson

Bo Robbins

Guthrie

Guthrie High School

Guthrie

Keaton Lollis

Henryetta

Henryetta High School

Henryetta

Mason Stalder

Hooker

Hooker High School

Hooker

Daniel Ripp

Inola

Inola High School

Inola

Aadesh Bajaj

Jenks

Jenks High School

Tulsa

Michael Hwang

Jenks

Jenks High School

Tulsa

Jackson Jeffries

Jenks

Jenks High School

Tulsa

Mark Mills

Jenks

Jenks High School

Tulsa

Harrison Themer

Kingfisher

Kingfisher High School

Kingfisher

Sophie Fosmire

Kremlin-Hillsdale

Kremlin-Hillsdale High School

Enid

Eric Wang

Lawton

MacArthur High School

Lawton

Connor Walker

Lomega

Lomega High School

Kingfisher

Madison Eulberg

Meeker

Meeker High School

Meeker

Corbin Walls*

Miami

Miami High School

Miami

Landon Bolyard

Midwest City-Del City

Midwest City High School

OKC

Kristen Duong

Moore

Moore High School

OKC

William Travis Fink

Moore

Westmoore High School

OKC

Caleb Lawson

Moore

Moore High School

Moore

Kaylyn Raper*

Morrison

Morrison High School

Morrison

Desiree Rickett

Mustang

Mustang High School

OKC

Cale Greenroyd

Newcastle

Newcastle High School

Newcastle

Calder Blackman

Norman

Norman North High School

Norman

Lindsay Bolino

Norman

Norman North High School

Norman

Zile Cao

Norman

Norman North High School

Norman

Charis Forbes

Norman

Norman High School

Norman

Samuel Kolar

Norman

Norman North High School

Norman

Claudia Merchan-Breuer

Norman

Norman North High School

Norman

Bradey Riopelle

Norman

Norman North High School

Norman

Shengran Zhou

Norman

Norman High School

Norman

Dimitri Bradford

Oklahoma City

Classen SAS at Northeast HS

Jones

Helen Dai*

OSSM

Ok. School of Science & Mathematics

Stillwater

Xinyi Li

OSSM

Ok. School of Science & Mathematics

Stillwater

Ronan Locker

Owasso

Owasso High School

Owasso

Katheryn Turner

Owasso

Owasso High School

Owasso

Luke Hamilton

Pauls Valley

Pauls Valley High School

Pauls Valley

Tobias Johnson

Piedmont

Piedmont High School

Piedmont

Colton Peery

Plainview

Plainview High School

Ardmore

Larin Wade

Ringling

Ringling High School

Ringling

Ethan Ratzlaff

Ringwood

Ringwood High School

Meno

William Bouchard**

Sand Springs

Charles Page High School

Sand Springs

Jaedyn Magness

Shattuck

Shattuck High School

Shattuck

Shelby Jones

Shawnee

Shawnee High School

Shawnee

Madison Gordon

Silo

Silo High School

Durant

Zahmiria Johnson

Stillwater

Stillwater High School

Stillwater

Daniel Tikalsky

Stillwater

Stillwater High School

Stillwater

Nicco Wang*

Stillwater

Stillwater High School

Stillwater

Hailey Williams

Strother

Strother High School

Okemah

Kylie Hix

Tahlequah

Tahlequah High School

Tahlequah

Christine Do

Tulsa

Booker T. Washington High School

Tulsa

Xena Gehring

Tulsa

Thomas A. Edison Prep. High School

Tulsa

Nathaniel Ijams*

Tulsa

Booker T. Washington High School

Tulsa

Carson Buller**

Turpin

Turpin High School

Turpin

Keegan Knouse

Union

Union High School

Tulsa

Anna Claire McMullen

Union

Union High School

Tulsa

Gabrielle McMahon-Csaki

Vanoss

Vanoss High School

Stratford

Catherine Tramel

Verdigris

Verdigris High School

Claremore

Claire Levesque

Wagoner

Wagoner High School

Wagoner

Emily Cornforth

Washington

Washington High School

Purcell

Noah Hightower

Watonga

Watonga High School

Watonga

Callie Madison Stephens

Weatherford

Weatherford High School

Weatherford

Nicholas Seyegh

Western Heights

Western Heights High School

OKC

OKLAHOMA CITY – Charlie Balthrop, a fifth-grader at Eisenhower Elementary School in Norman, has been named winner of the 2020 Colonial Day Literature Contest sponsored by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence.

Charlie, 10, was recognized and read his award-winning essay, “What It Means To Be An American,” during Colonial Day at the Oklahoma History Center on Feb. 7 in the Devon Great Hall.  Nearly 300 students participated in the contest.

Revolutionary War hero James Armistead Lafayette, portrayed by historical interpreter Stephen Seals from Colonial Williamsburg, presented Charlie with a plaque and a $100 prize during Colonial Day opening ceremonies. Charlie also received a citation from his state representative Merleyn Bell during the event. Charlie’s essay focused on First Amendment rights, America’s diversity and the importance of voting.

“I am so proud of Charlie and his essay,” said Deji Dugger, Charlie’s Gifted and Talented Program teacher at Eisenhower. “We talk about how important being a good and active citizen is for our country, and he took it to great length to promote voting in our society. I know he is going to be that productive citizen our country needs now more than ever. May he continue to use his voice!”

Charlie is the son of Matt Balthrop of Moore and LaDawn and Josh Batch of Norman. He is active in Moore Youth Football League and enjoys raising fish and playing computer games. He is a straight-A student who enjoys reading and learning about current events.

Also recognized at the Colonial Day opening ceremony were four contest finalists, who received certificates of merit. They were Olivia Johnson of Oakdale Elementary School in EDMOND; Lucas West of John Rex Charter Elementary School in OKLAHOMA CITY; Lindzee Wessels of CHEROKEE Elementary School; and Rosa Gonzalez of Coolidge Elementary School in ENID.

During Colonial Day, nearly 300 Oklahoma fifth-graders dressed in early-American clothing, traveled back in time to meet historical figures and learn about the daily lives of early Americans. Colonial Day is coordinated by teachers who have participated in the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute through a fellowship program administered by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence.

