Sharon Spikes, Macomb Public School teacher, has been selected as this year’s Mathematical Association of America Oklahoma Teacher of the Year at the high school level by the Oklahoma/Arkansas Section of the Mathematical Association of America (OK-AR MAA). Sharon was recognized at the annual section meeting banquet of the OK-AR MAA held at the campus of East Central University on March 31, 2023.
“My greatest joy in teaching is the lasting relationships I build with my students. I have a wall in my room that shows every student who has graduated since I’ve been at Macomb and we try to keep it updated with what they’re doing now,” said Spikes.
OK-AR MAA biennially recognizes three teachers in Oklahoma and three in Arkansas for their outstanding contributions to the mathematics education of their students. The honorees are selected from the pool of nominees on the basis of written submissions which include a description of a special project or enrichment topic they have developed, their personal philosophy of teaching mathematics, and recommendations from a supervisor, a peer, and a student or parent. The MAA Teacher of the Year Award is presented to one teacher from each of three levels—secondary, middle school, and elementary—from each of the two states.
When asked how she sees math being used by her students, Spikes responded, “I love when the students tell me how math impacts them in the real world. Whether it’s finding a job and dealing with taxes or dealing with purchasing a car .”
Since 1915, the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) has provided a forum for educators, students, professionals, and mathematics enthusiasts to share ideas, keep abreast of developments in the mathematical community, enhance their careers, and make new friends. Today, the MAA is the largest professional society that focuses on mathematics accessible at the undergraduate level with more than 25,000 individuals and institutions taking advantage of its publications, programs, and resources. The membership of OK-AR MAA consists of members of the MAA residing in Oklahoma or Arkansas. Its membership is made up of educators, students, as well as others inside and outside of academia who are devoted to the advancement of the mathematical sciences, especially at the collegiate level.
Mary Jo Robertson has always loved math, but through new professional development opportunities, she has become a self-professed history geek. Thanks to the NASA Oklahoma Space Grant Consortium STELLAR Program, she proudly says, “It took 10 days out of my summer, but what I got in return is so much better.I’m now a NASA nerd.”
In June 2022, Mary Jo Robertson saw a post on a Facebook page about a unique professional development opportunity and she decided to take a chance. “It was the day the application was due,” Robertson recalls. “I submitted my application at 11:30 before it was due at midnight.”
Robertson is in her 25th year of teaching at Fargo-Gage Public Schools in Northwest Oklahoma. While teaching 7th & 8th Grade Math and Social Studies, she is always looking for new ways to engage her students and herself in lifelong learning. So when an out-of-this-world opportunity presented itself, she jumped.
The chance paid off. According to their website, the STELLAR (STEM Teachers Experience Linking Learners to Aerospace Research) program was created “to provide educators of all grades and subject areas with top-notch classroom resources to enhance hands-on STEM in the classroom and equip them with the necessary tools to empower our next generation of STEM thinkers and doers!”
The group of 16 educators meets from July to April. Members include pre-service teachers from various Oklahoma colleges, as well as current classroom teachers. “The grant is set up for teachers in three districts in the Oklahoma City area, but last year they didn’t have anyone apply from those districts so they opened it up statewide,” Robertson said.
STELLAR program participants have monthly challenges they must complete as part of the program curriculum. The challenges take 1-3 hours and vary from listening to a podcast and writing a paper about the topic, to stargazing and journaling about it. In addition to the monthly challenges, participants attend a 10-day hands-on training program and two weekend sessions all on the OSU campus, and help host a recruitment table for future participants. Additionally participants are invited to a VIP trip to the Johnson Space Center at the conclusion of the program. All expenses are covered by the Oklahoma Space Grant Consortium.
One of the highlights of the program for Robertson was helping to fly a plane. “I hate flying, but that was probably one of my favorite things we have done.” She continued, “After I flew, I was standing on the wing waiting to change places with my classmate so they could fly. I asked someone to take my picture. When I look back at that picture, it makes me smile. I didn’t realize the joy I had at that moment.”
Robertson concedes that looking for additional PD is not something that all teachers are interested in, but she hopes others will search out interesting opportunities. “Going into this I knew I would struggle and would be way out of my comfort zone, but that’s what I ask of my students every day. It has been good for me to be in this position, to empathize with my kids more.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.