May 17 is National Graduation Tassel Day and POE celebrates Oklahoma’s graduating seniors, as well as the many sponsors like Arletta Stewart who help coordinate graduation and baccalaureate ceremonies.
For the past 10 years, Mrs. Stewart has been making sure the seniors at Cache High School experience a memorable graduation.
“I love watching the students graduate, but a lot of work happens behind the scenes to ensure things run smoothly,” Mrs. Stewart said. “I am the liaison between the students and Jostens for their caps, gowns and announcements. I help with the programs and make sure each student has the correct symbols for their awards. I also double check the senior panel to match up each student’s name with their respective photograph.
“And don’t forget practice,” Mrs. Stewart said. “We practice for both processions.”
Mrs. Stewart considers it a source of pride to have so many graduations under her belt, despite working evenings and weekends on these special events. “I want them to get the recognition they deserve,” she said.
Speaking of recognition, the faculty at Cache High School recently surprised Mrs. Stewart with a shadow box of the tassels she has collected throughout the years. 2022 marks her 11th year as a graduation sponsor so she’ll soon be making room in her shadow box for tassel No. 11.
Known as Momma Stu among many of Cache’s 133 graduating seniors, she’ll tell you she is blessed to be a teacher and graduation sponsor. She finds teaching to be an incredibly fulfilling career. However, she has not always enjoyed going to work.
Mrs. Stewart obtained her law degree from the University of Oklahoma Law School, and began her career as a lawyer. She loves the study of law and taught business law as an adjunct professor, but doesn’t love the practice of law.
The lawyer turned teacher became alternatively certified in 2006. During her 16 years in education, she has taught U.S. history, mythology and world history. She has served as the curriculum team leader for the social studies department, served as history club sponsor, coached the academic team, and was the gift and talented sponsor.
Sixteen years, 1,600 students and maybe 200 recommendation letters later, Mrs. Stewart said she can see the difference she’s made. When a student doesn’t like school, she’ll encourage them to attend a competition where she believes they will excel. Before they know it, the student places in the competition. This gives them an extra boost to do well in school.
“I love to teach,” Mrs. Stewart said. “I am so much happier teaching that I don’t want to ever go back to practicing law. “When students ask me why I went into teaching I say, ‘I’d rather make a difference in your life in the classroom than in the courtroom.’”