Major funding for Colonial Day is provided by a grant from Oklahoma Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The event is also made possible with support from Aunt Pittypat’s Catering, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Embassy Suites Hilton Oklahoma City Northwest, George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens, Mattocks Printing Co., the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma History Center, the Oklahoma Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Charles L. Oppenheim and Catherine Wootten.

###

(EDITOR: Below is the text of Charlie Balthrop’s essay, “What It Means To Be An American,” in case you wish to print it.)

 

Being an American to me means having freedom of speech, freedom to choose your own religion and the freedom to fulfill your own dreams. I believe being an American also means that everyone is equal and has equal rights. One very important right is the right to vote.

Americans are very fortunate to have these freedoms. Many people come to American for better opportunities – to be free and to have a better chance at achieving their dreams. Our forefathers fought for us to have these freedoms, and it’s something we should never take for granted.

America is a very diverse country with many different races and religions. It is our duty to respect each other, no matter what race or religion people may be. Just as the Pledge of Allegiance states, “One nation under God and indivisible with liberty and justice for all,” we are meant to unite together, fight together and above all, love one another.

In the United States, no one is required to vote in any local, state or presidential election. Voting is, however, a privilege that we should never waiver. Our forefathers have written several amendments to the Constitution that discuss our right to vote.

It is my promise to my country to exercise and never waiver my rights as an American. I know as an American, I have the freedom of speech, freedom to choose my religion and the freedom to fulfill my own dreams. I also promise to respect my fellow Americans, regardless of race or religion. I will also, when of age, exercise my right to vote. I have great respect for my forefathers and the solid foundation in which they build our country. I am proud to be an American.

Charlie Balthrop, (front right), a fifth-grader at Eisenhower Elementary School in Norman, receives a citation from State Rep. Merleyn Bell recognizing him as the winner of the Colonial Day Literature Contest, sponsored by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence. They are joined by (back row, from left) Eisenhower Elementary School Vice Principal Andrea Crowe, Principal Danielle Eikel and Colonial Williamsburg Historical interpreter Stephen Seals, who portrays Revolutionary War hero James Armistead Lafayette. Lafayette presented Charlie with a plaque and $100 award during opening ceremonies of Colonial Day at the Oklahoma History Center, held recently in Oklahoma City. Nearly 300 Oklahoma students participated in the literature contest and other Colonial Day activities. (Photo by David Wheelock)

OKLAHOMA CITY – More than 300 Oklahoma students will travel back in time and meet such historical figures as Revolutionary War hero James Armistead Lafayette and Benjamin Franklin during the 18th annual Colonial Day, slated Friday, Feb. 7, at the Oklahoma History Center, 800 Nazih Zuhdi Dr., Oklahoma City. The program is presented by Colonial Williamsburg and George Washington teacher institute alumni in partnership with the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence.

Students from Cherokee, Enid, Norman, Oakdale, Oklahoma City and Putnam City public schools will be dressed in colonial-period attire for the hands-on history education event. Activities will take place from 9:15 a.m. to 1:40 p.m. at the Oklahoma History Center. Due to renovations at the State Capitol – the traditional location for Colonial Day – the event is being hosted this year by the Oklahoma History Center, which has been a longtime participant in Colonial Day educational programming.

Students will have the opportunity to interact with people from the past – portrayed by historical interpreters – and participate in such teacher-led sessions as colonial dancing, period games, tin smithing and Native American history. The day will include a student-led Bill of Rights song during opening ceremonies in the Devon Great Hall.

Highlighting this year’s Colonial Day will be special appearances by Colonial Williamsburg historical interpreter Stephen Seals, who will portray slave and Patriot spy James Armistead Lafayette; Mount Vernon historical interpreters Brenda Parker, performing as Priscilla, one of more than 300 slaves who lived and worked at Mount Vernon; and Tom Plott, playing Dr. James Craik, George Washington’s close friend and physician. Stephen Smith, a Tulsa historical interpreter, will return for his 18th Colonial Day performance as Benjamin Franklin; and Janet Bass, librarian at Oklahoma Christian School, will reprise her role as Revolutionary War spy Wyn Mabee.

 “Colonial Day is an engaging and action-packed day of learning that brings early American history to life for Oklahoma students,” said Colonial Day Director Teresa Potter, a teacher at Oakdale Elementary School in EDMOND. “We are grateful to the many teachers, volunteers and sponsors who make this learning experience possible and appreciate the Oklahoma History Center hosting this year’s event.”

The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence will recognize the winner of its Colonial Day Literature Contest during opening ceremonies at 9:15 a.m. in the House of Representatives Chambers. Colonial Williamsburg’s James Armistead Lafayette will present a plaque and $100 to literature contest winner Charlie Balthrop of Eisenhower Elementary School in NORMAN. The theme of the annual contest is “What It Means to Be an American.”  

Colonial Day is coordinated by teachers who have participated in the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute through a fellowship program administered by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence or who have attended the George Washington Teacher Institute at Mount Vernon. Joining Potter as coordinators of this year’s Colonial Day are Jan Morris, Soldier Creek Elementary School in MIDWEST CITY; Jessica Brandon, Barnes Elementary School, MIDWEST CITY; and Kristle Morris, Northridge Elementary School, Putnam City Schools, OKLAHOMA CITY.

Schools participating in Colonial Day are Cherokee Public School in CHEROKEE; Oakdale Elementary School in EDMOND; Coolidge Elementary School in ENID; Eisenhower Elementary School, NORMAN; John Rex Elementary School in OKLAHOMA CITY; and Rollingwood and Northridge Elementary Schools, Putnam City Schools, OKLAHOMA CITY.

Major funding for Colonial Day at the Capitol is provided by a grant from Oklahoma Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The event is also made possible with support from Aunt Pittypat’s Catering, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Embassy Suites by Hilton Oklahoma City Northwest, George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens, Mattocks Printing Co., the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma History Center, the Oklahoma Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Charles L. Oppenheim,  and the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence.

OKLAHOMA CITY – Thirty-one outstanding Oklahoma mentors are being recognized by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence and their community mentoring organizations during National Mentor Month in January.

The honored mentors were submitted by their respective mentoring organizations across the state, and each received certificates of achievement from the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence. The certificates are being presented in the communities where the mentors volunteer.

“We salute these outstanding mentors for the important role they play in helping young people achieve better academic, social and economic futures,” said Emily Stratton, executive director of the Foundation for Excellence. “Oklahoma mentors are truly changing lives!”

