Oklahoma City teacher selected as Oklahoma Teacher of the Year

Tuesday, September 26th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Talita DeNegri credited her family for her determination to succeed and her love of teaching as she was named Oklahoma Teacher of the Year on Tuesday.

DeNegri, who teaches Advanced Placement Language Arts and English at Northeast Academy for Health Sciences and Engineering in Oklahoma City, said her parents were her first teachers.

``My mother and father gave my brother and me love, nurturing and guidance,'' she said.

She also credited her grandparents, who crossed the Rio Grande from Mexico into southwest Texas to work as migrant farm workers picking cotton and corn in the 1940s and 1950s.

They decided that while they only had a 5th grade education, their goal would be to have their children graduate from high school and college, she said.

She uses her life stories as a Hispanic to inspire her students.

DeNegri, who has taught for 16 years with the past five in the Oklahoma City Public School system, said she didn't realize she wanted to teach until she was a sophomore at the University of Oklahoma.

Her father, who has been an educator for 38 years, had steered her toward a career in business with an office in the corner with a view, said DeNegri.

``One night at dinner I told my father I wanted to teach,'' DeNegri said. ``He told me, 'You had to find it on your own' and I have never looked back.

``It is my calling. It is my gift.''

As her parents, Emma and Pete Cordova of Oklahoma City, and her husband, Robert, and daughters Mekele, 13, and Elle, 10, crowded around her to congratulate her on her award, former Oklahoma Teacher of the Year Evelyn Findley Williamson added words of encouragement.

Wiliamson, who taught business classes at Northwest Classen from 1955 to 1977 was the last Oklahoma City Public School teacher selected for this honor. She received the award in 1967.

DeNegri said that when her name was called she was truly surprised.

``I didn't prepare a speech. This was truly a surprise because there is so much experience on this stage,'' she said, referring to the 11 other teachers who were selected as state finalists.

DeNegri's love for her students was evident when the first thing she did after the ceremonies had ended was take the cellular phone given to her as a part of her award and call her students.

``I won. I got it,'' she said as the tears flowed down her face.

She reported that everyone in the classroom was screaming ``She won, she won.''

As she accepted the award from state Superintendent Sandy Garrett, DeNegri said, ``It is the students who make us who we are. As a teacher we love what we do.''

During the next year she will be traveling throughout the state sharing that love of being a teacher with other teachers as well as students who are planning to teach someday.

``I am looking forward to every moment,'' she said. ``This will be an adventure for me and my family, but we are ready.''

``Talita DeNegri will represent well the thousands of wonderful Oklahoma teachers who should be honored every day,'' Garrett said.

DeNegri will also compete for the National Teacher of the Year award, which will be announced in April.