Broken Arrow’s Donna Gradel Inducted Into the National Teachers Hall of Fame


A longtime Broken Arrow educator has been inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame. 
Donna Gradel, who completed her 33rd year in education in May, is the fourth teacher from Oklahoma to join the Hall of Fame ranks. 
After concluding a highly successful career as a science teacher at Broken Arrow Public Schools, Gradel served as a consultant at Summit Christian Academy before becoming  Dean of Academic Development and Innovation.  
She has been recognized for her innovative instruction by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, the Henry Ford Foundation and the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence. She was the 2018 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year and a finalist for the National Teacher of the Year in 2019. 
A graduate of West Virginia University, she holds both a Bachelor of Science in biological sciences and physical education and a Master’s degree in education. 
In a statement, Gov. Kevin Stitt said Gradel “moved beyond the textbook by taking her classroom outside to partner with the City of Broken Arrow to clean public water and by taking the classroom to the world by developing a system to provide sustainable food sources for orphans in Kenya. She is a perfect candidate to be enshrined in the National Teachers Hall of Fame and show the country how Oklahoma can be Top Ten in education.” 
Broken Arrow Superintendent Dr. Janet Dunlop said, “It’s been an incredible honor to watch Ms. Gradel dedicate her life to educating Oklahoma students. Her passion, wit and intelligence inspire students to believe in themselves and know they are capable of changing the world. There is no better person to represent public education.”
Gradel’s focus on innovation and solving real-world problems has led to over seven years of student-led international projects to provide clean water and protein to orphans in Kenya. In 2014, her class was the first in Oklahoma to receive a $10,000 grant from the Lemelson-MIT Program’s InvenTeam initiative.
Under Gradel’s instruction, Broken Arrow students designed a way for Kenyan orphans to produce fish food for one-twelfth the current cost.
She recently led a group of students to Machakos, Kenya, to create a sustainable means to feed chickens, providing protein for a school that rescues victims of sex trafficking.
Because of the success of Gradel’s initial projects, BAHS established an innovative research class in 2017. It allows students to choose real-world problems aligned with their passions to impact their community.
“I constantly encourage them to dream big and make a difference in the world,” Gradel said. “They know our classroom is a safe, caring place to imagine and not be afraid to fail. In our learning environment, innovation outweighs the final product.”
Gradel’s students have worked with Broken Arrow city engineers to develop an outdoor classroom, which contains an 84-foot by 45-foot floating wetland in the shape of the school district “BA” logo, adjacent to the high school. Sustainable plants on the floating wetland actively remove nitrates from the water to combat algae growth caused by fertilizer runoff.
Realizing the initial success, Broken Arrow voters approved $500,000 as part of a bond package to continue efforts at the site to improve ecology and water quality.
Gradel has taught in Broken Arrow for over 20 years and has traveled the state to share her knowledge and expertise with educators across Oklahoma.
A former college basketball player at West Virginia University in the height of the Title IX era, Gradel is passionate about leading students to success regardless of their background.
“As teachers, we have the keys to recognize and unlock the potential of our students and propel them to success,” Gradel said. “In too many cases, we may be the only positive voice in their world of negative self-talk. We must be their champion.”

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