The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence is a statewide nonprofit that recognizes and encourages academic excellence in Oklahoma’s public schools. Through its statewide mentoring initiative, the foundation promotes the growth and development of quality youth mentoring programs. The foundation works with school districts and mentoring organizations to promote mentoring as a positive step toward academic success.

 “Through a statewide survey of mentoring organizations, we found that the most positive program outcomes were improved academic performance, positive mentor-mentee relationships, improved behavior, increased self-esteem and greater enrichment opportunities for participating youth,” Stratton said. “Mentoring also helps students develop resilience and feel supported as they face difficult life challenges.”

“Mentor in Real Life” is the theme of National Mentoring Month, a campaign sponsored by MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership to celebrate the power of mentoring relationships and recruit new volunteer mentors. The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence provides a directory of mentoring organizations across the state seeking volunteers. For more information and a list of this year’s honored mentors, visit www.okmentors.org.

 (EDITOR: The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence and community mentoring organizations are recognizing 31 outstanding Oklahoma mentors during National Mentoring Month. Honorees are listed below by their hometown and the city in which they mentor. Honored mentor bios and program descriptions are posted online at www.okmentors.org and linked below.)

BARTLESVILLE – Mary Beth Buchanan, an administrative assistant for Tri County Technology, is the outstanding mentor for the Lowe Family Young Scholars Program.

BEAVER – Hattie Whipple, a Beaver business woman, is the outstanding mentor for Beaver Duster Mentoring Program.

CACHE – John Albright, owner and operator of Albright’s Heating and Air Conditioning in Indiahoma, is the outstanding mentor for BEST! (Building Extraordinary Success Today) Mentoring, a program of the Cache Schools Education Foundation.

CHEYENNE – Joe L. Hay, a retired Roger Mills County sheriff, is the outstanding mentor for B.E.A.R.S. (Building Esteem and Responsibility) Mentoring Program in  Cheyenne.

DEL CITY – Maria Simpson, an accountant for Chesapeake Energy, is the outstanding mentor for STARBASE Oklahoma 2.0, Department of Defense, program at Kerr Middle School in Del City. Simpson is a resident of Oklahoma City.

DUNCAN – Jean Schalit, a Duncan retiree, is the outstanding mentor for Link ONE Mentoring, ONE True Light, Inc.

EDMOND – Lexi Arnold is the outstanding mentor for Camp Fire Heart of Oklahoma in Oklahoma City. She is a student at Cimarron Middle School and a resident of Edmond.

Cardin Hart, a recent chemical engineering graduate from Oklahoma State University, was selected as the outstanding mentor for the Chemical Engineering Student Mentor Program in OSU’s College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology. He is now attending medical school at the University of Oklahoma. Hart is a resident of Edmond.

ENID – Max Neville, an Enid community volunteer, is the outstanding mentor for Coach-A-Kid Enid, a program of United Way of Enid and Northwest Oklahoma.

LAWTON – Jeff Elbert is the outstanding mentor for Young Men in Action and Gentlemen of Lawton High School. He is a math teacher at Lawton High School and a wrestling coach.

Danielle Nickell, a Lawton senior majoring in accounting at University of Oklahoma, is the outstanding mentor for the JCPenney Leadership Center in OU’s Price College of Business.

LEEDEY – Roy McClendon, a retired educator and the volunteer mayor of Leedey, is the outstanding mentor for Believe In Some One Now (B.I.S.O.N.) Mentors, a program of Leedey Public Schools.

MANITOU – Jim Linker, a retired history teacher and principal from Vernon, Texas, is the outstanding mentor for Southwest Oklahoma Juvenile Center in Manitou.

MARLOW – Carina Friedl, a procurement specialist for Halliburton Services, is the outstanding mentor for Girl Scouts of Western Oklahoma.

MIDWEST CITY – Thelma Bratten, a retired teacher from Midwest City, is the outstanding mentor for Whiz Kids Oklahoma, Oklahoma City.

Angela Keneda, a reading professor at Rose State College, is the outstanding mentor for Critical Learning in Community Knowledge (CLICK) at Rose State College.

NORMAN – Juliana Guisti Cavallin and Emily Merckx, both seniors at Norman High School, are the honored mentors for Norman High School’s Elementary Spanish Mentor Program.

Danielle Nickell, a Lawton senior majoring in accounting at University of Oklahoma, is the outstanding mentor for the JCPenney Leadership Center in OU’s Price College of Business.

Anthu Trinh, a senior biochemistry and pre-med major at the University of Oklahoma, is the outstanding mentor for Alcott Middle School Mentoring Program. She resides in Norman.

Jacob Klenke, a senior Chemical, Biological and Materials Engineering student at the University of Oklahoma, is the outstanding mentor for the Chevron Phillips Scholar-Mentor Program in OU’s School of Chemical, Biological and Materials Engineering. Klenke is from Greenville, Ill., and currently resides in Norman.

OKLAHOMA CITY – Lexi Arnold is the outstanding mentor for Camp Fire Heart of Oklahoma in Oklahoma City. She is a student at Cimarron Middle School and a resident of Edmond.

Thelma Bratten, a retired teacher from Midwest City, is the outstanding mentor for Whiz Kids Oklahoma, Oklahoma City.

Aaron Corona, an Oklahoma City resident and junior mechanical engineering major at Oklahoma State University, is the outstanding mentor for the Summer Bridge Program in the OSU College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology.

Shari Dixon, a detective for the Village Police Department, has been named the outstanding mentor for the INTEGRIS Positive Directions Mentoring Program at Stanley Hupfeld Academy in Oklahoma City.

Maria Simpson, an accountant for Chesapeake Energy, is the outstanding mentor for STARBASE Oklahoma 2.0, Department of Defense, Program at Kerr Middle School in Del City. Simpson is a resident of Oklahoma City.

Karen Walker, a sixth-grade teacher at ASTEC Charter School, is the outstanding mentor for STARBASE Oklahoma 2.0, Department of Defense, program at ASTEC Charter School.

OWASSO – William Crawford, a senior architecture major at Oklahoma State University, is the outstanding mentor for the Architecture Coaching program in OSU’s  College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology. Crawford is from Owasso.

