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Getting to know this year’s winners

Editor’s note: As there are 17 Teachers of the Year throughout Mus-tang Public Schools, the Mustang News will print the remaining five in the Feb. 18 edition. The Teachers of the Year were not printed in any particular order.
Mustang’s Teacher of the Year will be announced in April.

Mandy Weinrich

Mandy Weinrich
Mustang Education Center

Mandy Weinrich is a 12-year educator of teaching special education third, fourth and seventh grade English Language Arts; seventh grade math; eighth grade ELA, algebra I, intermediate algebra and English.
She received her Bachelor of Arts in English and her Master of Arts in educational leadership from Kansas State University and Southern Nazarene University. Weinrich said the greatest highlight to her is seeing former students, who are happy and successful.

Q&A

Why did you choose teaching?
I actually worked outside of education for several years after college. While they were good jobs, I never really loved what I was doing.
I moved back to Oklahoma and worked as a substitute, while job hunting and loved being with the kids.

Describe how it felt when you found out that you had won.

Shocked and totally overwhelming.

What is the best thing about being at your school?

Everything!!

What is your goal as an educator?

To ensure that my students always feel supported, and know I believe in them.

Jessica Towne

Jessica Towne
Mustang Trails Elementary

Jessica Towne is a 20-year educator of teaching kindergarten, first, third and fourth grade, as well as English as a second language for first-fifth grades.
She received her Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. Some of Towne’s accomplishments include being Hilldale Teacher of the Year at Putnam City Schools and Southern Hills Teacher of the Year at Wichita Falls Independent School District and more.
Q&A

Why did you choose teaching?

As I think about why I chose teaching, I realize it was more that teaching chose me. I have always loved the school setting.
Back-to-school season has always been my favorite “holiday.” No matter what profession I thought I wanted to go into after college, they didn’t hold my interest the way teaching did. There is no other profession that has the same impact as education! Kids are so dynamic.
Their excitement and zest for life is infectious. It is refreshing to see the world through their eyes.

Describe how it felt when you found out that you had won.

I LOVE my school, so when I found out that I was chosen as Trails Teacher of the Year, I was so honored! I have been at Mustang Trails for two and a half years and the staff here is the best I have ever worked with over the years. I hope to represent Trails to the best of my abilities.

What is the best thing about being at your school?

Mustang Trails is the warmest and most welcoming school I have had the pleasure of working at over the past 20 years. This staff here are so genuine.
Mrs. Holland and Mrs. Hasty are true leaders. They set the stage for positivity and high expectations at Trails.
The teachers and staff work well together, even if we aren’t in the same grade level. I couldn’t imagine being anywhere better!

What is your goal as an educator?

My biggest goal is to help develop the whole child. Thinking back to my own childhood, I was surrounded by love, laughter, and encouragement.
I had excellent role models growing up and I want to share those same experiences with my kids. My students and I talk, share, laugh and tell stories. Sure, we have specific standards that we must teach.
We work hard in the classroom to build up their academics starting from whatever level they come in at and improve as much as possible in the year we have together. However, I want my students to see their worth, too!
I want them to recognize the strength and perseverance that is inside them.

Jennifer Penick

Jennifer Penick
Lakehoma Elementary

Jennifer Penick is a 27-year educator of teaching kindergarten, first, second, third and fifth grade.
She received her Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education and Master of Education in School Administration from the University of Central Oklahoma. Some of Penick’s accomplishments include serving on various committees and completing literacy certifications, as well as completing Great Expectations Outstanding Teachers’ Academy.

Q&A

Why did you choose teaching?

My paternal grandmother was a teacher, who had both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree and returned to teaching after having children in a time when a female earning a master’s degree and being a working mother was not the social norm. When we would have a long weekend, my brother and I would go stay with my grandparents.
On our day out of school, I went to work with grandma and my brother with grandpa. I will never forget the first day I was in her first-grade classroom.
She gave me some shamrocks she needed traced for a lesson the next week and while she was teaching reading with a small group, a student asked me a question about their paper. I explained how do it and was instantly in love with the emotion I felt when the child understood what I had
explained.
I knew then that teaching was my passion.

Describe how it felt when you found out that you had won.

I was completely surprised when I found out my peers had voted me their Teacher of the Year. Not many times in my life have I been speechless, due to trying to process what was going on
around me.
In that moment, I was totally speechless and completely humbled that my peers think so highly of me.

What is the best thing about being at your school?

I have teaching experience in four other school districts in the metro area until I found Mustang. Mustang Public Schools and the Mustang community is like no other place I have lived or worked.
Lakehoma Elementary faculty, staff, students and parents are truly like family to me. Lakehoma is a loving and compassionate place to work with educators who really want to teach and care for students.
Our cafeteria staff is always positive and upbeat feeding our children so early in the morning after our dedicated bus drivers and parents have transported their children to a well maintained and clean building, thanks to the MPS custodial and maintenance staff. The front office staff keeps us organized and wears every hat imaginable keeping things running smoothly.
Lakehoma is my second home and the people I spend my days with are my second
family.

What is your goal as an educator?

My goal as an educator is to meet children (and their families) where they are and help them succeed. Being successful can look different for some children, but my goal is to meet them where they are and help them learn and construct their own knowledge in letters, reading and numbers, explore science and STEM, develop character and perseverance and understand
that no matter what, they are loved.

Shawn Elmore

Shawn Elmore
Mustang Middle School

Shawn Elmore is a 14-year educator of teaching eighth grade English, Pre-AP English, and English Language Arts; seventh grade ELA; 10th and 11th grade honors ELA; 11th grade AP Art History, English II and Pre-AP English II, as well as student council.
He received his bachelor’s in English education from UCO and his master’s in education administration from East Central University. Some of his accomplishments include receiving Teacher of the Year nominations from several schools, presenting programs to college graduates and more.

Q&A

Why did you choose teaching?

I chose teaching as a profession for two main reasons. The biggest reason I chose teaching is because of my eighth-grade English teacher (Jeni Dutton) who taught reading and writing in a way that made it completely fascinating to me.
I had always hated reading and writing, but Mrs. Dutton took a piece of literature in Anne Frank: “The Diary of a Young Girl” and allowed me to see that reading and writing can change your life, as well as make you a better person. I want to inspire students with language arts the same way that she did.
I also chose teaching because I was a student who struggled so much in my personal life with school and life in general. It was those handful of teachers throughout my educational experience in K-12 who mentored me and taught me life lessons that I had never been taught.
Teachers have, quite literally, saved my life.

Describe how it felt when you found out that you had won.

It felt surreal when it was announced that I won. To be chosen for TOY only after one year of being in this district and at MMS is humbling and an honor that I will never forget.
The teachers at my school choosing me for this title is beyond moving. To make it even more amazing, Heather Wiggins was my mentor teacher when I student-taught in Edmond over a decade ago.
It felt like a full-circle moment that Mrs. Wiggins be in the same building as me in being given this honor.

What is the best thing about being at your school?

The best thing about being at my school is the fact that no matter which pillar or facet of this calling I am taking part in, there is support. Students, parents, fellow teachers and administrators never falter to help each other at MMS.
Not only that, but everyone in this building always has a focus of doing everything in our power to always do what is best for the students in our school.

What is your goal as an educator?

My goal as an educator is to make everyone who walks into my classroom feel like they matter and that they belong. Additionally, a goal of mine is to light a fire of love and admiration for language arts to my students and assist the teachers in my building any way that I can to help our kids.

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