Broken Arrow educator selected at 2018 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year

BROKEN ARROW, Okla. – A Broken Arrow teacher has been selected as the 2018 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year.

On Tuesday, environmental science teacher Donna Gradel was named the 2018 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year.

Gradel has taught at Broken Arrow Public Schools for the past 21 years.

“Donna understands the true potential of each of her students,” said Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister. “She differentiates instruction to meet the needs of each individual, challenges them to solve real-world problems, then goes one step further by modeling opportunities to implement their innovations to make a difference in the lives of people in Oklahoma and across the globe.”

Gradel’s students designed a large-scale aquaponics system to provide clean water and a sustainable food system to raise fish and plants for impoverished orphans in a remote region of Kenya. After months of research, Gradel and her students then traveled to Africa to complete the system.

“Each student has potential – potential to learn regardless of where their starting point is. Students are interested in nature and science and discovery, and they have a very strong sense of purpose in their life. They want to make a difference, and they want to have an impact on their world,” Gradel said in her Teacher of the Year application.

In addition to her work in Kenya, she also provides curriculum and science supplies to a school that rescues victims of human trafficking. She also works with local organizations to promote environmental education programs. Gradel also is known for distributing backpacks and supplies to local schools, and food and bicycles to foster children at Christmas.

“Donna Gradel is the teacher who goes so far above and beyond what is expected it’s incredible. She has such talent and intelligence that she could probably do anything she wanted, yet she’s had this dedication to serving students for so many years,” said Broken Arrow Public Schools Superintendent Janet Dunlop in the application. “She has opened up the world to her students in ways they never would have experienced without her leadership.”

The other 11 state Teacher of the Year finalists are:

  • Jill Andrews, Claremore High School, Claremore Public Schools
  • Neeli Boyd, Wiley Post Elementary School, Putnam City Schools
  • Sarah Carter, Drumright High School, Drumright Public Schools
  • Rob Davis, Yukon High School, Yukon Public Schools
  • Betty Deen, Oologah Middle School, Oologah-Talala Public Schools
  • Chad Harper, Mustang High School, Mustang Public Schools
  • Janet Johnson, Clyde Boyd Middle School, Sand Springs Schools
  • Dionne Liebl, Deer Creek High School, Deer Creek Schools
  • Shala Marshall, Jenks High School, Jenks Public Schools
  • Christine Mueller, Moore Central Junior High School, Moore Public Schools
  • Laura Smith, Byng Elementary, Junior High And High Schools, Byng Public Schools

The Rising Stars are:

  • Colby McGee, Allen Public Schools
  • Haley Price, Newcastle High School, Newcastle Public Schools
  • Jessi Ross, Mooreland Elementary School, Mooreland Public Schools
  • Madison Wingate, Pierce Elementary School, Oklahoma City Public Schools.