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Norman teacher headed to the nation’s capitol to compete for national title

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NORMAN, Okla. - Typically, he's teaching math in Norman, but Shawn Sheehan has the year off to be a spokesperson as Oklahoma's Teacher of the Year.

Before Sheehan was named Oklahoma's Teacher of the Year, he was already making a difference.

Three years ago, he launched a campaign to recruit teachers in a state seeing a huge shortage.

"We're looking at changing public perceptions of teaching in our profession, and we're looking at improving the retention and recruitment," Sheehan said.

Sheehan spoke in front of education majors at the University of Central Oklahoma, telling the future teachers they are about to embark on a worthy and influential career.

"All I want to do is validate their decision via a person that says, 'You know what? You did make the right choice. I know what you're seeing here is kind of heavy, and it seems really negative, but it's worth it,'" Sheehan said.

This weekend, Sheehan is interviewing for teaching's highest honor.

He's one of only four finalists up for National Teacher of the Year - a title an Oklahoman hasn't been bestowed in 50 years.

"I felt so undeserving. This is only my fifth year teaching, and I'm like 'What in the world is happening?'" Sheehan said.

But, the military man turned educator believes his atypical approach to teaching is what landed him in one of the top four slots.

"I know what it is. It's professionalizing our work through 'The Teach Like Me' campaign and things I do in my classroom. I'm not afraid to take risks," Sheehan said.

Sheehan would love to show the nation Oklahoma teachers are more than what the statistics portray.

"We have educators in our state that, despite all of these challenges, they're doing amazing work for our kids, so I would love to just carry that torch for them," Sheehan said.

Sheehan leaves Sunday to compete for the national title.

He won't find out if he wins until May.

If he's selected as National Teacher of the Year, he will meet President Obama.