Thirty-six educators, support professionals and administrators, along with two schools, were honored this month as finalists for the Excellence in Education Merit and Character Awards by the Professional Oklahoma Educators Foundation.
The Excellence in Education Awards Banquet recognizes and rewards Oklahoma educators who demonstrate a commitment to their students in teaching strength of character and excellence in the school or classroom. Award nominees must go through a rigorous application and evaluation process.
According to POE Foundation Executive Director Ginger Tinney, “These awards serve as an encouragement to not only Oklahoma educators, but also to the many businesses, organizations, and communities that have a stake in the character building and intellectual development of the children who will shape our state in the future.”
Character Award winners receive $1,500 from the POE Foundation and commendation from Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell. The foundation looks for how extensive and how creatively character is taught in every aspect from direct teaching, to decorations, to public recognition of students for their outstanding character. The winners of the Merit Awards each received a check for $500, a free POE membership and a commendation from Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell.
Teacher Character Award Winner:
Summer Proffer was presented the evening’s highest honor as she won the Teacher Character Award. She is an art teacher at Grove Public Schools. Additionally, she receives a free Professional Oklahoma Educators membership for a year. “Mrs. Proffer incorporates character through her dialog with the students, encouraging them to function as respectful citizens in both the academic setting and in their own personal lives,” said Russell Carmichael, principal at Grove Elementary. “Whenever a student makes a misjudgment in their actions Mrs. Proffer seizes the opportunity to discuss the student’s behavior choice with them, leading them to understand more appropriate choices to make in the future.”
School Character Award Winner:
Ada High School won the School Character Award and Shawn Freeman accepted on behalf of the school. “So very often we students hear staff call us ‘world changers,’ when in reality it is you, the people teaching us, mentoring us, becoming people we can confide in, it’s you who are the real movers and shakers of this world. If it weren’t for the adults who walk these halls alongside us every day, the future would be looking quite bleak.” – Written by Ada High School students about their teachers.
Non-Certified/Support Professional Merit Award Winner:
Glenda Longacre of Grove Public Schools is the winner of the Non-Certified/Support Professional Merit Award. She is the financial secretary at Grove Elementary. “Her knowledge, skills, experience, and impeccable character place her at the top of her profession,” said Superintendent Mark Bowlan. “We are extremely fortunate to have someone of her caliber here at Grove School.”
Kathy Cox Elementary Educator Merit Award Winner:
Plato Elementary first grade teacher Abby Leonard with Duncan Public Schools won the Elementary Educator Merit Award. “Ms. Leonard is a tireless worker, one of the most unselfish individuals I have come across both in the school system and more importantly in everyday life,” said Charmin Holland who has worked with Leonard in the same district for eight years. “She exudes confidence that transcends into a ‘can do’ mentality that encourages the most challenging student or situation.” The Kathy Cox Elementary Educator Merit Award is named in honor of the late Mrs. Kathy Cox, an outstanding 20-year veteran educator. Cox was a charter member of Professional Oklahoma Educators and served as the Plainview Schools POE leader. Cox was an outstanding dynamic elementary teacher.
Junior High Educator Merit Award Winner:
Reda Marcussen, a sixth grade teacher with Bethel Public Schools, won the Junior High Educator Merit Award. Marcussen has made a difference in the Bethel community for more than 30 years. She currently teaches English, speech and drama, humanities, and a gifted and talented class. “Mrs. Marcussen exemplifies what it means to bring excellence into everything she does with our students,” said Tina Moon, principal at Bethel Middle School. “It is impossible to tally the total amounts of time and money she has invested in her students, Bethel Middle School and the Bethel community.”
High School Educator Merit Award Winner:
Rebecca Rubio of Bennington Public Schools won the High School Educator Merit award. A math and algebra teacher, Rubio believes students will perform better for people who they feel believe in them. She has devoted her life to helping children not only in math and algebra but also with positive attitudes and an open outlook on the world. Rubio is a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. “She is always prepared for class and really keeps the students engaged,” said Rich Grimes, principal of Bennington High School. “She uses different styles of teaching so that all of her students have the optimal chance of learning the material.”
Jonathan Tinney Special Education Educator Merit Award:
Rebecca Ogles, a special education director and teacher at Vanoss Public Schools, won the Jonathan Tinney Special Education Educator Merit Award. “She is highly respected by students, colleagues, parents, and community members due to her dedication to education and exceptional work ethic,” said Vanoss Superintendent Marjana Tharp. “She not only motivates young minds to learn and to do their best, but she inspires her co-workers and parents to go the extra mile. She has agreed to offer counseling services after school to help struggling students learn how to cope during the uncertain time of the pandemic.” This award is named in memory of the late Jonathan Michael Tinney, infant son of Mike and Ginger Tinney. Jonathan was born with Down’s syndrome in 1989. Even though he was an infant, he received services from a couple of very special teachers of Norman Public Schools. This award is underwritten by the Michael Tinney family to honor the tremendous dedication and very important work of special education teachers.
Olan Isbell Merit Award Winner:
Falon Wilson won the Olan Isbell Merit Award, named in honor of the founder of Professional Oklahoma Educators. Wilson has been a counselor at Chelsea High School for six years. She is a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. “Mrs. Wilson is integral to our staff while being a positive influence and role model for our community,” said Richard McSpadden, superintendent of Chelsea Schools. “She has spent countless hours volunteering her time to both our school and our community. Her dedication and commitment exemplify the qualities we desire to develop with our students.” In 1988, Professional Oklahoma Educators, also known as APOE, was founded by the late Mr. Olan Isbell of Bennington, Oklahoma. Isbell served as the superintendent of Bennington Public Schools and was an outstanding educator and leader.
About POE: Professional Oklahoma Educators is a nonprofit, nonunion, professional educators association serving nearly 12,000 Oklahoma educators, support staff and administrators across the state. POE works to increase the respect and professionalism of the teaching profession and provides liability coverage, legal services and other benefits to members.
About the POE Foundation: The Foundation serves as a support organization for POE and provides valuable educational training and services to teachers and students across the state. The POE Foundation is dedicated to promoting a world-class education for all Oklahoma students.