The 12 finalists for Oklahoma Teacher of the Year took the opportunity Thursday to brag about their students, colleagues and administrators, as well as boast about their chosen profession.
“The rewards go way beyond any paycheck we could ever receive,” said Elaine Hutchinson, a math teacher at Fairview Public Schools. “It's in the eyes of the children we teach ... their success has propelled my success.”
Hutchinson is one of 12 finalists for the state Teacher of the Year competition. The finalists were announced Thursday at the state Capitol.
The finalists represent every region of the state and were first selected as top teachers in their building, then their district and region, and finally were told that they were finalists for the state honor.
Andrea Brock, a seventh-grade math teacher at Moore West Junior High School, said she waited until she got off the phone with state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi to jump up and down with excitement.
Also represented in the metro area is Daniel Buckmaster, who is the sixth-grade science teacher at Belle Isle Enterprise Middle School.
Buckmaster is the second teacher from Belle Isle to be a finalist for state Teacher of the Year. The other is Robyn Hilger, who won in 2006.
“I'm not even the best teacher in my hallway,” Buckmaster said in a telephone interview. “We have the best teachers in the world, and there are great teachers everywhere. I'm just representing all the great teachers of Oklahoma City.”
Buckmaster couldn't attend the announcement on Thursday because he was out of state for his grandparents' 64th wedding anniversary.
His principal, Marilynn Kellert, said Buckmaster doesn't just teach science, he teaches kids to be scientists.
“I give all my students a choice of seven different engineering projects that they can do,” Buckmaster said. “By the end, they've become engineers, which is obviously what we need for them to do.”
Deer Creek Public Schools has their third finalist for the state competition in the last four years.
Kim Landers teaches Spanish at Deer Creek High School.
“God has blessed me with amazing teachers,” Landers said. “My co-workers at Deer Creek, they're the best teachers I've ever worked with.”
The winner will be announced at the Oklahoma State Fair in September and will receive more than $50,000 in cash and prizes and will spend a year representing the state as the Ambassador of Teaching.
The winner will go on to the national Teacher of the Year competition and will travel to Washington, D.C., to participate in the announcement ceremony.