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Oklahoma Teacher of the Year

Oklahoma Teacher of the Year Program

The Oklahoma Teacher of the Year Program is coordinated through the Office of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Joy Hofmeister. The program is in conjunction with the National Teacher of the Year Program sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the ING Foundation.

Application and Selection Timeline Changes

We're excited to announce some improvements to the selection timeline for the Oklahoma Teacher of the Year Program! The application for 2021 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year is now active at the link below. The deadline for submission will be August 31, 2020. The 2021 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year ceremony will be scheduled in February of 2021 and the newly selected Oklahoma Teacher of the Year will travel Oklahoma as an ambassador for teachers during the 2021-2022 school year.

Teacher of the Year Application

Please contact us with any questions.
Phone: (405) 522-8767

Teacher of the Year Request to Speak

Teacher of the
Year Blog

Teacher of the Year Ceremony Photos


2020 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year

Jena Nelson


Jena Nelson - Teacher of the Year 2020 Jena Nelson teaches 8th-grade composition and academic enhancement at Deer Creek Middle School. Jena is a 15-year educator and formerly taught theater, musical theater, and stagecraft. A longtime advocate for career-based curriculum, Jena has helped her students earn over $4 million in scholarships and incorporates career readiness in all her classes. She has been selected twice to direct at the prestigious Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland and was also chosen as a presenter at the International Music Festival in Campina Grande Brazil. This year she was selected by Congresswoman Kendra Horn to attend the State of the Union Address in Washington D.C. She is former Edmond North High School Teacher of the Year, Read Across America Ambassador for the OEA, and was named Outstanding Partner in Education from Crutcho Schools. Jena is thrilled to start her revolution of morale and represent and advocate for the profession she loves.

Read more about Jena...

Congratulations, Jena Nelson!


Oklahoma Teacher of the Year Topics


Oklahoma Teacher of the Year Program

 View the latest finalist.


General Qualifications

All Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 12 classroom teachers in state-accredited schools is eligible for nomination. It is important that every teacher is given the opportunity to participate in this recognition process. No minimum years of teaching experience are required to be qualified for Oklahoma Teacher of the Year.

Nominees should be exceptionally skillful and dedicated classroom teachers who are planning to continue in an active teaching status. According to the director of the National Teacher of the Year Program, a classroom teacher is one who teaches a group of students every day within the confines of the classroom and does not have administrative duties. Nominees should communicate effectively and demonstrate creative and imaginative teaching on a day-to-day basis. The nominee should have the ability to inspire the value of learning in students of all backgrounds and abilities and assure academic success. Nominations should be made without regard to age, sex, race, or religion.


Selection Process

At the local district level, the Teacher of the Year program is coordinated through the district superintendent. It is the responsibility of the district superintendent to make sure that every teacher is given the opportunity to participate in the recognition process. It is important to emphasize that the search is not for “the best teacher,” but for one who exemplifies the finest in the profession.

Local District Selection Process

The local school district determines the local selection process and announces the local Teacher of the Year.

Regional Selection Committee

The regional selection committee will evaluate the applications that have been submitted by local Teachers of the Year and select twelve finalists to continue on to the State Selection Committee.

State Selection Committee

The state selection committee will follow procedures identified below for each of the twelve finalists to select the Oklahoma Teacher of the Year.

  • Conduct an interview
  • View a digital video file of classroom teaching. Finalists will partner with the OSDE videographer to create a short video that will document highlights of their classroom instructional methods.
  • Recommend the Oklahoma Teacher of the Year to the State Superintendent


Oklahoma Teacher of the Year Recognition

The Oklahoma Teacher of the Year serves as Oklahoma Ambassador of Teaching, representing Oklahoma in the national competition by sharing knowledge and resources with fellow educators around the state and encouraging education as a profession.


Edward C. Joullian III Scholarship

The $5,000 scholarship is awarded to a high school senior in the current Oklahoma Teacher of the Year’s district.

The Oklahoma State Fair Board established the Edward C. Joullian III $5,000 Scholarship to be awarded to a high school senior in the Oklahoma Teacher of the Year’s school district. The scholarship winner is announced at the Oklahoma State Fair. This scholarship was established to encourage students to continue their education, recognize the Oklahoma Teacher of the Year’s school district, and celebrate the contributions of Mr. Joullian to the lives of Oklahoma’s young people.

Former Oklahoma Teacher of the Year List

Year Name Year Name
2020 Jena Nelson, Deer Creek Public Schools 1984 Gwen Pasby, Elk City
2019 Becky Oglesby, Yukon Public Schools 1983 Nancy O’Donnell, Perry
2018 Donna Gradel, Broken Arrow 1982 Kathlyn Reynolds, Putnam City
2017 Jon Hazel, Durant 1981 Alice Gregg, Okay
2016 Shawn Sheehan, Norman 1980 Sherry Morgan, Sand Springs
2015 Jason Scott Proctor, Tahlequah 1979 Frances Herron, Altus
2014 Peter Markes, Edmond 1978 Pat Kellogg Roller, Ada
2013 Elaine Hutchison, Fairview 1977 June Richardson, Duncan
2012 Kristin Shelby, Hollis 1976 Wilda Walker, Enid
2011 Elizabeth Smith, Byng 1975 Maralene Wesner, Idabel
2010 Brian Grimm, Tulsa 1974 Valerie Carolina, Wewoka
2009 Heather Sparks, Oklahoma City 1973 Frankie Minton, Lindsay
2008 Stephanie Canada, Shawnee 1972 Vernice Ware, Bartlesville
2007 Linda-Hasler Reid, Muskogee 1971 Albert Clark, Enid
2006 Robyn Hilger, Oklahoma City 1970 Ruby Browning, Grove
2005 Susan Illgen, Grove 1969 Trudy McFarland, Stillwater
2004 Cindy Ball, Muskogee 1968 Edward Hennessee, Lawton
2003 James Kerr, Union 1967 Evelyn Findley Williamson, Oklahoma City
2002 Mike Bynum, Sand Springs 1966 Helen Cosgrove, Norman
2001 Talita DeNegri, Oklahoma City 1965 Sam Evans, Oklahoma College for Women
2000 Mitsuye Conover, Bartlesville 1964 Lawana Trout, Sand Springs
1999 Lynn Peacher, Jenks 1963 Bona Gordey, Tulsa
1998 Kay Long, Broken Arrow 1962 Flossie Beckett, Lindsay
1997 George Abshire, Jenks 1961 James Jenkins, Oklahoma City
1996 Stephen Smallwood, Broken Bow 1960 Mary Gillentine, Ron School
1995 Linda Kay Webb, Broken Arrow 1959 Edna Donley, Alva
1994 Mary Jane Bassett, Woodward 1958 Helen White, Duncan
1993 Betsy Mabry, Enid 1957 A.B. Herring, Prague
1992 Rhonda Harryman, Edmond 1956 Mary Lawrence, Claremore
1991 Marilyn King, Stillwater 1955 Ethel Briggs, Barnsdall
1990 Eugene Earsom, Moore    
1989 Mike Adkins, Moore    
1988 Dale Long, Oologah-Talala    
1987 Geraldine Burns, Fairview    
1986 Jane Kennedy, Yukon    
1985 Barbara Smith, Miami    


If you have any questions regarding the Oklahoma Teacher of the Year process; please contact:

Justin Newton

Oklahoma State Department of Education
(405) 522-8767

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Last updated on October 21, 2020