OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – As teachers are preparing for fall break across the state, a dozen educators have been named as finalists for Oklahoma’s Teacher of the Year.

“These finalists represent some of the top teaching talent in Oklahoma,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister said. “They are exceptional individuals who have a tremendous heart for their students and an unwavering dedication to the teaching profession.”

The finalists are as follows:

Broken Arrow Public Schools

Broken Arrow – Kelsee Arnold

Kelsee Arnold is a 3rd through 5th grade Gifted and Talented Teacher at Spring Creek Elementary and Aspen Creek Elementary School.

“The relationships I’ve had the privilege of cultivating throughout the years with students are not only dear to my heart, but are truly my proudest achievement. It is an honor to witness kids’ dreams come to fruition, knowing that our reach is impacting future successes, and doing it hand-in-hand with other heart-driven, passionate educators.”

Cushing Public Schools

Cushing- William Peeper

William Peeper is a 10th through 12th grade history teacher at Cushing High School.

“Getting students to engage with the content matter and each other is really the essence of all that I do within the walls of my classroom. It is a priority of mine every new school year to develop a considerate and compassionate classroom culture in which we can all learn, grow, be challenged and show support to each other.”

Deer Creek Public Schools

Deer Creek- Marcy Boudreaux-Johnson

Marcy Boudreaux-Johnson is a kindergarten through 3rd grade reading intervention teacher at Prairie Vale Elementary School.

“To this day I remember the teachers who helped to make me feel confident and comfortable in my learning environment. I work hard to be that teacher for students on our campus. An outstanding teacher, in my opinion, will meet a child where they are, not only academically but also emotionally, and guide them to academic achievements within the classroom.”

Edmond Public Schools

Edmond- Emily Boyett

Emily Boyett is a speech-language pathologist at Frontier Elementary School.

“Effective educators are flexible and innovative, adapting to meet the various needs of their classroom. They know and remember their ‘why’ and find joy in the most difficult of days or in the smallest of their students’ achievements. My philosophy of teaching is that every human, no matter how physically or cognitively involved or complex, deserves the freedom of self-expression and the dignity of inclusion and acceptance.”

Jenks Public Schools

Jenks – Julie Cryer

Julie Cryer is a middle school band teacher at Jenks Middle School.

“The lessons learned and applied in teaching are not linear, but rather they intertwine like a web. My teaching philosophy is really the encapsulation of personal connectivity, a high level of pedagogy, firm boundaries and high expectations. They all affect each other. Each day in the classroom brings new challenges and new opportunities for growth.”

Lawton Public Schools

Lawton – Steven Smith

Steven Smith is a high school art teacher at Life Ready Center.

“My philosophy of teaching art aligns with my philosophy of life. I’m a constructivist. Humans build knowledge by engaging the world and making connections.”

Moore Public Schools

Moore – Alona Whitebird

Alona Whitebird is a high school social studies teacher at Southmoore High School.

“An outstanding teacher is someone who goes beyond the content to see their students. Fantastic teachers are passionate about their subject area, but, more importantly, they are passionate about being a cheerleader for their students. I believe fantastic teachers are a model for their students, showcasing the tenets of hard work, dedication and perseverance.”

Noble Public Schools

Noble – Tenille Mehl

Tenille Mehl is a 4th and 5th grade school counselor at Pioneer Elementary School.

“Outstanding teachers are chameleons. They are characterized best by their willingness to change, innovate, self-reflect and be present. The biggest reward that I find in teaching is the love that I am able to give and receive.”

Norman Public Schools

Norman – Rob Bradshaw

Rob Bradshaw is a 5th through 8th grade orchestra instructor at Longfellow Middle School.

“I love the challenge of teaching middle school students. They come to class with a variety of energy levels, passions and their own unique brand of drama, but they are also at a place where they are inspired by so many different thoughts and ideas, and are willing to try most things. I strive to build a unique relationship with each of my students in their time in my classroom so that they feel comfortable and safe even when things are not going their way.”

Pryor Public Schools

Pryor – Julie Osburn

Julie Osburn is a 2nd grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary School.

“I see myself in many of the learners I have worked with. Over the years I have gained a toolbox of ideas that continuously grows, to help learners self-regulate in and out of the classroom. It is so rewarding to work with a learner that has struggled in the past and watch them feel success.”

Tulsa Public Schools

Tulsa – Traci Manuel

Traci Manuel is a 10th grade advanced English II teacher at Booker T. Washington High School.

“On my road to becoming a teacher, I have taken the road that Robert Frost discussed in the poem, ‘The Road Not Taken,’ where he said, ‘I took the one less traveled, and that has made all the difference.’ Just like I took a different path to become a teacher, I desire to inspire my students to take that path in learning to unlock their potential of brilliance.”

Union Public Schools

Union – Rexanne McCrary

Rexanne McCrary is an 11th and 12th grade AP language and composition teacher and virtual English teacher at Union High School.

“One of the things I do to strengthen and improve the teaching profession is using my creativity to develop ideas that help students not only inside the classroom, but outside the classroom as well. The teaching profession is not limited to a room. To teach the importance of observation, I take my students on walks inside and outside the school to learn how to take in their surroundings and the impact those observations can have.”

The 2023 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year will be named in March.

Beginning July 1, the honoree will assume full-time Teacher of the Year duties, which include speaking engagements and serving as Oklahoma’s ambassador for teachers.