Tulsa, Okla. -
Tulsa School Superintendent Dr. Keith Ballard made five teachers very happy last week, when he made a surprise visit in person to each one, to let them know they had been nominated by their colleagues as a finalist for Teacher of the Year for 2014.
They'll find out who wins at the TPS annual employee banquet on May 1st.
The five finalists are:
- Ava Brown, sixth grade reading and language arts teacher at Owen Elementary;
- Maggie Cooper, fifth grade teacher at Park Elementary;
- Sommer Lyons, prekindergarten teacher at ECDC Reed;
- Dr. Anthony Marshall, history teacher at Booker T. Washington High School; and
- Lynnette Shouse, gifted and talented teacher at Grissom Elementary.
Brown has been teaching for 19 years, including 17 for TPS. She credits her love of teaching to the support of her mother, also a teacher, who worked countless hours on lessons and sought input from those around her, including Brown. From the beginning of her career, Brown understood that when she believed in her students, they began to believe more in themselves. Her love of science allows her to integrate it into her reading and math lessons, ensuring that experiential learning is a focus of every lesson. Brown mentors interns, new teachers and those beginning their careers as teacher assistants just as she did. She has a full understanding that everything she does in the classroom has the potential to affect students' lives and conducts herself as a model of what a good citizen should be.
Cooper has known since attending kindergarten at Hoover Elementary that she was a natural born teacher. Now in her eighth year with TPS, she credits her teachers with showing her how to combine caring with unwavering high expectations for effort and behavior. She believes that it is her students who are her greatest accomplishments. Cooper's leadership allows her to bring her joy and love of teaching to others by aiding first and second year Teach For America corps members at the Summer Institute. Cooper also imparts her wisdom at Park where she serves as team leader. She also enjoys her designation as a master teacher for the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board, further sharing her skills with teachers all across Oklahoma.
Lyons has been with the district for three years. A graduate of East Central High School, she spent four years as a paraprofessional at the former Bryant Elementary and realized her love of children and learning. Lyons received her certification through the paraprofessional to teacher alternative program and immediately accepted a position. She fully understands that she contributes to her students' success and notes the support of her fellow teachers as key to her success. Lyons keeps her students at the center of every lesson and seeks to develop a positive attitude in every child to assist learning. Her natural leadership ability and her understanding of the need for clear, precise goals and accountability have led her to emerge as team leader in a short time.
Marshall is in his 10th year at Booker T., where he is responsible for the development of the Hornet Ambassador Program and the Men of Power male achievement program. He is active in the community and has received the Omega Psi Phi Community Service Award. Marshall also developed the Summer Reading Program for incoming freshmen in which more than 200 students participate. He encourages students to continue their education by helping them with potential scholarship opportunities and conducting an annual college tour for students. Marshall also coordinates Booker T.'s Louder Than A Bomb poetry team, which has won the local contest and competed at the national competition in Chicago. With an education in law, he sponsors the Pipeline Project which introduces TPS students to law and the requirements for entry to law school.
Shouse knew in fourth grade that she wanted to be a teacher. Her 22 years with TPS began as a reading coach at Burrough Elementary. Her successes there hooked her on how she could influence children. Using the feedback of those she trained, Shouse quickly realized that instructing students instead of teachers would offer the greatest impact to the district. Her coaching continues today at Grissom where she has trained the staff in the district's balanced literacy initiative. She recognizes those who struggle and provides differentiated training to meet their needs, just as a classroom teacher does with elementary students. She attributes her willingness to seek out and accept feedback as her greatest catalyst for growth and imparts this value to those she coaches.