State Teacher of the Year finalist expresses his hopes for the winner- whether it’s him or not

Chad Harper

Chad Harper, Mustang Public Schools District Teacher of the Year and Oklahoma Teacher of the Year finalist, is anxious to see who wins State Teacher of the Year in September, and even if it’s not him, just wants the best possible person to be chosen.
Harper, a 1991 Mustang High School graduate, didn’t always want to teach, but as he sat in an elementary school awaiting his wife after having a flat tire in 1994, he decided it seemed like a meaningful life. Harper loved working with his hands, but he was also good at English and athletics. He saw an English degree as a route to a secondary teaching job that included coaching duties.
“Teaching is absolutely better than I expected,” he said. “One of my professors said, ‘You’ll have a good life and you’re going to really enjoy your job if you’re meant to do it, but you’re never going to get rich, so don’t even try. Don’t let money worry you. You’ll have a lot of rewards along the way you can’t put a price on.’
“I completely agree with that. I have never looked back – not one day.”
He and his wife, Kristin, are both Mustang teachers, his mother was a teacher in Mustang and his grandfather was a teacher at Capitol Hill High School in Oklahoma City.
“It’s kind of all in the family,” Harper said.
Harper began at Mustang in a temporary construction communications position, but his class has evolved over the years. An auto mechanics class was added, then small engine repair. Now Harper teaches engineering design. His students plan bridges and test them to failure. They design their projects on the computer with CAD, build the blueprints and then build their project to match the blueprints exactly.
He described his teaching style as just trying to make his class meaningful, never waste a time and never boring.
“Everybody is going to say that, but what I do is I go in and try to just really be myself and connect with the kids right off the bat with funny stories and real life situations,” Harper said. “My new policy is ‘Life happens so bring it into your classroom.’ Every little thing, good or bad, that happens that I can bring into my classroom, I do it. We’ll tell stories and stop what we’re doing—without wasting any time—and we’ll always try to bring those life situations into everything I teach and everything we do.
“Then when we go into the shop, I try to give them skills and things they can actually go out and do right now and they can develop that on their own or they can develop it into a career or something like that with hands-on experience. We do a lot with machines and tools that a lot of STEM programs don’t use because it is a little higher level, but I like to incorporate those at an entry level and I think it really keeps their interest and makes sure they never get bored—which is the first rule in my class. Absolutely, 100 percent we will never do anything in my class that will be a waste of time so they never get bored. We keep it simple, but keep it moving. There’s plenty of hands-on stuff they can get acquainted with at all times.”
Harper also coaches football and golf at MHS.
“I try to be the same person everywhere I go, whether it’s in my class or with either sport—of course, you’re going to have a different demeanor depending on the job you’re doing. I’m pretty easy going and pretty easy to get along with, but there’s a serious side and I do take a lot of things for face value, but there’s a lot of things I go in and try to change,” Harper said.
“I try to get the most out of my all kids and any situation that I’m in.”
He has three sons, ages 20 (almost 21), 19 and 16 who have all played football at Mustang.
“Broncos has been in our family for a long time,” Harper said.
Harper and Kristin are also farmers. They bought a farm out west in Mustang and have been doing that for about 10 years.
When it came to being chosen as one of the finalists for State Teacher of the Year, Harper was “very humbled.”
“I’ve said it before—I really am amazed at since I’ve been in some meetings and things and I’ve got to meet all the other finalists of Teachers of the Year—I’m really humbled because there’s a lot of good people in education,” Harper said. “Like I tell everybody, I really am no better than anybody else who does their job every day. I go to work, I try hard, I put together what I think the kids need—and there’s a lot of teachers who do that. There’s a lot of teachers that do it and never want an ounce of recognition. I’m no better than any of those people, but it’s a great honor. I’m very excited. I’ve been at Mustang my whole life—I was the first class to come through Lakehoma then I went to Mustang South then I graduated from the High School—I’m very honored to represent Mustang because we have a lot of good people here. The village really did raise me, specifically this village. So to represent Mustang and the Mustang people—there’s a lot of people in Mustang who made me who I am—so I’m absolutely thrilled I can represent all of them and bring some of that to light.”
Harper’s family is thrilled he was selected as a State Teacher of the Year finalist, and his mom can’t even talk about it without crying, which then in turn makes him tear up too. He said he’s happy to know he made her and his whole family proud.
Harper said now he’s just anxious to see who wins.
“To be perfectly honest, I would love being the winner—obviously, I think everybody wants to win—but more than anything, I really do anything, it really needs to be the best person, whoever that may be,” he said. “Whoever gets the job—we’re at a critical moment in Oklahoma history and Oklahoma education and there’s a lot on the line—There’s a lot of people who are needing a good, strong leader. More than anything, that needs to be the person selected. I’m really anxious to see who that person is. If it’s me, I’d be absolutely honored, but more than anything I want to see Oklahoma be well represented. I think we have a lot of stuff going on and to have the right person represent that means a lot to me.”
The state 2018 Teacher of the Year will be announced during a Sept. 19 ceremony set at State Fair Park in Oklahoma City.
The honoree will take full-time ownership of State TOY July 1, 2018 then will travel around the state for speaking events and serving as a teacher ambassador.

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