Caleb Smith, a senior biochemistry and molecular biology major at Oklahoma State University, is the outstanding mentor at OSU’s LASSO Center Tutoring Program. He is from Owasso.

STILLWATER – Fiona Byrd, a junior biosystems engineering major at Oklahoma State University, is the outstanding mentor for Women Inspiring Successful Engineers (WISE) in the OSU College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology.

Aaron Corona, a junior mechanical engineering major at Oklahoma State University, is the outstanding mentor for the Summer Bridge Program in the OSU College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology. Corona is from Oklahoma City.

William Crawford, a senior architecture major at Oklahoma State University, is the outstanding mentor for the Architecture Coaching program in OSU’s  College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology. Crawford is from Owasso.

Cardin Hart, a recent chemical engineering graduate from Oklahoma State University, was selected as the outstanding mentor for the Chemical Engineering Student Mentor Program in OSU’s College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology. He is now attending medical school at the University of Oklahoma. Hart is a resident of Edmond.

Lamar Lawson, a senior electrical engineering major at Oklahoma State University, is the outstanding mentor for Inspiring Successful Engineers, a program in OSU’s College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology.

Jennifer Litchfield, a junior mechanical and aerospace engineering student at Oklahoma State University, is the outstanding mentor for the Student Council Big-Little Program in the OSU College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology.

Rebecca Powers, a senior chemical engineering student at Oklahoma State University, is the outstanding mentor for Parker Engineering, Architecture and Technology Experts (PEATE) in the OSU College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology.

Caleb Smith, a senior biochemistry and molecular biology major at Oklahoma State University, is the outstanding mentor at OSU’s LASSO Center Tutoring Program. He is from Owasso.

TULSA – James Parker, a Tulsa frame carpenter and community volunteer, is the outstanding mentor for World Baseball Outreach in Tulsa.

Susan Kay Watkins is the outstanding mentor for Reading Partners of Tulsa. Watkins, a resident of Sapulpa, is the past event coordinator for the Tulsa Business and Legal News. She is a marketing major at Tulsa Community College.

Fellowship applications are now available for Oklahoma fifth- and eighth-grade teachers interested in attending the 2020 Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute next summer in the restored capital city of 18th-century Virginia. The fifth-grade institute is scheduled June 6-12, and the eighth-grade institute is scheduled June 13-19, 2020.  
           
The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence coordinates the selection of Oklahoma teachers to participate in the renowned teacher institute. Applications are available on the foundation’s website at www.ofe.org. Completed applications must be submitted by Feb. 1, 2020.

The fellowships cover all program activities, airfare, lodging and most meals. Each teacher also receives a $300 stipend for classroom materials. While in Colonial Williamsburg – the world’s largest living history museum – Oklahoma teachers will have the opportunity to meet character interpreters of 18th-century people and be immersed in early American history through hands-on activities and reenactments of historic events. Participants also will meet daily with a Master Teacher to discuss interactive teaching techniques and develop creative lesson ideas based on their experiences.

“No textbook can replace the inspiration and knowledge gained by walking in the footsteps of early Americans, both famous and ordinary,” said Teacher Institute alumna Linda Goodnight of Wewoka. “Visualizing George Washington and his troops at Surrender Field, debating in the very courtroom where Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry pled the cause of liberty, and learning to make rope by hand in Jamestown colony will ignite my teaching – and my students – forever.

“The Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute is by far the finest, most comprehensive teacher training I have ever attended,” Goodnight added.  “I am a better American and a better teacher because of it.”

Oklahoma’s fifth-grade teacher institute is open to fifth-grade social studies/history teachers and resource teachers, such as school librarians or gifted-talented teachers, who plan to teach U.S. history in their schools in 2019-2020. Their sessions will focus on the daily life of colonial Virginians and the transition from subject to citizen that occurred during the Revolutionary War period. Teachers will be immersed in content and hands-on activities that highlight the stories of the people who lived and worked in 18th-century Williamsburg.

Oklahoma eighth-grade classroom teachers who will teach U.S. history as part of their social studies curriculum can apply for fellowships to attend the Teacher Institute’s program for secondary teachers. Their sessions will examine how the concept of American identity began in the colonial period and continues to evolve and transform with each generation. Through inquiry-based analysis of primary sources, teachers will explore how that identity influenced American citizens to shape and change the Republic through the 1860s.
The fellowships are available to public and private school teachers. Participants are asked to share materials, skills and experiences with fellow teachers through two workshops or in-service programs upon their return from the institute.

The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence has coordinated Oklahoma’s participation in the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute since 1993. The program is made possible through the leadership and support of the late Oklahoma City businessman Edward C. Joullian III, who was an active supporter and former board member of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Joullian was also a trustee of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, a nonprofit organization that recognizes and encourages academic excellence in Oklahoma’s public schools. Joullian’s family, along with a group of loyal donors, continues to support the fellowship program, which has served more than 880 Oklahoma teachers.

For more information, visit the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence website at www.ofe.org or call Brenda Wheelock at (405) 236-0006, Ext. 11.
 
 
 

OKLAHOMA CITY – A successful reading program for at-risk students, a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign and a novice teacher training program have been selected as recipients of the 2019 Outstanding Program Awards for Oklahoma School Foundations presented by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence and its Oklahoma School Foundations Network.

The awards, announced today at the Oklahoma School Foundation Network’s regional meeting in Lawton, recognize innovative programs sponsored or administered by public school foundations in Oklahoma.

Receiving plaques and monetary awards of $1,000 each will be the At-Risk Readers Program sponsored by Bartlesville Education Promise, the 50 for Fifty Peer-to-Peer Fundraiser sponsored by the Noble Public Schools Foundation and the Novice Teacher Support Program sponsored by the Foundation for Tulsa Schools.

“We are honoring these programs for their creativity and the positive impact they have in supporting academic excellence in their communities,” said Katy Leffel, director of the Oklahoma School Foundations Network. “In addition, we will recognize these program award winners among their peers at regional meetings so that other school foundations might emulate or adapt these ideas in their own school districts.”


At-Risk Readers Program
Bartlesville Education Promise

Statistics have shown that students who do not learn to read by the third grade are four times more likely not to graduate from high school. Recognizing that as many as 14 percent of Bartlesville third-graders did not pass the new, more difficult state reading test, Bartlesville Education Promise implemented an At-Risk Readers Program.

