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Oklahoma Teacher of the Year announced

Chad Harper represented Mustang Public Schools well Tuesday as one of the 12 finalists of the 2018 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year.
Although Harper didn’t win, MPS won because he will remain in the classroom with his STEM students instead of traveling around Oklahoma for the 2018-19 academic year.
Donna Gradel, an environmental science teacher at Broken Arrow Public Schools, was announced as the 2018 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year during a ceremony Tuesday at the Oklahoma State Fair.
This year’s 12 finalists included:
—Jill Andrews, Claremore Public Schools
—Neeli Boyd, Putnam City Schools
—Sarah Carter, Drumright Public Schools
—Rob Davis, Yukon High School
—Betty Deen, Oologah-Talala Public Schools
—Donna Gradel, Broken Arrow Public Schools
—Chad Harper, Mustang Public Schools
—Janet Johnson, Sand Springs Schools
—Dionne Liebl, Deer Creek Schools
—Shala Marshall, Jenks Public Schools
—Christine Mueller, Moore Public Schools
—Laura Smith, Byng Public Schools
Harper was one of only two male teachers in this year’s group of finalists, with the other being Davis of Yukon.
Tuesday’s hour-and-a-half-long ceremony was packed with announcements, sponsorships, presentations and remarks.
Each finalist was given a minute and a half to address the crowd during the ceremony.
The 90-second-speeches were in alphabetical order, making Harper the seventh to speak.
“Hello,” Harper addressed the crowd. “Inside every one of us is an inner kindergartener. When a kindergarten teacher takes a piece of paper and puts a bucket of markers on the table, every child becomes an artist. Creativity literally flows on the paper and anything imaginable is possible.
“However, somewhere along the way we begin to create division into specialized subjects and creativity and innovation is replaced with facts and systematic processes. Individual subjects are very important, but there needs to be something—a tie that binds—because we’ve learned that things that work together in a meaningful way accomplish more. That’s why I encourage every school to implement a holistic approach to learning. To educate with a variety of skills from various subject matters, and encourages parents, teachers and the greater community to work side-by-side with our kids. Because they learn that working in a meaningful way together is accomplishing more.
“That’s why I teach a high school science, technology, engineering and math class, where I get to get in touch with my inner kindergartener every day. I have literally watched the magic of a STEM program turn our culture into an innovative culture that incorporates the entire school, as well as the entire community. It’s nothing less than magical.
“The kids are also learning that technology and people working together also accomplishes a lot more. Now, I can absolutely say that I love my job. I absolutely love my job. I encourage every educator or parent, or business or community leader, to either start or get involved in a holistic learning program like STEM in your community. After all, maybe you need to get in touch with your inner kindergartener. Thank you.”
Among all of the finalists’ speeches and remarks from Joy Hofmeister, state superintendent of public instruction of the Oklahoma State Department of Education; Tim O’Toole, president and CEO of the Oklahoma State Fair; Heather Griswold, chief of public affairs for the Oklahoma State Department of Education, and Robyn Miller, deputy superintendent for educator effectiveness and policy research for the Oklahoma State Department of Education, the common theme was that all educators in Oklahoma are great. The 12 finalists for Oklahoma Teacher of the Year stand merely as an example of the greatness that Oklahoma educators embody.
In July, Harper told Mustang News the same concept.
“I’m really humbled because there’s a lot of good people in education,” Harper previously said. “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.”
He also previously said that he was anxious to see who would win Oklahoma Teacher of the Year, and even if it wasn’t him, he just wanted the best possible person to be chosen.
“To be perfectly honest, I would love being the winner—obviously, I think everybody wants to win—but more than anything, I really do mean anything, it really needs to be the best person, whoever that may be,” Harper said in July. “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.”
Harper, who was sitting next to Gradel on stage when she was announced as the winner, looked truly thrilled by the 2018 choice.
Harper, as he was coming off stage at the end of ceremony to join administrators, principals, teachers and family who came to support him, said “Well, I didn’t win. But that woman who did, she’s a great lady. Really great.”
Gradel will remain in the classroom for the remainder of the 2017-18 academic year, but take ownership of Oklahoma Teacher of the Year July 1, 2018 to travel the state.

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