Five Oklahoma Teachers Share Their Day with Us

POE is hosting “A Day in The Life of a Teacher” today, Sept. 15, in which five teachers will help transport you, virtually, to their classrooms. Educators participating in today’s live blog will share various aspects of their day from classroom layout to lunchtime to lesson planning, as well as anything else interesting they might experience. Enjoy as we post throughout the day from these teachers:

  • Jessica Dickinson – Capitol Hill High School; Virtual
  • Anne Graham – Burlington Elementary School; In Person and Distance Learning Packets
  • Anthony Hutchinson – Chouteau-Mazie Public Schools; In Person
  • Tonya Daniel – Bennington Public Schools; In Person
  • Tana Sylvester – Cyril Public Schools; In Person and Virtual

Happy Tuesday from Anne Graham.
Anne is a 1st grade teacher with Burlington Elementary School. This is the start of her day where all is peaceful and the classroom is in order. Students (no parents are allowed in the building) at 7:40 a.m. 

Students must have their temperature form filled out or meet the staff on the sidewalk to get it taken before entering the building. Buses arrive at different times, which makes the halls less crowded. In our building we have four classes – Pre-k, kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd.

Anne’s classroom at Burlington.
When students arrive, they hang up their backpacks that line the hallway.

Breakfast is distributed by the coach to students at Burlington.

In the morning when students arrive, Anne fills out a breakfast and lunch form. Her school day starts at 8 a.m. but with meals being served in the classroom and not knowing the exact time they will arrive, it makes staying on a schedule a challenge.  Our administrative assistant and boys basketball coach delivers our breakfasts every morning.


Meet Jessica Dickinson. She’s a sophomore English teacher at Capitol Hill High School.

Normally the hallways at Capitol Hill would be full of students but the photo below shows what it looks like during passing period before school. The hallway is empty since the students are studying virtually.

Jessica begins her day taking attendance online and then starts teaching class online as well.

Empty hallways at Capitol Hill High School since students attend class virtually.
Jessica begins her day by taking attendance.
Jessica teaching class from her classroom at Capitol Hill High School.


The Burlington librarian with her suitcase of books.

Back to Burlington with Anne Graham.

Every Tuesday and Friday the school librarian visits Anne Graham’s classroom with a suitcase full of books for the kids. The students each get two books to read and then take an AR (accelerated reader) test on the books. Next to our classroom’s back door there is a book return basket mounted on the wall for the librarian to collect returned books.

Anne’s classroom library has at least 700 books for students to read. All my books are labeled with AR levels, points, and test numbers.

Here are a few of the 700 books Burlington 1st graders can read in Anne’s class.
A classroom book return basket makes it easy for the librarian to collect returned books.

Anthony Hutchinson

Anthony Hutchinson arrives at Chouteau-Mazie Public Schools in northeast Oklahoma.

Upon entering the building, Anthony has his temperature checked. Once cleared he heads to his classroom to prepare for a day of teaching instrumental music to students in grades 6-12.

He has taught in both private and public schools since receiving his Music Education degree from Evangel University, Springfield, Missouri in 1979. He has been in the Chouteau-Mazie School District for the past 15 years.

Anthony Hutchinson getting his temperature checked prior to entering the school building at Chouteau-Mazie Public Schools.
Anthony gets ready for a day of teaching instrumental music.
The band room at Chouteau-Mazie Public Schools.

Anthony prepares for third hour.

Anthony Hutchinson conducting music class.

Before lunchtime, Anne Graham works with small groups for her reading block where she uses the phonics curriculum Pathways to Reading. Anne is pictured reading to students at a half moon table, implementing safety precautions with cardboard dividers.


Jessica Dickinson brags on Capitol Hill’s cafeteria workers: “Our cafeteria workers do a wonderful job caring for our students. Students can pick up food in front of the cafeteria.”


Meet Tonya Daniel, a special education teacher for grades 7-12 with Bennington Public Schools.

Teachers have such giving hearts and during Tonya’s prep period today, she donated blood. “I learned that they (Oklahoma Blood Institute) get the vast majority of their donations from schools! “

Please donate if you’re able. Visit www.obi.org for more information.


Anthony Hutchinson has lunch duty in the parking lot today. “Fortunately, it is nice outside,” Anthony said.

Tonya Daniel (right) is on lunch duty at Bennington Public Schools with co-worker, Shelly Anteau who is also a POE member.


At Burlington, lunch arrived today at 11:11 a.m. While eating lunch, students in Anne Graham’s class rotate daily between watching nature videos and Spirit on Netflix.


It is now afternoon and it’s back to band practice for Anthony Hutchinson.

From sharing a music video with students in his 5k music class (left) to directing the high school marching band, Anthony demonstrates the important value of music in life, no matter what age.


Music class continues, but this time the students in Anne Graham’s class are learning about percussion instruments. While the students are in music class, Anne takes time for her planning period.  


Tana Sylvester is with Cyril Public Schools. Standing in front of a banner at school that says, “I Can…I Will,” seems most appropriate for Tana as she is teaching in-person and virtually.

