Owasso Teacher of the Year Does More than Teach
By EMILY RAMSEY
LIFE LESSONS: Tiffani Cooper, Owasso School’s 2012 teacher of the year, became a teacher because she saw a need for teachers who care for their students both inside and outside of the classroom. She has been teaching ninth and tenth graders for five years and uses her assignments to help students see that they can affect change.
EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers
Owasso Public School’s Teacher of the Year, Tiffani Cooper, found her desire to teach in her love to help others.
Cooper, who teaches ninth and tenth grade advanced English at Owasso Mid-High, attended Northeastern State University, at first not sure of her future career. Even though her mother taught at the University of Tulsa, Cooper didn’t feel pressured to follow in her footsteps.
“My mom is the one who’s influenced me the most,” she says. “She didn’t push me to become a teacher; she encouraged me to do what I was most passionate about.”
However, after Cooper worked with teens in a youth ministry, “teaching grabbed my heart,” she says.
“I saw a need in the educational field for teachers who care about their students beyond just the classroom, and I decided that I wanted to be a part of filling that need.”
Cooper received her undergraduate degree from and her master’s from Oklahoma State University. She has been teaching for five years, all of those years at Mid-High.
The majority of Cooper’s young life was spent in competitive figure skating. She skated for 12 years and planned to eventually reach the Olympics. However, before she got there, she found that she wanted to explore other paths, including college.
As a teacher of teenagers, Cooper admits that getting her young students to open up can be a challenge, but she has learned to relate to them on their level.
“I try to help them see that what they’re learning now will help them prepare for college; I remind them to keep that final goal in mind.”
Cooper also uses literature and projects to expose students to new perspectives. One such project is students’ yearly research papers.
Cooper asks them to choose a social justice issue, “an issue that is going on in the world that shouldn’t be,” she says.
“The result,” she continues, “is usually that students see how big the issue is and the possible solutions. Their hearts get involved, and they come out with a passion for the issue, and then that moves them to start writing.”
Cooper has even seen students take the issue outside of the classroom. She has watched students raise money and speak about the cause to fellow students.
No doubt, Cooper’s desire to help students succeed motivates them to work harder.
“If students know that I have their best interests at heart, I can push them farther academically,” she says. Cooper takes interest in her students’ lives in and outside of the classroom.
“Sometimes I feel like a counselor,” she says. “Oftentimes, students perform better in the classroom after they’ve gotten things off their chest. They know that, in addition to their parents, there’s someone else who is there for them.”