“Just Go!”

Often teachers give so much of themselves to their students that there isn’t much left at the end of the day. Energy levels drop and stress increases. That’s where Capitol Hill High School teacher Jessica Dickinson found herself at the end of the school year in 2021.Dickinson decided it was time to make a change.  She walked into a CrossFit gym and hasn’t looked back.

Dickinson is no stranger to physical fitness. She played JV soccer for OBU while earning her undergraduate degree. But after several years in the classroom, and putting herself at the bottom of her priority list, Dickinson decided it was time to reclaim her health.

The changes she has seen in her life are more than physical. “CrossFit has given me more energy. It’s a great outlet for stress. Overall I just feel better,” she said, adding that after she changed her diet she saw the biggest difference. “Finding time can be hard,” she admits. Dickinson wears many hats at Capitol Hill. She teaches Sophomore English and Junior AP English, serves as Department Chair, is a mentor, Mastery Connect mentor, and Girls’ Soccer coach. She is currently taking night classes at OU to earn her PhD in Learning Sciences and studying for her Administrative Certification. “Luckily I live close to my gym.”

A typical day starts with her alarm sounding at 4:00 A.M., followed by CrossFit class at 5:00, and a quick shower before she begins her school day at 7:00. “My plan is first hour, so I eat breakfast then,” she adds. After afternoon athletics and games, she heads back to the gym for 90 minutes before heading to her evening classes or church.

Her new found energy is spent making her classroom feel welcoming, comfortable, and a safe environment for students to learn. “My favorite thing about teaching is when my students lead the discussions. That’s when I know they’re getting it.” She encourages them to always do their best.

Sometimes teachers need the same encouragement in their own life. When asked what advice she would give other teachers thinking about making physical fitness part of their daily routine, she responded, “Definitely find a class or a buddy to keep you accountable. But more importantly, just go!”

A Teacher On and Off the Field

When asked which he enjoys more, being in the classroom or being on the field, POE Board President Tim Whaley answers with ease, “I love being in the classroom.” Whaley began his teaching career 14 years ago in Texas. He first stepped into the classroom at Bray-Doyle, then Duncan. Whaley now works at Rush Springs where he teaches high school economics and history, middle school history, and is the head coach for track and cross-country.

Whaley says he was meant to teach. In high school Whaley had two teachers who had a major impact on his trajectory. “Those teachers were the sole reason I went to college,” he says. “They were able to identify my strengths. They encouraged me and pushed me to think of my future as more than what I knew. ” As a first-generation college student, those teachers made college seem like a real option for him. Today he is able to pay it back. “My favorite part of teaching is seeing the growth in students.”

As a lifelong learner, Whaley likes studying learning styles. “I enjoy putting organization to learning.” Whaley uses several strategies in his classroom like Cornell Notes and daily ‘I Can’ statements. The ‘I Can’ statement for today’s lesson was: I can list and discuss the 3 dictators in Europe during WWII. “We start the class reading the ‘I Can’ statement, and we will end the class by going around and giving everyone the opportunity to answer it.”

In addition to teaching and coaching, Whaley spends his free time as a high school football referee. During his 21 years wearing the black and white stripes, he has had the opportunity to ref two semi-final games and two state championships. “I view coaching as another vehicle to reach kids and teach them.”

Beyond his teaching and coaching duties, Whaley serves as President of the POE Board of Directors. “I’m a partner with POE. It’s not just an association I’m in.” As a Board Member he appreciates how our employees are working for our members daily. During a convention last summer, Whaley was able to meet leaders from sister organizations across the nation, and learn how those coalitions are working for students and their families. He also sees behind-the-scenes of the POE Government Affairs Team and the continual process of working with the Legislature. “Education is fluid; it’s changing. Policy that is being written now is determining what those changes will look like.”

In June Whaley and his wife Kim will celebrate five years of marriage. “We met when we were 18. College sweethearts.” But the timing wasn’t right. “We remained friends, and I eventually had to make an appointment with her to ask her to take me out of the friend zone.” Now the couple has two beautiful children, Reese age 8 and Noelle age 5, who they adopted after a period of fostering. The family loves to travel and experience life to the fullest.

Whether it’s being a dad, teaching, coaching, being a ref, or serving on Boards, Whaley wants to return the favor and show gratitude for the opportunities shown to him by those teachers who impacted his life.

Caring Educator, Coach, Cancer Survivor

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, POE would like to highlight one of our employees who is a breast cancer survivor, a long-term educator and a valued member of our REP team.

Carol Mattoon began her education career in Frederick, Oklahoma by teaching 4th graders and physical education. She then went to a K-8 school teaching all subjects except math. She even coached a boys’ basketball team for seven years, with two of those years achieving an undefeated record. She finished up her last 15 years by teaching 8th grade English.

“I had always planned on being a teacher,” said Carol, who graduated from Cameron University with a double major in elementary education and physical education. “I had aunts and uncles who were teachers and by being around family members who taught, I knew teaching would be a great opportunity. As a teacher, you are a mom, a nurse, a confidant. You have the lives of young people in your hands.”

Carol is a REP for POE’s Region 3 which includes Creek, Grant, Kay, Kingfisher, Logan, Noble, Pawnee, Payne and Osage counties. She also works with our student chapters, “When I go out to the colleges to speak, I always tell them, ‘You are going to have really good days and you are going to have really bad days. However, you are going to make a difference in a person’s life. You need to care for each student as a person because you may be the only person who cares.’

“I remember looking out the window one day while I was teaching, thinking, ‘Can I come back to school tomorrow?’ Then I turned around and saw one of my young students leaving a note on my desk. She brought me a stuffed animal and left it along with the note. Then I thought, ‘Yes, I can come back.’”

Carol kept teaching for 30 years. She has former students who might be in their 50s today come up and say, “Ms. Mattoon, you were my favorite teacher.” These moments mean the world to Carol. From the “I love yous” to thank you notes to flowers, Carol still cherishes these sweet moments that make teaching worthwhile.

After retiring from teaching in 2002, Carol went to work for child welfare part-time before joining POE. She has been at POE now for seven years. She enjoys being a REP because she can still be with educators, visiting with them and helping them, whether personally or by referring them to POE’s legal department. The care she had for her students is the same care she provides POE members.

Two years after retiring from education, Carol was diagnosed with breast cancer.

As with teaching, Carol’s attitude was critical. “When you find out you have cancer, attitude is everything. Cancer was a setback in my life and it was not going to stop me. It was not going to get me down. It was not going to change my life.”

Carol knew she was going to lose her hair so she bought a couple of wigs. She was determined that chemo treatments were not going to make her sick and they didn’t. Carol was winning her battle with breast cancer. However, two years later the cancer came back. Again, she was determined not to get sick, despite going through radiation the second time.

As a two-time breast cancer survivor of 16 years, Carol’s advice to others is that you if you think something is wrong check it out. “My mammogram never showed a thing; however, I could feel a lump. I had an ultrasound and it didn’t show anything. Finally, a biopsy showed that I had cancer.”

Following her diagnosis, Carol kept going like she always has.

“I want to do anything,” Carol said. “I want to experience everything.”

In honor of Carol Mattoon (top, center) and other breast cancer survivors, POE employees participated in a Pink Out photo shoot for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.