In the video below, Tana sings a song with her Pre-K students and then goes over a lesson on chores. The video camera is connected online so students can attend virtually along with their fellow students who are in person.


Thank you to our teachers who participated in “A Day in the Life of the Teacher.” We appreciate the time you took to share a glimpse into your classrooms, showing us what education looks like in 2020.

The Day I Quit Caring, Is The Day I Quit!

By Aleisa Rhoades, Chandler Special Education Teacher

When my older daughters were growing up, it was difficult to find good options for public education in Oklahoma City. Education was suffering at that time. When I was growing up there, we attended Putnam City Public Schools, which was considered the best available during that time. My older daughter attended the same schools I did, while my younger daughter attended a private Catholic school. I am not sure why I had bias toward public education at that time, other than the facts of under-funding, constant need for good teachers and lack of communication between teachers, students and parents. My oldest had many of the same teachers I had and even a principal, who was my coach in junior high. What I began to find, was my younger needed additional assistance in school due to ADHD and private school did not offer this. I feel this is what prompted me to become a special education teacher.

Aleisa Rhoades, Chandler
Public Schools

I can remember all of my teachers through grade school, most through middle school and two throughout high school. Those two and many others made a profound impact on my life, school was an escape from my (less than perfect) home life and I excelled in school. However, I chose to marry and have children rather than seek the traditional path of attending college directly after graduating. Once I decided I wanted to become a teacher (My first career was food and beverage), I plugged away at two jobs and college for seven years part time. I knew I loved children and “Children need help everywhere”. This I learned from a fellow educator, as I took my first teaching job in the inner city.

I have been a high school special education teacher now for 21 years and now teach in a smaller town outside of Oklahoma City. I enjoy high school students, because, if allowed, they have many good ideas and questions about our world, the world they will soon inherit. I have a resource room and teach math and English for students with all disabilities. These students also come in for tutoring, testing and many times food. I run a small food pantry for any kid who is hungry and they are all chronically hungry. I also work with the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation Services (DRS) to run a School Work Study Program for those kids who qualify. They learn many skills and earn money through their elective classes.

I teach with my husband, Ty, as he also became a “second career” Special Education teacher. We have all of the special students in our high school. He takes the younger high school students, while I have the older grades. We consider our program very successful. One of my professors told our class once, “Special Education isn’t a class, it’s a program.” This is true. You must work with all administrators, teachers, parents and students in order to holistically educate these children, successfully. There are many odds against this group of kids and school and peers haven’t been kind to them. They do not love it. This, in addition to learning differences makes for a difficult bill to sell them. I encourage them to attend Vo-tech for a trade or skill, as we do not have enough of these workers in our society, and it is much more geared for them, or vice versa.

“I feel it is the most gratifying profession of all, as it is the most important to shape young minds.”

Aleisa rhoades

During this time, I am missing my “kiddos”, as we are in Distance Learning. I pray for them and their families. I worry about the learning curve we will experience dropping in the future and the need to keep kids engaged and working. I feel our students will buy into education, if we do and hope during this time, they miss school, their friends (even me), for whatever reasons. When we return, we may see a paradigm shift on how education should be run. Many may opt for online; many will continue to need additional help and many will excel. However, this doesn’t change my role to facilitate their learning, listen to their ideas and watch them grow up to change our world for the better. I encourage anyone who loves children and learning to become a teacher. I feel it is the most gratifying profession of all, as it is the most important to shape young minds.

One of the most satisfying for me is the conversations we have in class. The kids pride themselves on getting teachers distracted. What they don’t know, is many teachers value the honest conversations and questions kids have about real life. I feel it is of utmost importance to have these conversations, and now more than ever, we need to have them and attempt to honestly and objectively answer questions or prompt further ones. This is the path to solving deep rooted problems of our world, their world. To me, this is invaluable and is the difference-maker in education. I feel like the two teachers I remember the most in high school did those things.

Many students tell me they hate school or many of their teachers don’t care. What I find, is their parents didn’t love school either. This is not something easily remedied, but can be. Many times, I make it my mission to “win the parent over” first. Therefore, I now not only educate the student… I also like to tell my students “The day I quit caring, is the day I quit!” If kids know you are honest, and genuinely care, they tend to perform better and behave better. Most students would rather look obstinate then stupid. Many have low self-esteem coupled with all the other issues they face. Therefore, school isn’t just Math, English, Science and History.

When we do return to school, there will be a need to become more tech savvy. For this, I will rely on my students. Aah, the teacher has now become the student! But this is also an invaluable tool. Allowing students to help me and teach me things they know raises their self-esteem, engages them in a two-way channel of communication and gives them power. We all know that when you teach, you learn. Finally, I am pleased at the opportunity to share my experience. I feel my community of school, parents and children have been a gift for me and my husband. We find our best defense is to be in touch with parents, be very open and honest with our kids and do the best we can every day, modeling hard work, understanding and exploring our world through history, unity and kindness. This eliminates much of the discipline problems and makes our job much more enjoyable. We all should enjoy what we do.