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Getting to know this year’s Mustang Site Teachers of the Year

Editor’s note: As there are 16 Teachers of the Year throughout Mustang Public Schools, the Mustang News will print four at a time in the following editions: Feb. 4, Feb. 11 and Feb. 18. The Teachers of the Year were not printed in any particular order.
Mustang’s Teacher of the Year will be announced this spring.

Sarah Green

Sarah Caitlin Green
Mustang Horizon Intermediate

Sarah Green is a seven-year educator of teaching fifth and sixth grade general music, as well as sixth grade choir and theater.
She received her Bachelor of Arts in Music Education with an emphasis in vocal music from the University of Central Oklahoma.
Some of Green’s accomplishments consist of being a Horizon Teacher of the Year; Oklahoma Music Educators Association accolades; distinguished and outstanding performances in sixth grade choir and jazz choir at the Oklahoma City Heartland Music Festival; superior rating for honor choir at the Norman Pride of Oklahoma Music Festival; and many superior ratings at the Tri-State Music Festival.

Q&A

Why did you choose teaching?
Honestly, I tried to do anything other than teaching while in college. I let a professor discourage me from my passion and then let others tell me I would never be satisfied as a teacher, but after many degree path changes, I went full circle back to teaching.
I firmly believe my calling has always been to teach music though. Music has taught me great discipline but has also helped me through extremely difficult times in life.
I teach to share my passion, cultivate a respect for everything musical and build deep relationships with the students along the way.

Describe how it felt when you found out that you had won.
I cried. No, I sobbed.
2020 has been an incredibly difficult year for all teachers and we’ve all overcome so much. I felt the honor was undeserving for just myself and more deserving for the entire staff.
It is indescribable how I felt knowing the Horizon staff deemed me worthy of such an honor.

What is the best thing about being at your school?
The staff and students are the best thing about Horizon. This Horizon staff is more like family to me than colleagues.
If there’s ever a need, the staff rallies together to help. We genuinely care about each other.
The students are the highlight of my school days. I could write a book on the hilarious things they’ve said to me or the conversations they’ve had with each other.
They are eager to learn and have the most creative minds for student-led projects. The students make teaching incredibly enjoyable.

What is your goal as an educator?
My goal as an educator is to just be better than who I was the day before. To be a better teacher, better listener, better mentor or a better friend makes me a better person and a better example to the students and staff.

Shelley Thompson

Shelley Thompson
Meadow Brook Intermediate

Shelley Thompson is a 10-year educator of teaching middle school art, elementary art, intermediate and advanced art, leadership and student council.
She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in Chickasha.

Q&A

Why did you choose teaching?
I chose to teach because art saved me when I was growing up. School was challenging and I didn’t always perform well academically, despite my best efforts.
I was shy and awkward around my peers. Creating was my escape.
Creating was where I felt I mattered. After college, I became a graphic designer and quickly realized I wasn’t using my talent to help anyone.
I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to use my gift to inspire, to help students feeling the same way I was.
I wanted to share my passion for creating and to show the next generation you can do whatever you want to do if you’re willing to put in the effort.

Describe how it felt when you found out that you had won.
Shocked! I also have an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for having the support of my outstanding colleagues and administrators.

What is the best thing about being at your school?
My colleagues! I would not be Teacher of the Year without their daily support and encouragement.
I am constantly trying to do better and be better because I see the difference that is being made through these outstanding educators here at Meadow Brook. They are the most loving and hardworking people on this planet!
When I feel overwhelmed, discouraged, or burned out I can always count on a kind word or atta girl to get me through a tough patch and this year there have been a few!

What is your goal as an educator?
My goals are to encourage and inspire my students to be the best version of themselves. I want to teach them to take risks, give it everything they’ve got and not to be afraid of failure.
I want them to know I will be here every day and I care for them deeply.