The reading program selects at-risk readers in all six elementary schools and provides after school tutoring, donates books for all elementary students to take home, and offers a summer reading program staffed by professional teachers. During the eight-week summer program, teachers worked with over 1,000 students and encouraged students to take a pledge to read at least one book over the summer. The foundation invested more than $38,000 last year in the reading program.

“As a result of significant after-school tutoring, encouragement of parents, providing reading books for home use, and an aggressive summer reading program, only four students were held back in third grade,” said Martin Garber Jr., chairman of Bartlesville Education Promise.

The Bartlesville Education Promise foundation was founded in 2015 to help Bartlesville Public Schools students graduate from high school and prepare for college and the workforce. More than 3,300 students participated last year in one or more of the foundation’s programs. Last year, the district graduation rate increased from 83 to 91 percent.

 

50 for Fifty Peer-to-Peer Fundraiser
Noble Public Schools Foundatio
 

Noble Public Schools Foundation set a goal to raise $50,000 for their endowment fund and to also engage new donors with the foundation in an effort to raise awareness and commitment to supporting their mission.

They launched the 50 for Fifty campaign, calling on community members and alumni to engage their peers to help raise $1,000 on behalf of each of the 50 graduating classes from Noble. The foundation called on alumni to pay forward the advantages gained from their experiences in Noble Public Schools by raising funds to support current students.

The campaign utilized a peer-to-peer fundraising approach. Each graduating class had a team, with additional teams for non-alumni community members and staff. Team leaders shared the 50 for Fifty fundraising opportunity with their network of friends and classmates, asking them to share in turn with their own networks. Team leaders utilized many different methods of donor solicitation, from social media and text messages to phone calls and emails.

“This program engaged our supporter community by putting the ownership on their peer groups to reach a common goal of supporting our schools, together, as a team,” said Erika Wright, foundation president. “It fostered a healthy competition between classes, with each team having their own unique giving link and a leaderboard tracker to show who had raised the most at any given time during the campaign.”

The $50,000 fundraising campaign not only exceeded its goal, but also brought in 84 new donors and 24 new monthly donors.

Novice Teacher Support Program
Foundation for Tulsa Schools

To increase teacher retention, increase teacher content knowledge and strengthen student outcomes, the Foundation for Tulsa Schools began sponsoring the Novice Teacher Support Program in 2017-18. The program provides novice teachers enhanced on-boarding training, additional professional development and one-to-one mentorship from an experienced teacher mentor.

“A significant challenge facing Tulsa Public Schools is the hiring, training and retaining of quality teachers,” said Tulsa Superintendent Deborah A. Gist. “One of the most important factors in a student’s academic success is the quality of his or her teacher.”

Gist said 40 percent of Tulsa Public Schools’ teachers are novice teachers, defined as being in the first two years of their teaching career, with the district losing nearly 25 percent of teachers before they reach their sixth year of teaching. The district, with the support of the Foundation for Tulsa Schools, has faced the challenge head-on by increasing efforts to support novice teachers

Through the program, all novice teachers receive stipends to participate in additional monthly professional development days. The summer Novice Teacher induction was expanded from three to five days, allowing additional time for new teachers to go through new hire onboarding and receive more focused professional development and expanded breakout sessions. The Novice Teacher Support Program also increased the number of experienced teacher mentors to allow more one-on-one support for new educators.

“The primary measure of success for the Novice Teacher Support Program is an improved retention rate for novice teachers returning to the district,” Gist said, noting that the retention rate increased 7 percent in 2018-19 and 11.5 percent in 2019-20. This year, Tulsa Public Schools is financially supporting the program internally and continues to refine the program based on teacher feedback.

The Outstanding Program Awards are presented by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, a nonprofit organization that recognizes and encourages academic excellence in Oklahoma’s public schools. Among its many programs, the Foundation for Excellence provides free training, resources and networking opportunities to new and established public school foundations across the state through its Oklahoma School Foundations Network – formerly the Local Education Foundation Outreach program.

For more information, contact Katy Leffel at (405) 236-0006 or email kleffel@ofe.org.

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, a nonprofit organization that recognizes and encourages academic excellence in Oklahoma’s public schools, is seeking nominations for its 2020 Academic All-State Scholarships and Medal for Excellence Awards.

Scholarships and educator awards totaling $125,000 will be presented at the foundation’s 34th annual Academic Awards Banquet on May 16, 2020, at the Embassy Suites Conference Center in Norman. The event, which has been described as the “Academy Awards for public education in Oklahoma,” is attended by nearly 1,000 guests and is broadcast statewide on public television.

 “We know that education is the best investment our society can make for the future,” said David L. Boren, founder and chairman of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence. “If we make all of the right policy decisions in every other area but fail to adequately educate the next generation, we will imperil the future of our society. By working together to give outstanding students and educators the recognition they deserve, we send a strong message to our state and to the nation that Oklahomans value academic excellence.”

Academic Awards nominations are being accepted through an online portal at www.ofe.org in the following categories:

1.      Academic All-State, which honors 100 public high school seniors with a $1,000 merit-based scholarship. To qualify, students must meet at least one of the following requirements: a composite ACT score of at least 30; a combined SAT evidence-based reading & writing and math score of at least 1370; or be selected as a semi-finalist for a National Merit, National Achievement or National Hispanic Scholarship. Eligibility must be verified by the district superintendent or high school principal. Academic All-State nominations must be submitted by 5 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 5.

2.      The Oklahoma Medal for Excellence in Elementary/Secondary Teaching, which honors two educators – a public school elementary teacher and a secondary teacher.

3.      The Oklahoma Medal for Excellence in Elementary/Secondary Administration, which honors an exceptional public school administrator at the elementary or secondary level.

4.      The Oklahoma Medal for Excellence in Teaching at a Regional University or Community College, which honors an innovative teacher at a public regional university or community college.

5.      The Oklahoma Medal for Excellence in Teaching at a Research University, honoring an outstanding educator at a public research university.

Oklahoma Medal for Excellence honorees each receive a $5,000 cash award and a glass Roots and Wings sculpture. Anyone may nominate an educator for a Medal for Excellence Award. Nominees must be full-time employees of their public school or institution and have demonstrated excellence as an educator. All Medal for Excellence nominations must be submitted by 5 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 3.

