OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A teacher of the year in Oklahoma was crowned Wednesday morning at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.

Traci Manuel was named the winner as a 13-year educator and current advanced English teacher at Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa.

Traci Manuel Tulsa Public Schools
Traci Manuel Tulsa Public Schools

“Wow. I am totally shocked. Never could I have imagined being in this position. It was not anything I dreamed of. I just do my job on a daily basis,” Manuel said. “It is not just something as a job, it is a career, but more so, it is my passion and is my purpose. I think once people find their purpose, they don’t have a hard time sticking to anything. They show up every day with a smile, knowing that that student may need you.”

Every teacher on the stage gave their own speech congratulating one another and giving praise to Oklahoma teachers across the state.

“Oklahoma teachers I am in awe of your resilience, your tenacity. Continue to innovate and inspire,” Emily Boyett said. A teacher at Edmond Public Schools.

“I’m seeing the best part of all of my favorite teachers in the world represented up here on this stage,” said Steven Smith. A teacher at Lawton Public Schools. “It makes me feel really proud. It makes me feel really good because I know our children are in really exceptional hands.”

Manuel said it was her personal experience growing up and graduating from the very school she teaches at that got her to where she is.

“It had its challenges and obstacles that I did have to overcome,” she said. “I came from a family of educators and my grandmother always pushed me and so many more to keep moving and don’t stop past the obstacles.”

Her passion is undeniable. Now she said she just tries to push her students to believe they can overcome any obstacles just like she did.

“I keep going because the students need me to go and I needed someone else to go,” she said. “So, I try to give that back to those students.”

For more on the finalists, visit the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s website.

For more on Traci Manuel, you can find that in a video posted on the state department of educations Facebook page.