STILLWATER — The expression on Miss America’s face was recognizable when her third-grade teacher joined her on stage Thursday.
It was the same look that was on the faces of hundreds of Stillwater third-graders as they listened to her speak in the Wes Watkins Center on the Oklahoma State University campus.
It was a look of childhood joy as for a moment, Nina Davuluri was taken back to being 9 years old in Ada.
Since winning the Miss America title in September, Davuluri has been touring the country to promote healthy lifestyles and the importance of educating young children in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Thursday, she stopped in Stillwater to speak to the city’s more than 600 third-graders.
Davuluri is a graduate of the University of Michigan and was Miss New York before being crowned Miss America 2014. She plans to go to medical school with the money she won in the pageant.
But years ago, Davuluri and her family lived in Ada from the time she was 4 until she was 10.
Her third-grade teacher, Mary Hatcher, said she hadn’t heard from Davuluri or her family in more than 15 years and didn’t know her former student was in the pageant circuit until the end of the Miss America Pageant.
“I barely saw her win,” Hatcher said. “One of the other teachers was watching and she told me that Nina Davuluri was Miss New York. It was surreal because I had no idea she was doing that kind of thing.”
Hatcher, who still teaches third-grade at Homer Elementary in Ada, said she was asked last week to help surprise Davuluri.
She was hesitant because it meant leaving her sick father, but ultimately decided she couldn’t miss the opportunity. But the surprise didn’t quite go as planned.