WHEN Daniel Buckmaster thinks about the teacher who influenced him most, Brent Peck pops to mind. With a short, white beard and smelling of coffee, Peck made Buckmaster, then a student at Noble High School, feel smart and encouraged him.
Buckmaster, named last month as the 2012-13 Oklahoma City Public Schools Teacher of the Year, seeks to be that inspiring teacher for all of his sixth-grade science students at Belle Isle Enterprise Middle School.
Those dedicated, inspirational teachers are everywhere. With schools across the state and nation celebrating teacher appreciation week, now's a good time to remember that the daily influence of a teacher is powerful — for good or for bad. Some children spend more time with their teachers than with their parents. It's not ideal, but it is reality.
Oklahoma is fortunate to have many great teachers to celebrate. They're found in one-stoplight towns, like 2011-12 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year Kristin Shelby of Hollis.
“Each day I wake with a specific purpose: that one, small teacher in a small town can make a big difference in a big world,” Shelby wrote in her portfolio for the teacher competition.
Great teachers are found in larger school districts, too. Despite the difficulties of teaching in an urban district, Buckmaster considers himself lucky to be teaching the children of Oklahoma City no matter their struggles.
Public schools certainly don't have the market cornered on fantastic educators. They're found in the state's private schools, too. Consider Talita DeNegri, a former Oklahoma City and statewide teacher of the year who is a graduate and now serves as principal of Mount St. Mary High School. And we'd be remiss not to mention the mothers and fathers who do a fine job of teaching their own children and often collaborate with other parents to provide a rich learning environment outside of traditional schools.
Teachers — no matter the location of their classroom — have a critical job. They are preparing our city's and state's future business owners, scientists, doctors, engineers, social workers and teachers.
While some educators are nervous about the many changes under way in public education, we have no doubt many of this state's great teachers stand ready to meet the challenges. They have little to fear and a lot to gain from new accountability measures aimed at improving student achievement.
Great teachers already hold themselves to an exceptionally high standard. They already seek to individualize student learning, meeting students where they are and moving them forward. They already embrace new thoughts and methods of instruction to improve their teaching. They are never quite satisfied with a job well done, believing the opportunities to do better for students are without limit.
To those teachers, thank you is hardly enough but we'll say it anyway: Thank you for teaching our children.