Oklahoma Excel

Champions of Excellence

Oklahoma Excel, part of the Champions of Excellence initiative, is a year-long professional learning experience open to all PK-12 teachers. Teachers within a district form teams and join a Networked Improvement Community (NIC) within a specific content area. Members of the NIC engage in continuous improvement cycles in their classrooms to implement and refine high-leverage, evidence-based instructional strategies. Teachers and teacher leaders who participate receive between 45 and 70 hours of job-embedded, sustained, data-driven, classroom-focused professional development. Participants also have access to on-site instructional coaching, resources, and tools in an effort to bring about lasting improvement in their schools.  

 Click Below to Watch Our Quick Intro!

Go Deeper

To learn more about the foundational research that has shaped the vision of this project, explore the database below.

Meet the Team

Dawn Irons - Executive Director of Champions of Excellence and Networked Improvement Communities

Dawn Irons has been with the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) since 2017. She started out in the Office of School Support where she served as a School Support Specialist. After a year, Dawn moved to the Office of Curriculum and Instruction as the Director of Oklahoma Excel. In her current role as the Executive Director of Champions of Excellence and Networked Improvement Communities, Dawn oversees all programs related to job-embedded professional learning and networked learning initiatives. Prior to joining OSDE, Dawn worked in Oklahoma City Public School's Professional Development Department as an instructional coach coordinator. Along with her colleagues, Dawn helped established an instructional coaching program in the largest school district in the state. Before moving to Oklahoma, Dawn spent ten years working as an elementary classroom teacher, peer evaluator, and instructional coach in Tampa, Florida. Dawn holds a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a master's degree in organizational leadership, instructional design and organizational training. Dawn resides in Oklahoma City with her husband and two dogs. When she's not working, Dawn enjoys traveling, watching documentaries, reading historical fiction novels, and cooking. 

Susan Wray - Science Instructional Specialist

Susan Wray is a twenty-six-year veteran science teacher who is native to Oklahoma. Prior to working for the Oklahoma State Department of Education, Susan taught elementary and middle-level science at Oakdale Public Schools from 1997-2019 and Broken Arrow Public Schools from 1992-1997. While at Oakdale, Susan was instrumental in implementing a STEM program, overseeing science curriculum, and developing a spirit squad. Throughout the state, Susan has been a leader in science -- presenting at the Oklahoma Science Teacher Association conference, developing Frameworks for Science, and participating in Oklahoma science assessment development. She has dedicated herself to becoming a life-long educator, learner, and leader.  

Gena Barnhill - Mathematics Instructional Specialist

Gena Barnhill has been teaching elementary math for 15 years. She spent 13 years developing her skills at Rollingwood Elementary in Putnam City and 2 more years at Lakeview Elementary in Yukon. During this time, she worked on district curriculum development and training, the Oklahoma state math frameworks, and the math and science OSTP Item Review Committee. She has also presented at state math and science conferences. She received the 2018 Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching and achieved her National Board Certification in 2020. Gena graduated from the University of Oklahoma with her Bachelor's degree and the University of Central Oklahoma with her professional teaching certificate. 

Andrea Chrisman - ELA Instructional Specialist

Andrea Chrisman joined Teach for America in 2008 and moved to the Bay Area to begin her teaching career.  She spent 8 years teaching literacy at some of the highest performing schools in San Jose and San Francisco, working in predominantly underserved communities. She recently returned home to Oklahoma and has spent the last 2 years teaching reading on the south side of Oklahoma City. This past year she served her school as the 4th-grade team lead and the ELA content lead. Andrea lives in Oklahoma City with her cat, Minnow, and when she isn't working, she enjoys reading thriller books, cooking, and listening to her records.

Magdalena Grifaldo - Early Childhood Instructional Specialist

Magdalena Grifaldo has served as an early childhood educator in Southwest Oklahoma City for 5 years. Prior to working for the Oklahoma State Department of Education, Lena taught pre-kindergarten and kindergarten at Santa Fe South Schools. While at Santa Fe South, Lena led the early childhood education teams for both pre-kindergarten and kindergarten, coached teachers through fifth grade in creating and implementing strong mathematics practices in the classroom, and played a critical role in establishing the school site's after school program. After her corps service with Teach For America, Magdalena pursued and graduated with honors from the University of Central Oklahoma with a M.Ed in Educational Leadership in 2019 and attended Barnard College for her undergraduate studies. She remains involved and connected to the Teach For America and greater OKC community by serving as a board member for both the Alumni and Collective Boards for the TFA OKC region. Outside of work, you would find her gardening at home, visiting local restaurants and businesses, and catching up on the newest series. Born and raised in Dallas, TX, she currently resides in OKC with her husband and two cats.


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Last updated on May 20, 2022