OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A teacher at Classen School of Advanced Studies High School at Northeast, or Classen SAS, found herself in the spotlight Wednesday after being named Oklahoma City Public School District Teacher of the Year in May.

“I am 100 percent honored and humbled by this,” Kimberly Banz said.

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Kimberly Banz teaching orchestra class, image KFOR

She’s been an educator for over a decade with the last five years at Classen SAS. She said as the director of orchestras, she has a passion for teaching students that stems back to her childhood days as a violinist.

“I had a middle school orchestra teacher and she made it really fun,” Banz said. “I want them to come to school, be looking forward to being in my classroom, to be able to create something together as a team and to create excellence.”

Some of the 75 students in her orchestra tell us she’s more than deserving of Teacher of the Year.

“She kind of treats us like she’s family,” said Chrislyn McNeely, a junior student in her class that plays the violin.

“If she thinks that we can be better at something then she will not let us stop at the bare minimum,” said Dacey Tietz, a senior student in her class that plays double bass. “She will keep pushing and pushing to get us to be our best.”

Banz said it feels good to be back in the classroom with her students again, coming off the height of the pandemic.

“I think that teachers really need right now is just encouragement,” Banz said.

Now, it’s the start of a new year. Banz hopes the lessons she teaches these students will help them both inside the classroom and outside of it.

“I wasn’t, at first, looking to major in music in college,” said Stephen Gunn, a junior student in her class that plays the violin. “But now I’m definitely looking at that as an option.”

“We need to model what it looks like to be an overcomer, to keep a positive attitude,” Banz said, speaking about teachers. “To make a decision every single day that we are going to make this the best day because our kids deserve that.”

The state teacher of the year is announced in March. You can find more information on that here on the State Department of Education website. When asked what instrument she plays, Banz said all of them, but is partial to the viola. Also, something to note, 11 seniors in Banz’s class last year had about $2.6 million in scholarship offers.