Scholarship and award recipients are chosen by an independent selection committee, chaired by retired Tulsa attorney Teresa B. Adwan, and comprised of business, education and civic leaders, as well as former Academic All-Staters and Medal for Excellence winners. Since 1987, the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence has awarded more than $4.8 million in academic awards and scholarships.

For more information, visit the foundation’s website at www.ofe.org or call (405) 236-0006.

Oklahoma pre-K-12th grade teachers seeking customized professional development opportunities are encouraged to attend upcoming information sessions in Oklahoma City, Lawton and Clinton about Fund for Teachers grants. 

In partnership with the national nonprofit Fund for Teachers, the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence and the Tulsa Community Foundation will offer grant proposal writing and information sessions. The meetings are scheduled at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 25 at The Oklahoman, 100 W. Main St., Suite 100, in Oklahoma City; at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 30 at Great Plains Technology Center, 4500 W. Lee Blvd. in Lawton; and 5 p.m. Oct. 23 at the Clinton Schools Administration Building, 1720 Opal Ave. in Clinton.

Webinar information sessions will be available in November and December on the national Fund for Teachers website. Registration and webinar information can be found at www.fundforteachers.org/fft-events

Teachers attending the sessions will learn about eligibility requirements, the application process, tips and advice for developing a fellowship proposal and grant writing assistance. The Fund for Teachers grant program awards fellowships of up to $5,000 for individual teachers and up to $10,000 for teams of teachers for self-designed professional development experiences to take place anywhere in the world during the summer months. The grant cycle application process opens Oct. 1 online at www.fundforteachers.org and will close Jan. 30, 2020. 

Fund for Teachers supports teachers in their desire to improve their craft and gain understanding by offering professional development unique to the needs of their students and teaching philosophy. Since 2006, the Fund for Teachers program in Oklahoma has provided more than $3.1 million in grant funds to 878 Oklahoma teachers. Oklahoma’s 2019 Fund for Teachers program was funded in part with support from a tribal alliance including the Chickasaw Nation, Cherokee Nation, Citizen Potawatomi Nation, the Ponca Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma and the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. Native America teachers from all Oklahoma tribal areas are also encouraged to apply for the 2020 grant cycle. 

Fund for Teachers fellowships are open to Oklahoma pre-K through 12th-grade teachers in public, private, parochial and charter schools. Applicants must have at least three years of teaching experience, be full-time employees and spend 50 percent or more of their time in a classroom setting. In addition, applicants must have the intention of returning to their school and/or district following their summer professional development. School administrators are not eligible for the grants. 

This summer, 28 teachers from Oklahoma schools returned from learning odysseys in locations in Europe, Japan, South America and North America. Fellows ignited new passions for learning as they adventured through diverse ecosystems, toured historical locations, observed industry professionals, experimented with new technology, and more. 

Chelsea Archie and teammate Shanna Eicher, science teachers from Owasso Seventh Grade Center, ventured to Eastern Australia to investigate the effects of climate change on the country’s ocean and land ecosystems to develop an inquiry-based unit that engages students in local and global conservation efforts. While in Australia, the team met with conservationists and research scientists to discuss the current state of local ecosystems and to strategize about conservation. Their learning adventure included guided tours of rain forests and animal sanctuaries, behind-the scenes research at the Cairns Aquarium, underwater research at the Great Barrier Reef, observing conservation efforts at the Australia Zoo and visiting local research colleges. 

“I would describe this fellowship as a game-changing event in my education career,” Archie said. “As educators, it is our duty to learn as much as we can so we can be the best teachers for our students. I can now infuse more real-world problem-solving and critical thinking into my classroom, talk with colleagues about complex world issues, and encourage others to stretch outside of their comfort zones.” 

For more information about Fund for Teachers, or to apply for a grant, please visit www.fundforteachers.org, contact Sara Wilson at swilson@ofe.org or call 405-236-0006, ext. 12. 

Exactly 699 Oklahoma coaches from 204 communities in 73 counties participated in the fifth annual Oklahoma Coaches Mentoring Challenge, a campaign to encourage Oklahomans to mentor young people in their communities.

The 2018-19 campaign was kicked off with endorsements from OSU Head Football Coach Mike Gundy and OU Head Football Coach Lincoln Riley in collaboration with state mentoring organizations and the Boren Mentoring Initiative, a program of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence. During the campaign, coaches from public and private elementary and secondary schools, as well as many colleges and universities in Oklahoma stepped up to endorse mentoring. Prospective mentors can learn about volunteer opportunities on the campaign website at www.okcoacheschallenge.org.

“We are grateful to the many coaches who have lent their voices in a unified call for youth mentors in Oklahoma,” said Beverly Woodrome, director of the Boren Mentoring Initiative. “As natural and group mentors, coaches know firsthand the impact that a mentor can have on the academic, social, emotional and economic futures of our young people. Mentoring is critical to the future of our state, providing workforce and quality-of-life development.

“Coaches consistently tell me they see students who are not involved in sports or organized school activities who would benefit from a mentor,” Woodrome added. “By endorsing the Coaches Mentoring Challenge, they are sending a message that they value mentoring and see a critical need for more volunteers to spend an hour a week mentoring young people in their communities.”

The Coaches Mentoring Challenge began in 2008 as a friendly competition between mentoring advocates Coach Tom Osborne of the University of Nebraska and Coach Bill Snyder at Kansas State University. Since then, many coaches from universities, colleges and secondary schools around the country have signed up to endorse mentoring.

According to MENTOR, the National Mentoring Partnership, it is estimated that one in three young people is in need of a mentor – someone to listen, to encourage and to set a positive example. One of the greatest challenges facing mentoring programs in Oklahoma is the shortage of volunteers. Mentors are needed to serve young people from Pre-K through young adults in college and Career Tech. “The Coaches Mentoring Challenge has helped raise awareness about the need for more mentors across the state and has even generated some interest in starting new mentoring programs,” Woodrome said.

The Boren Mentoring Initiative is a program of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, a statewide nonprofit that recognizes and encourages academic excellence in public schools. The mentoring initiative, named for foundation founder and chairman David L. Boren and his wife, Molly, grew out of their shared support for mentoring and its proven impact on student success in and out of the classroom.

