OKTOY Blog: The Year

I recently returned my affectionately named “free car” to the State Fair of Oklahoma, and I can't express enough gratitude for this incredible donation over the past year! While I only inched out 17,000 miles, a great summary of the year can be told through that little car.

2014 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year Peter Markes poses with his OKTOY car

Our final day together started early. On my way to Durant for a great InspirED Conference, a young woman helping me with my morning coffee took a long, slow look at the car. Then she looked up and asked, “Is this yours, or did somebody just do that?” Not sure how to respond to this surprisingly odd question, I responded, “It’s me!” At five o’clock in the morning, she nearly screamed, “And I met you!” after which we high-fived through the drive-thru window. Driving home from Durant, a couple passed me, slowed down, then lapped me again so that they could snap a good picture at 78 mph.

This is only the tip of the ice-berg as to how much positive attention the car brought to our profession. At traffic lights and in parking lots, the little Buick Encore with 400 point font on the side reading, “Official Teacher of the Year Car” was a ready conversation starter, and it was always about what's right in education. From panhandlers to the back-to-school shoppers visiting the city, positive memories and stories of great teachers in their life always surfaced with pride. What's most notable is that everyone agrees that we have much work to do in education, but they are also thankful for the work we are doing. When they congratulate me and say, “You deserve it,” I reassure them that countless teachers “deserve it,” and I just happened to be the representative for this year. 

The Oklahoma Teacher of the Year program marks just one of the many ways that we must continue to restore honor to our profession, and I am eternally grateful to the State Department of Education for the incredible work required to bring such prestige to teachers. Looking wider, however, the attention cannot stop at just one lavish honor, and for sure it does not have to be to or from one person. All teachers, administrators, support staff, parents and students have a role to play in touting to our media and policy makers what is right in education and what can be better. Most importantly, we must have strategies for our public as to how we can effectively and thoughtfully get to work improving things.

As I now slum it in another new car (not free this time), my life is changed, my families’ life is different, my students have a renewed teacher, and I am acutely aware of education’s vastness. There were times this year when I felt adrift in that ocean, confused by what was most important, and I realized that it is all important. To every student, to their teachers, to their moms, dads and other care-takers, we all have something that is most important to us, that which we would scream at the top of our lungs to defend. As long as each of us respectfully, reflectively, responsibly and, I hope, frequently exercises that voice, I don’t see a reason to prioritize. It is all important, most of it is urgent, and I look forward to continuing my journey as the 2014 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year for a long time to come.


Peter Markes
2014 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year
Twitter @PeterMarkes




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Last updated on September 15, 2014