Broken Arrow Express
DAILY ENCOURAGEMENT: Tera Landrum, Broken Arrow’s District Teacher of the Year, has fun with her fifth-grade class at Oak Crest Elementary. Landrum faced a number of childhood challenges and regularly reminds her students, “If I made it, you can make it,” she says.
EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers
Anyone can succeed. No matter what.
In Tera Landrum’s fifth-grade classroom at Oak Crest Elementary, she drives home that message day after day to her students, not shy to share her own experience as proof of that.
Landrum took on the role of parent early in her teenage years after her mother passed away, leaving Landrum and two younger siblings, aged 12 and 11. “I needed to make sure they (siblings) stuck with education,” she says. As Landrum neared high school graduation, she did not plan to go to college; “I felt like that would be selfish, going off to college, leaving them behind.”
However, after circumstances changed, Landrum did go to college, with the help of a scholarship for overcoming adversity. She earned her degree from Northeastern State University in elementary education.
Landrum remembers education being important to her mother, who worked with handicapped children. Landrum used to go to work with her mother and help with the children. “I think my love for teaching grew after my mom died,” she says. “I missed working with the kids.”
As Landrum grew up, she spent much of her after-school time babysitting or working as a nanny.
Her first year after college, she taught kindergarten at a private school before finding the school where she believes she is meant to be.
“I may look like I led a normal childhood but I didn’t,” says Landrum. “Many kids at Oak Crest face challenges: some don’t live with their parents or are dealing with other issues. I feel I can relate to them.
“Ultimately, I tell them, ‘If I made it, you can make it.’”
Landrum, Broken Arrow’s 2012-13 District Teacher of the Year, feels right at home at Oak Crest where she believes that the kids are the staff’s number one focus. If one student is lagging behind in a subject or is more advanced, the teacher may move him around to another class to get him the help he needs, she says. “We are all working for a common goal.”
Fifth grade wasn’t the grade level that Landrum originally planned to teach when coming to Oak Crest, but that made no difference to her. “All kids have so much to offer,” she says. “They are intriguing and capable of way more than we give them credit for.”
Before Landrum’s students leave her class at the end of the year, she makes sure they have gained something much greater than subject knowledge.
“My goal is not just to teach fifth grade but life,” says Landrum. “I tell them, ‘I’m really not here to teach you fractions but to make good choices and to be a good person and to learn about hard work and discipline. Then, you’ll learn fractions because you know how to work hard.’”
But Landrum doesn’t just tell them. More often, she shows them. For example, she requires her students to read a certain novel that starts at a slow pace before gaining speed around the fourth chapter.
“For most of my students, this turns into their favorite book,” she says. “And it turns into a life lesson. I ask them what they learned from the book and inevitably, they will come to the conclusion that if they stick with something, they will learn something important from it.”