The initiative was launched in 2006 to promote the growth and development of quality youth mentoring programs statewide, providing free consulting and resources. The Mentoring Initiative also celebrates the impact of mentoring by honoring outstanding volunteers at the annual Oklahoma Mentor Day. As a resource for those seeking a mentor or mentoring opportunities, the initiative hosts a directory of 328 Oklahoma mentoring organizations on its website at www.okmentors.org.

 “We are happy to meet with schools, churches, businesses and others interested in starting a mentoring program in their community,” Woodrome said. “Research has shown that the most positive outcomes of mentoring are improved academic performance, positive mentor-mentee relationships, improved behavior, increased self-esteem and greater enrichment opportunities for participating youth.”

For more information, visit www.okcoacheschallenge.org or contact Woodrome at (405) 590-4063.

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence is seeking nominations for its 2019 Outstanding Program Awards for Oklahoma School Foundations. 
The foundation annually recognizes innovative programs sponsored or administered by public school foundations. Trophies and monetary awards of $1,000 each will be presented to honorees in late October.

Recognized programs may include but are not limited to: curriculum enhancement, arts integration, student leadership development, student scholarships, mentoring, professional development for teachers, public relations and fundraising. Nominations for recognition may come from anyone in the community knowledgeable about the foundation, including its board members. Only one program per foundation may be nominated for recognition.

Nomination forms and instructions, as well as descriptions of past award recipients, are available online at www.ofe.org. Nominations must be completed online by midnight September 15, 2019.

The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence is a nonprofit organization dedicated to recognizing and encouraging academic excellence in Oklahoma’s public schools. Among its many programs, the foundation provides training, resources and networking opportunities to new and established school foundations across the state.
           
For more information, contact Katy Leffel, director of Oklahoma School Foundations Network, at (405) 922-5420 or email kleffel@ofe.org.

OKLAHOMA CITY –Thirty-six Oklahoma educators can hardly wait to return to the classroom after experiencing a week of historical immersion into early American life at the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute, held at the restored capital of 18th – century Virginia.

While in Colonial Williamsburg – the world’s largest living history museum – Oklahoma teachers met character interpreters of 18th-century people – from Powhatan Indians and plantation slaves to British loyalists and Founding Fathers. Educators were immersed in early American history through hands-on activities and reenactments of historical events. This marks the 27th year that Oklahoma teachers have attended the institute through a fellowship program coordinated by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, a statewide nonprofit that recognizes and encourages academic excellence in public schools.

Oklahoma is second in the nation, following California, in the number of teacher institute participants, with 1,044 graduates.

“My week in Williamsburg has been fantastic,” said Brooke Lee, a fifth-grade teacher at Pioneer Elementary School in Noble. “From meeting historical character interpreters and learning trades to exploring buildings, I have been immersed in the colonial history of our nation. My favorite part of the week was examining original documents in the special archive collection and exploring original structures.”

Lee said she feels better prepared to help her students understand the lives of everyday people who lived in the colonies and to help students “connect their lives today with historical moments that shaped our nation.”

This summer’s Oklahoma participants included 27 fifth-grade teachers and nine eighth-grade educators. Fifth-grade teacher participants, listed by school district, are Myriah McVay, BEAVER; Pam Norris, BEGGS; Jannean Thompson, BERRYHILL; Lecia Hopkins, BRIDGE CREEK; Gabrielle Figueroa, BROKEN ARROW; Alicia Mitchell, CHEROKEE; Jamie Spradlin, CLINTON; Tina Green, ENID; Jennifer Shearer, FRIEND; Beau Keener, JENKS; Cheryl Smith, LUKFATA; Kelli Chambers, MUSKOGEE; Monique Ratliff, MUSTANG; Brooke Lee and Skyler Smith, NOBLE; Bryan Karinshak, Janet Villani and Tiffany Wylie, NORMAN; McKenzie McCall, JOHN REX CHARTER SCHOOL, OKLAHOMA CITY; Haley Nelson, OWASSO; Susan Barnes, PAWHUSKA; Shawnacie Tresler, PURCELL; Monica Hiller, PUTNAM CITY; Wendy Sheets, TULSA; Stephanie Harris, WEATHERFORD; and Jourdan Bustos and Taryn Ellis, YUKON. Teresa Potter, a teacher at OAKDALE Elementary School in EDMOND, was selected by the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute to serve as peer facilitator for the fifth-grade Oklahoma delegation. She met daily with teachers to discuss interactive teaching techniques and help develop creative lesson plans based on their experiences.

Eighth-grade teacher participants, listed by school district, are June Sindelar, ADA; Brandy Baldwin, ARDMORE; Justin Ennis, BROKEN ARROW; Sean Dooley, CHOCTAW-NICOMA PARK; Justin Shaw, DICKSON; Brent Mahan, LAWTON; Dennis Paul Butler, OKLAHOMA SCHOOL FOR THE BLIND, MUSKOGEE; Sarah Drake, RUSH SPRINGS; and Rhonda Cegielski, VERDIGRIS.

Sarah Drake, who teaches U.S. history at Rush Springs Middle School and High School, said the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute was the best professional development experience she has attended in her 26-year teaching career. “Our group debated voting for independence in the very chamber when the Virginia Burgesses voted to join the independence movement,” she said. “We were privileged to meet several interpreters of historical figures, including Martha Washington; French Revolutionary war hero Marquis de Lafayette; Nat Turner, who led a slave rebellion; and Jenny Joseph, a slave woman.

Drake said she looks forward to sharing personal stories and applying lessons she has learned in both middle school and high school classes. The Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute provides participants with interactive teaching techniques and skills to become mentor teachers who can assist other educators to develop active learning classrooms and make history exciting for their students. Participants share strategies to improve instruction, raise literacy levels and enhance thinking skills.

Oklahoma’s teacher institute program was founded and supported through the fundraising efforts of the late Oklahoma City businessman Edward C. Joullian III.  A trustee of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence and former board member of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Joullian died in 2006. Graduates of the institute now receive lapel pins and certificates designating them as Edward C. Joullian Oklahoma Scholars. Joullian’s family, along with a group of loyal donors, continues to support the program, which has transformed the way many Oklahoma educators teach early American history.

(EDITORS: Oklahoma’s Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute participants are listed below by hometown and the cities in which they teach.  Photos and quotes from individual teachers are attached, when available.  If you would like to interview a local participant, contact Brenda Wheelock at 405-236-0006 for information.)

