Deer Creek Schools’ Jena Nelson named 2020 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year

OKLAHOMA CITY (Sept. 17, 2019) – A middle school teacher from Deer Creek Schools is Oklahoma’s 2020 Teacher of the Year. Jena Nelson teaches 7th and 8th grade English composition and academic enhancement at Deer Creek Middle School in Edmond.

Jena NelsonState Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister announced the winner today during a ceremony at the Oklahoma State Fair. Nelson was chosen from 12 finalists.

“Jena’s passion for teaching and her dedication to her students show in everything she does,” Hofmeister said. “She uses her past experiences to go beyond the curriculum and create nurturing relationships with the children in her classroom, and that shows in the tremendous difference she’s made in the lives of her students.”

A 14-year educator who has taught two years at Deer Creek Middle School, Nelson openly speaks about past childhood trauma and how it influenced her future.

“To say that I didn’t have a great home life would be an understatement. I was very much like some of the students we see today in our classroom. I was angry. I lashed out. I was defiant. I very much wanted a place to feel safe and cared for outside of my trauma-filled home, and I found that place in school,” Nelson said. “I have done things that I never imagined, and it’s all because teachers believed in me. That is why I am in the classroom today. I’m here to give what was given to me – a chance.”

As the 2020 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year, Nelson will remain in the classroom, so she can continue to inspire her students, colleagues and community every day. Some of her other duties under the title will include speaking engagements and serving as Oklahoma’s ambassador of teaching.

Nelson was chosen by a panel of judges from 12 finalists of whom were Teachers of the Year for their district. Each teacher submitted a video as part of the application process. You can watch Nelson’s video here.

Jena Nelson Video
The other state Teacher of the Year finalists are:

  • Cara Bowerman, Edmond North High School, Edmond Public Schools
  • Debbie Carlisle, Clinton High School, Clinton Public Schools
  • Kirbey Dietzel, Jenks East Intermediate School, Jenks Public Schools
  • Terri Guthridge, Grove High School, Grove Public Schools
  • Lesa Hefner, Duncan High School, Duncan Public Schools
  • Elizabeth Hoggatt, Norman High School, Norman Public Schools
  • Patricia Lightfoot, Weatherford Middle School, Weatherford Public Schools
  • Michelle Rahn, Will Rogers Middle School, Claremore Public Schools
  • Kari Rhoden, Oologah Lower Elementary, Oologah-Talala Public Schools
  • Cassandra Stauder, Dewey High School, Dewey Public Schools
  • Katie Thompson, Shawnee Early Childhood Center, Shawnee Public Schools

To learn more about each finalist, click here.

Jena Nelson and Supt. Hofmeister

State Supt. Joy Hofmeister presents Jena Nelson with the 2020 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year award.

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Last updated on September 24, 2019