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OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma’s next Teacher of the Year was announced on Tuesday at State Fair Park in Oklahoma City.

Back in July, State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister announced the 12 finalists, saying they “represent the highest standard of education in our state and are exceptional examples of the tremendous impact one person can make in the lives of kids.”

Jena Nelson was named 2020 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year during a ceremony on Tuesday.

“Jena’s passion for teaching and her dedication to her students show in everything she does,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister said. “She uses her past experiences to go beyond the curriculum and create nurturing relationships with the children in her classroom, and that shows in the tremendous difference she’s made in the lives of her students.”

Nelson teaches English at Deer Creek Middle School in Deer Creek Schools.

She has been an educator for 14 years and has held her current position for two years.

Jena Nelson

According to Deer Creek Middle School’s website, when Nelson is not teaching, “she enjoys spending time with her family, her chickens, and her garden.”

“To say that I didn’t have a great home life would be an understatement. I was very much like some of the students we see today in our classroom. I was angry. I lashed out. I was defiant. I very much wanted a place to feel safe and cared for outside of my trauma-filled home, and I found that place in school,” Nelson said. “I have done things that I never imagined, and it’s all because teachers believed in me. That is why I am in the classroom today. I’m here to give what was given to me – a chance.”

Starting July 1, 2020, Nelson will assume full-time Teacher of the Year duties, which include speaking engagements and serving as Oklahoma’s teacher ambassador, encouraging others to enter or remain in the profession.

Becky Oglesby, of Yukon, the 2019 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year, will continue to tour the state until July 2020.

The 11 other teachers nominated were:

  • Cara Bowerman
  • Debbie Carlisle
  • Kirbey Dietzel
  • Terri Guthridge
  • Lesa Hefner
  • Elizabeth Hoggatt
  • Patricia Lightfoot
  • Michelle Rahn
  • Kari Rhoden
  • Cassandra Stauder
  • Katie Thompson