BROKEN ARROW, Okla. – An Oklahoma teacher has been named one of four finalists for a national award.
Donna Gradel, of Broken Arrow High School, is Oklahoma’s 2018 Teacher of the Year. Now, she has the chance to be the National Teacher of the Year after being named a finalist for the award which was announced by Gov. Kevin Stitt and State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister on Wednesday.
Gradel is the second Oklahoma teacher since 2016 to be named a National Teacher of the Year finalist.
She has been on a 77-county tour as the state’s ambassador of teaching.
The goal of her “Year of the Teacher” campaign is to recruit, retain and celebrate Oklahoma teachers. She is known for challenging her students to find solutions to problems around the world.
Gradel, an environmental science teacher, and her students, created the Aqua for Tharaka, which provided clean water and protein for impoverished orphans in a remote region of Kenya. Her students designed aquaponic systems for the project and then traveled to Africa with her to complete the system.
Her projects with her students have also stayed local as her students analyzed air quality, light quality and energy consumption at Broken Arrow High School.
Donna Gradel’s Oklahoma Teacher of the Year application video
She began her career as a special education teacher in the Appalachian Mountains nearly 30 years ago.
Now, she will travel to Washington D.C., in February, and join the other finalists from Alaska, the District of Columbia and Virginia, to be interviewed by a national selection committee to determine the National Teacher of the Year.
It’s been more than 50 years since an Oklahoma educator has received the national honor; Edna Donley of Alva High School (1959) and Lawana Trout of Charles Page High School in Sand Springs (1964).
The award will be announced this spring.