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2016-2017 Owasso Teachers of the Year Spotlight

By EMILY RAMSEY
Managing Editor

LOVE OF MUSIC: Owasso Public Schools’ 2016-2017 District Teacher of the Year Robin Wall stands with some of her fifth grade music students at Barnes Elementary. Second from left, back row, is Pryce Dively with Macy Wilson, Augustus Sinex, Kacey Bisco and Taylor Lambley, and, front row, Tristan Ratliff, Jasmine Nimbley and Parker Smith.


EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers


In March, Barnes Elementary music teacher Robin Wall was named Owasso Public Schools’ 2016-2017 District Teacher of the Year.

Wall’s love of music and singing began very, very early in life, she says. “I have been singing since I was born.”

She began taking piano lessons at six years old.

Her original plan for college was to major in music, but her love for education moved her to change her major. She was also inspired to enter the profession by her mother and grandmother, who were both educators.

Wall holds a bachelor’s degree from Oklahoma Baptist University in elementary education, with endorsements in language arts and music.

She began her teaching career as a fifth grade teacher, but the time that Wall took to be a stay-at-home mom for her three children provided her the opportunity to assist with various music activities, including show choir and piano instruction, and it led her to realize the joy she found in teaching music.

“I loved getting to use my music,” she smiles. “So, when I was ready to go back to the classroom, I applied for a music teacher position.”

Wall now teaches music to Barnes’ more than 400 students.

In total, she has spent eight years teaching full time, four of those years at Barnes Elementary.

“One of my favorite things to do is to help children create beautiful music and watch them as they light up in recognition of the beauty they’ve heard,” she says.

She also appreciates the opportunity to work with students in smaller groups, such as in extracurricular music activities, which allows her to establish closer relationships with students.

“Whether or not my students choose to study music in middle school, high school or beyond, I want to instill in them wonderful memories of making music, having fun in my classroom, performing grade level musicals, and recognizing their personal potential for creating beautiful music.

“I wish to impart to my students a love for music and an appreciation of the many ways it affects their lives.”

Congratulations to all of Owasso’s 2016-2017 site Teachers of the Year!

Lisa McBride teaches General Psychology, Advanced Placement U.S. History and Advanced Placement European History.

“I love working with students, and I am rewarded every day by special ‘moments,’” she says.

Those moments include when students succeed, when they finally grasp a concept that they have been struggling with, “when I see students who come from different backgrounds or belief systems engaged in respectful discourse,” McBride says.

“These are the moments that drive me.”

McBride’s original plan was to pursue a college degree in political science but, after a stint as a substitute teacher, decided to pursue education.

She went on to earn her degree in secondary education and social studies from Oklahoma State University.

McBride has taught for 16 years, all with Owasso Public Schools. Her last six years have been at the High School.

Mid-High English teacher Elise Kaase has been teaching with Owasso Public Schools since 1989.

Kaase graduated from Southwestern Oklahoma State University with a bachelor’s in elementary education.

“I try to let my freshmen see there is a world outside of Owasso. I want them to think critically and learn to make informed decisions,” says Kaase.

Part of Kaase’s curriculum includes a college unit that asks students to learn about various universities and ends with a visit to the University of Tulsa campus.

“It really opens their eyes as to the importance of their GPA, ACT scores, writing skills, and extracurricular activities, the competitiveness of scholarships and admittance, and the impact of their decisions today,” she says.

“After each class, I hope my students leave feeling better about themselves, know I appreciate their uniqueness, and have been challenged academically and intellectually.”

Native Tulsan Jill Bowman teaches math at RAM Academy. She is a Tulsa Public Schools graduate and is in her fourth year as a certified teacher at Ram Academy.

“Students, and society in general, need positive-promoting people in leadership positions,” says Bowman. “I believe teachers are some of the greatest leaders in the community, and I believe being a teacher is an awesome opportunity to promote hope.”

Bowman holds a bachelor’s degree in business management and a master’s in education with a minor in mathematics.

“I want students to leave my classroom empowered with knowledge, and strengthened in confidence towards mathematics. Math can be a scary endeavor, and I want students to conquer those fears.”

Frank Blair teaches physical education at the Eighth Grade Center and has spent all of his 26 years with Owasso schools.

He graduated from Oklahoma State University with a degree in health and physical education. His original plan was to pursue a degree in physics, but “I was struggling and not very happy,” he says.

“I was trying to figure out what to do when I began thinking about my coaches in high school and their influence on my life, and that is when I decided to pursue a degree in physical education because I thought it would make me a better coach.”

Blair is married to Teressa Blair, who teaches kindergarten at Owasso’s Northeast Elementary. Teressa is a former Teacher of the Year for Northeast Elementary. They have three children who are all Owasso graduates.

Sarah Van Zandt, fine arts teacher at the Seventh Grade Center, has been an art lover as long as she can remember.

She grew up in Sand Springs and earned her art education degree from the University of Tulsa in 2009. She has been teaching for eight years, all of those years being at the Seventh Grade Center.

Van Zandt’s mom started her in oil painting classes in first grade, which Van Zandt continued for 13 years.

