OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) — The Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame recognizes the dedicated service of longtime educators across the state. 

“We have some absolutely extraordinary educators and we have an awful lot of students that really want to learn. It’s not just a matter of pairing the up, but trying to reach out to all corners of the state,” said Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame President Eugene Earsom. 

One of two honorees this year is Joyce Henderson – her career with Oklahoma City Public Schools spans nearly 40 years. 

“She had a significant impact on an awful lot of kids as well as us fellow educators as well,” Earsom added. 

Henderson said her path to education began at Dunjee High School as a student, and shaped by a pivotal era: the civil rights movement. 

She returned to the campus for her first teaching job as a social studies teacher. 

“Not too many people can say they graduate from their school and went back to be a teacher,” Henderson said in an earlier interview with the station. 

Following several years as a teacher, Henderson served as an administrator in the district, including as principal of Emerson Alternative High School, the original Classen High School, Northeast High School and Star Spencer High School. 

Henderson was also one of the original administrators for the opening of Classen School of Advanced Studies. 

Such a long career in teaching can rarely be attributed to accolades and awards, but Ms. Henderson says the upcoming Hall of Fame induction validates her career – one that laid a foundation for the diversity celebrated in Oklahoma City Public Schools today – even as student diversity outweighs its educators. 

According to The Oklahoman, while less than half of Oklahoma’s public school students are white, more than 80% of its teachers, and administrators are Caucasian. 

“Once we integrated all of our schools, it was a matter of making sure every student got the best education we could offer regardless of race, creed, or color,” she said. 

Henderson was a member of the superintendent’s cabinet as the Executive Director of School and Community Services later in her career. 

Following her retirement, she temporarily stepped in to assist Douglass High School in a vital role through a transition in its administration. 

Several years after retiring, her pride in the profession is still unmistakable. 

“I like to remind people that all other professions come through a teacher,” Henderson said as she shared her perspective on life in the classroom. 

“Children don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care,” she said. 

That’s a philosophy echoed by Dr. Christina Kirk, who is following somewhat in her mentor’s footsteps while she carves her path in education. 

“I practiced law for 15 years [and] I got that moment of like, let’s reevaluate what we’re doing, let’s see how we can really truly give back and got the opportunity to go into a classroom,” said Kirk. 

Courtesy: Dr. Christina Kirk

Dr. Kirk said Henderson’s vast experience in the classroom offers a wealth of knowledge for anyone entering the field of education. 

“[Henderson’s] not afraid to share that knowledge. As soon as I needed it, she reached out. She’s like, Hey, ‘how can I help,’” Kirk explained. 

“She provides me with insight, navigating the educational waters…that encouragement to keep going back in [to the classroom, knowing] that you’re truly making a difference,” she added. 

The Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame is not Joyce Henderson’s only career honor, and it may not be her last. 

“My advice to all of you and all of us in education is to continue to be the best teacher you can be,” she said. 

“You are committing yourself to developing young people. And when you make that type of contribution, there is not a price you can put on it.” 

Ms. Henderson will be recognized alongside Ray Henson of Durant, a longtime former superintendent of Talihina Public Schools.

Read more about their accomplishments here.

Ray Henson received the Associate of Science from Eastern in 1964, the Bachelor of Science from Northeastern Oklahoma State University in 1966, the Master of Science in School Administration from Tulsa University in 1970 and his professional certificate in superintendent studies from the University of Oklahoma in 1972.

“Few Oklahoma educators can match the collective legacy of our honorees,” said Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame President Eugene Earsom in a statment to the station.

“Their extraordinary commitment to Oklahoma’s children and willingness to constantly pursue better opportunities for students is a model for today’s educators and those just beginning their education careers. We are so proud to welcome them in the Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame.” 

Henderson and Henson will be honored at an induction ceremony at the Oklahoma City Golf and Country Club on November 10.

For more information and ticket information, contact Sharon Lease, executive director of the Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame: sharon.lease@macu.edu.