Yukon teacher is finalist for national award

Gena Barnhill spent 12 years working in the Putnam City School District, mainly at Rollingwood Elementary School.

She took a chance and moved to Yukon this year.

This week, she learned that she has been named one of five finalists for the national Presidential Award For Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching at the elementary level.

“I was pleasantly surprised. It is a pretty rigorous application process, so when you put that much work into something, you have to have hope. There are so many great math teachers across the state, that this is a great honor,” said Barnhill, who teaches fifth-grade math and science at Lakeview Elementary School.

Her principal, Scott Hein, said having Barnhill on the teaching staff has been exciting.

“As a district, we work hard to bring the best teachers to Yukon. We want the highest caliber of talent,” Hein said.

He pointed out that his teachers often collaborate on projects to help improve their students’ learning ability.

“This makes our team better. I’m proud to have someone like her on our staff,” he said.

Barnhill said she enjoys teaching “inquiry-type” math and science. She hopes to incorporate real-world scenarios into her lesson plans.

“That is where the students have to do their own thinking about the problem and finding the solution. This will provide them with a background in problem-solving in the world,” she said.

Barnhill has 64 students in her classes this year.

This year, she hopes to focus on air and space as part of the district’s new math curriculum.

Barnhill is a member of the OK Math Leadership Class and the Central Oklahoma STEM Alliance Leadership Class.

Barnhill regularly uses STEM practices in her classroom with a focus on real-world applications.

Oklahoma schools Superintendent Janet Hofmeister said Barnhill joins three Edmond teachers — Carrie Akins, Krystin Lovejoy and Mendy Shepard, along with Byng teacher Jayci Harris as finalists for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching at the elementary level.

“These educators represent some of the finest teaching talent in Oklahoma,” Hofmeister said. “Their contributions to math and science instruction are helping to place our schoolchildren on the path to a great future, which includes college and careers in high-demand fields like science, technology, engineering and math I applaud them on receiving this well-deserved national recognition.”

Hofmeister said the finalists were chosen by a local selection committee that included teachers, district-level personnel, representatives from higher education and past recipients.

Up to two Oklahoma finalists could be named a national recipient of the award.

As part of the application process, finalists were required to submit a 45-minute videotaped lesson plan and a written reflection on their personal teaching method, engagement with students and how professional development has affected their classroom instruction.

Winners will receive a paid trip to Washington attend a series of recognition events, a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation and a certificate signed by the president of the United States.

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