Darla Howell

Darla Howell
Mustang Creek Elementary

Darla Howell is a three-year educator of teaching first grade.
She received her bachelor’s in psychology and her master’s in education from UCO. Some of Howell’s accomplishments consist of being the employee of the month for November 2020 and being a co-creator of social and emotional curriculum for Creek staff to use.

Q&A

Why Did You Choose Teaching?
Teaching is my second career. Before I became a teacher, I worked in a soul-sucking office, where I determined liability for an insurance company.
Although the money was good, I needed something I could feel good about. I needed to be a part of something bigger than myself where I could give back and achieve personal growth.
Within a week of my career epiphany, my aunt (Shawna Carter, principal of Lakehoma Elementary) called and told me about an opening at Creek. I took the job and have never looked back.
I obtained my alternative certification and jumped in with both feet. I am so thankful to Leah Anderson and Jessika Hill for taking a chance on me three years ago.

Describe how it felt when you found out that you had won.
In a single word, surprised. It was very surreal.
I look up to so many teachers at Creek and within the district and I am amazed at their talent and unbridled ambition. I am honored to be called a teacher, and simply blown away to be TOY.

What is the best thing about being at your school?
There are a lot of amazing things about being at my school, fellow teachers and staff, an environment that fosters personal growth, however, probably the ultimate perk is watching students learn and grow.
I knows it seems like a cliche answer, but nothing excites me more than a student who finally begins to read, having students from previous years visit me every single day and of course, hearing “I love you, Mrs. Howell.”

What is your goal as an educator?
My goal as an educator is to become, more efficient, effective and, of course, more entertaining with my lessons. I wholeheartedly believe that “what we learn with joy, we never forget.”
I want my classroom to be a place of joyous education, where students enthusiastically guide their own learning.

Wade Walling II

Wade Walling II
Canyon Ridge Intermediate

Wade Walling is a seven-year educator of teaching STEM and fifth grade science, high school engineering design and fourth grade science and social studies.
He received his Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from UCO. Some of Walling’s accomplishments consist of being nominated to represent MPS elementary teachers for the Oklahoma Science Teacher of the Year award and being selected to be part of the Central Oklahoma STEM Alliance Leadership Academy.

Q&A

Why did you choose teaching?
I did not choose teaching as a career choice when I graduated high school. I chose to pursue work as an HVAC technician.
During that time, I was volunteering in the children’s department at my church and it was then that I realized I love working with kids. So, why did I choose teaching?
I chose teaching because I enjoy building relationships with the students and trying to set a good example of genuine kindness and hard work for them.

Describe how it felt when you found out that you had won.
I was super shocked when I found out that I won be-
cause I work with so many amazing educators who are very deserving of this award. The counselors, nurse and assistant principal came into my room and told the kids we were going to have to leave.
I knew what was happening. They were going to be measuring my room to determine who would get quarantined.
They also informed me that I was going to get quarantined. I was a little irritated and they told me I needed to leave the room.
When I rounded the corner in the hallway my students and others were there to surprise me with the news of being CRI’s TOY.
It was a very humbling experience that I won’t forget.
The best way to describe this is that I feel seen, which is a goal I have for each of my students. I want them to feel seen in my class every day.

What is the best thing about being at your school?
The best thing about being at my school would be the people. I work for amazing administrators who let me be me and are super supportive.
I also have amazing colleagues. This year has been a very trying year for all and without the “family dynamics” that CRI has, it would be even tougher.

What is your goal as an educator?
As an educator, I have several goals. My foremost goal is for the students in my class to know that I genuinely care about them.
I want them to feel seen in my class. I want them to know that I know them.
I want to build genuine relationships with my students. It is then and only then that we can start to really dig deep into our curriculum.
Another goal I have for my students is genuine kindness. I believe that the world needs more kind people, so I try to model this for my students each and every day.
When my students are grown, they probably won’t remember all the amazing things we did in fifth grade science, but I hope they remember the way I made them feel.

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