“Those art classes every Monday afternoon of my childhood inspired me to become an art teacher,” says Van Zandt. “When it was time to start thinking about future career paths, it was a no-brainer. I loved art and wanted to teach others about it every day of my life.”

During college, Van Zandt taught art classes in her garage.

“There is nothing better than watching each young artist experience success and be brave and bold inside the walls of our classroom,” she says.

“I grew up thinking artists were insignificant until after death: a discouraging thought for a young artist. My students know there are successful, working artists in the world today and that there are many creative careers for artists to pursue.

“I develop projects based on graphic design, illustration, animation, and interior design to introduce students to possible career paths.”

Christy Wendel has taught mathematics at the Owasso Sixth Grade Center for the past three years.

She holds an elementary education degree from Oklahoma State University with an endorsement in mathematics.

Wendel has two sons with her husband, Mark.

“What I enjoy most about teaching is connecting with my students. They make me smile and laugh every day,” she says.

By creating a personal connection with each of her students, Wendel is better able to lead her students to many “ah ha” moments while also having fun.

“I want my students to leave my classroom at the end of a school year not only a more confident mathematician but knowing they are loved.”

Wendel has also had the opportunity to using her teaching skills for religious efforts in Cambodia, Kenya and Mexico.

Ator Elementary’s Angela Butler teaches fifth grade social studies and always knew she wanted to be a teacher.

Butler credits her mother, who was a teacher, and many of her teachers as providing “amazing examples” throughout her school years.

“I love watching my students as they are learning and seeing the joy when they are able to grasp what is being taught,” Butler says.

“I know social studies and science are not everyone’s favorite subjects, but I always tell my students that it is my job to teach them that they can learn any subject even if it is not their favorite.”

Butler earned her elementary education degree from Oral Roberts University and began working with Owasso schools in 2000.

Butler also serves as Fifth Grade Lead Teacher and committee/sponsor of Ator’s community fundraiser, Joy in the Cause.

Pam Goodell teaches fourth grade language arts at Bailey Elementary.

All eight of her years in education have been with Owasso schools, seven of those years at Bailey.

Goodell, who grew up in Sapulpa, holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Northeastern State University.

Goodell spent years in public relations and marketing before fulfilling her “heartfelt desire to be a teacher,” in large part due to her daughter’s encouragement.

“My greatest contribution to my students is an extension of my past teachers,” she says, referring to some of her teachers who helped her work through “devastating life events.

“I strive to find the positive in each of my students and love them through the darkness of a parent’s death or heart wrenching pain of divorce.

“When they know without a shadow of a doubt they are loved and valued by me, their teacher, my greatest accomplishment is fulfilled.”

Hodson Elementary’s media specialist Angela Greenlee grew up always with a book in her hand.

She graduated from Owasso High School and earned her bachelor’s degree in child life and family studies from Louisiana Tech University.

After college, she worked as a teacher’s assistant, social worker, and also taught preschool.

During those years, and with the encouragement of the school’s librarian, she decided to pursue her master’s in library media and information technology from Northeastern State University.

Greenlee has been a library media specialist for six years, and this is her fifth year at Hodson Elementary.

She enjoys sharing her love of reading with Hodson’s students and strives to create an interactive library by hosting “book tasting” events, library contests, and schoolwide reading challenges.

Diane Posey, speech therapist at Mills Elementary, has been teaching for 17 years, 12 of those years with Owasso.

Posey holds a bachelor’s degree in communication disorders in 1988 and a master’s degree in speech pathology from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

“It is so exciting to see students make progress, gain new skills, and become effective communicators,” she says.

Posey also teaches during Extended School Year in the summer and part time at Surcee Gifts and Home Décor.

“I chose a career in speech pathology due to the versatility it provides,” she says. “I originally wanted to work in the medical field in rehabilitation following a stroke or traumatic brain injury. After completing my internships, I chose to work in the school system.

“I hope to help students become effective communicators and gain self confidence in their speaking abilities.”

Northeast Elementary’s Joey Baker teaches second grade and grew up in Owasso.
After graduating from Owasso High School, she received her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Northeastern State University.

She also holds an associate’s in psychology.

She and her husband are high school sweethearts and have three children. Baker stayed home with them for 13 years before entering the classroom.

“I am surrounded by wonderful teachers who love children and work diligently to prepare them for their future,” she says.

“I hope every child knows that they are truly loved and appreciated in my class.”

Ben Smith teaches physical education at Hayward Smith Elementary.

“I have never met a more kind and giving person,” says Principal Patrick James. “Mr. Smith is always willing to jump in and help no matter what is being asked. Our kids adore him and the teachers are so thankful to work alongside of him. He is truly deserving of this honor.”

Stone Canyon pre-kindergarten teacher Diana Barr decided to enter teaching after nearly 25 years in the corporate world.

She earned her first degree from Oklahoma State University in criminal sociology.

Years later, when she returned to school, she attended Northeastern State University in Broken Arrow to become an early childhood teacher.

She began working with pre-k students in 2004.

Barr recently earned her master’s degree in early childhood education.

Barr’s goals include always finding new and fun ways to teach. Since finishing schooling, her next goal is to try out for the Owasso Community Theater, as she loves acting.

Updated 04-06-2017

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