Cache Educator Chooses Teaching Over Practicing Law

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.

“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.’”

arletta Stewart

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.’”

Inspiring Students to Leave Their Mark in History

Stephanie Randolph, 8th Grade History Teacher at Waller Middle School, Enid

When you walk into Stephanie Randolph’s 8th grade history classroom at Waller Middle School in Enid, you can’t help but see the large American flag she proudly displays. It is a cherished gift from a fellow history teacher, who even provided the certificate indicating when the flag flew atop Oklahoma’s state capitol.

Stephanie enjoying time with her family.

Along with the American flag, Stephanie decorates her room with warm colors and positive sayings.

An adjacent wall is full of history posters. Among the posters, Stephanie last year placed the names of her students and she challenged them to think about their place in history. Her theme for the year was, “How will you leave your mark in history?”

She told her students, “’No matter your career choice, you are going to leave your mark in history. Everyone you come in contact with will remember something about you. What impression will you leave on people?’ I wanted them see their value. I wanted them to see their worth and what they have to bring to the world. What stood out the most to me was that my students have big goals and big dreams.”

History has always been an appealing subject to Stephanie. She finds studying different cultures fascinating.

“History really seems to fit well with my personality,” Stephanie said. “My aunt was a history teacher and I grew up with good history teachers who made it interesting. I really loved Oklahoma history and that was my favorite class I took as a student. Once I started college, I knew I wanted to be a teacher and focused more on history.”

Stephanie ties real world experience into her history lessons, and helps students focus on getting ready for high school and life after school. “I try to tie in what happened hundreds of years ago into what is happening today in their lives. I feel relating history to their own life and experiences helps the students enjoy it more. My goal is for students to be excited about coming to history class,” she said.

“I have been teaching for four years and I can see myself teaching for years to come.”

–Stephanie Randolph

The most rewarding aspect of teaching for Stephanie is that she is able to build connections and relationships with students.

“I’m fortunate to have my students all year long so I get to know them better. I enjoy being able to celebrate all their victories with them,” Stephanie said. “And I get to see how much they grow from the beginning of 8th grade and to when they are ready to start high school.”

Another rewarding aspect of teaching for Stephanie is that she works to be the best positive influence.

“In middle school, students experience a lot changes and I try to be the best positive influence I can. I try to be that positive influence for every class, for every student,” she said. “I want my students to see the importance of staying positive and having a good outlook. I love for students to be hopeful and understand what hope means. And when the students have that ‘aha moment,’ you know they’ve got it and can keep moving forward. I love the seeing the ‘aha moment’ flip switch in their eyes and watching their confidence build.”

Prior to being an educator, Stephanie had a couple of different career avenues. She was a manager at a clothing store and a manager at a frozen yogurt shop. She also served as a substitute teacher. “I have always loved teaching and coaching,” said Stephanie, who will be entering her third year at Waller, and also coached and taught geography one year at Chisholm Middle School.

Every day as an educator is different for Stephanie and she is grateful to work alongside amazing individuals. She considers her colleagues and co-workers super intelligent and creative, and has developed lifelong friendships. Stephanie also enjoys her time as Student Council Representative.

One of Stephanie’s favorite hobbies is fishing.

“Teaching is definitely a profession I can do for awhile,” she said. “As a teacher you are always learning and looking for new things in professional development, whether it is technology or classroom management. You are going to be a lifelong learner and a teaching career is not stagnant. I have been teaching for four years and I can see myself teaching for years to come.”

Stephanie is married and has two children. She loves spending time with her family and enjoys being outdoors, whether that is walking, fishing or playing sports. She also coaches her children’s basketball and softball teams.

Serving His Country Through Teaching

David Bounds, Little Axe High School History Teacher.

David Bounds couldn’t imagine his life without teaching. He longed to serve his country through the Marine Corps but wasn’t able to due to a medical disqualification. So he sought to find another way to serve my country in another fashion and landed on a teaching career. By never losing sight of focusing on students, David has loved his job for the entirely of his 30-year teaching career. He was named the 2019 Veterans of Foreign Wars (FWV) Teacher of the Year in Oklahoma.