ADA – June Sindelar teaches eighth grade at Ada Junior High School.
 
ARDMORE – Brandy Baldwin is an eighth-grade teacher at Ardmore Middle School.
Justin Shaw, a resident of Ardmore, teaches eighth-grade history and science at Dickson Middle School.
BEAVER – Myriah McVay teaches fifth grade at Beaver Elementary School.
 
BEGGS – Pam Norris, an Okmulgee resident, teaches fifth grade at Beggs Public School.
 
BLANCHARD – Lecia Hopkins, a Newcastle resident, teaches fifth-grade social studies and math at Bridge Creek Intermediate School.
 
BROKEN ARROW – Justin Ennis teaches sixth through eighth-grade social studies at Centennial Middle School.
Gabrielle Figueroa, a Tulsa resident, is a fifth-grade teacher at Aspen Creek Elementary School.
 
BROKEN BOW – Cheryl Smith teaches fifth-grade social studies and science at Lukfata Elementary School.
 
CATOOSA – Dennis Paul Butler, a resident of Catoosa, teaches eighth-grade history at the Oklahoma School for the Blind in Muskogee.
 
CHEROKEE – Alicia Mitchell teaches fifth-grade social studies at Cherokee Elementary School.
 
CHICKASHA – Sarah Drake, a resident of Chickasha, teaches social studies at Rush Springs Middle School and High School.
Jennifer Shearer of Chickasha teaches fifth grade at Friend Elementary School.
 
CHOCTAW – Sean Dooley, a resident of Midwest City, teaches eighth-grade U.S. history at Nicoma Park Middle School.
 
CLAREMORE – Rhonda Cegielski, a Claremore resident, teaches eighth-grade history and civics at Verdigris Jr. High School.
 
CLINTON – Jamie Spradlin, a Weatherford resident, teaches fifth-grade social studies and English at Washington Elementary School in Clinton.
 
COLLINSVILLE – Haley Nelson, a resident of Collinsville, teaches fifth-grade social studies at Barnes Elementary School in Owasso.
 
EDMOND – Teresa Potter teaches fifth grade and gifted & talented classes at Oakdale Elementary School. A 2000 Teacher Institute alumna, she was has served 12 times as peer facilitator for the fifth-grade Oklahoma teacher delegation at the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute.
 
ENID – Tina Green is a fifth-grade teacher at Coolidge Elementary School.
 
LAWTON – Brent Mahan teaches eighth-grade U.S. history at Central Middle School.
 
MIDWEST CITY – Sean Dooley, a resident of Midwest City teaches eighth-grade United States history at Nicoma Park Middle School in Choctaw.
 
MUSKOGEE – Dennis Paul Butler, a resident of Catoosa, teaches 6th through 10th grade at the Oklahoma School for the Blind.
Kelli Chambers teaches fourth through sixth-grade at New Tech at Cherokee Elementary School.
 
MUSTANG – Monique Ratliff, a Yukon resident, teaches fifth-grade social studies and science at Horizon Intermediate School.
 
NEWCASTLE – Lecia Hopkins, a Newcastle resident, teaches fifth-grade social studies and math at Bridge Creek Intermediate School in Blanchard.
 
NOBLE – Brooke Lee, a Noble resident, and Skyler Smith, a Norman resident, teach fifth grade at Pioneer Intermediate School in Noble.
NORMAN – Bryan Karinshak teaches fifth-grade social studies and science at Jefferson Elementary School.
Skyler Smith, a Norman resident, teaches fifth grade at Pioneer Intermediate School in Noble.
Fifth-grade teachers Janet Villani and Tiffany Wylie of Norman teach at Truman Elementary School.
 
OKLAHOMA CITY – Jourdan Bustos, an Oklahoma City resident, teaches fifth-grade social studies at Lakeview Elementary School in Yukon.
Monica Hiller teaches fifth-grade social studies and math at Rollingwood Elementary School in Putnam City Schools.
McKenzie McCall teaches fifth grade at John Rex Charter School.
 
OKMULGEE – Pam Norris, a resident of Okmulgee, teaches fifth grade at Beggs Public School.
 
OWASSO – Haley Nelson, a resident of Collinsville, teaches fifth-grade social studies at Barnes Elementary School.
 
PAWHUSKA – Susan Barnes is a fifth-grade teacher at Pawhuska Elementary School.
 
PURCELL – Shawnacie Tresler teaches fifth grade at Purcell Intermediate School.
 
RUSH SPRINGS – Sarah Drake, a resident of Chickasha, teaches eighth-grade at Rush Springs Middle School.
 
SAND SPRINGS – Jannean Thompson, a resident of Sand Springs, teaches fifth grade at Berryhill North Elementary School in Tulsa.
 
TULSA – Gabrielle Figueroa, a Tulsa resident, teaches fifth-grade social studies at Aspen Creek Elementary School in Broken Arrow.
Beau Keener teaches fifth and sixth-grade special education at Jenks East Intermediate School.
Wendy Sheets teaches fifth-grade English, French and social studies at Eisenhower International Elementary School.
Jannean Thompson, a Sand Springs resident, teaches fifth grade at Berryhill North Elementary School.
 
WEATHERFORD – Stephanie Harris teaches fifth-grade history and language arts at West Elementary School.
Jamie Spradlin, a Weatherford resident, teaches fifth-grade social studies at Washington Elementary School in Clinton.
YUKON – Jourdan Bustos of Oklahoma City and Taryn Ellis of Yukon teach fifth-grade at Lakeview Elementary School.
Monique Ratliff, a Yukon resident, teaches fifth-grade social studies and science at Horizon Intermediate School in Mustang.
Oklahoma fifth-grade teachers meet a historical interpreter portraying James Madison during their visit to the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute.
Nine Oklahoma eighth-grade teachers were selected by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence to attend the 2019 Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute session for middle school educators. Pictured front row, from left, are June Sildelar of Ada, Rhonda Cegielski of Verdrigris, Brandy Baldwin of Ardmore, Brent Mahan of Lawton and Justin Ennis of Broken Arrow. On the back row, from left, are Dennis Paul Butler of Oklahoma School for the Blind, Sean Dooley of Midwest City and Justin Shaw of Dickson Schools.