Seven of the 12 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year finalists are from eastern Oklahoma.
They were recognized Tuesday at a ceremony in Oklahoma City. While teachers across the state continue to navigate pandemic challenges, current Oklahoma Teacher of the Year Jessica Eschbach offered this reminder to the finalists:
"You deserve to be here…You have been chosen to represent your districts and your schools for a reason,” Eschbach said before naming each finalist as they walked up to the stage.
Union High School Calculus Teacher Rebecka Peterson is one of the 12 who was recognized at the Oklahoma History Center.
"Lot of emotions, very exciting, very honored, there's nerves as well but mostly I'm just very humbled to be here among such amazing educators,” Peterson said.
Tulsa Public Schools Fourth Grade Teacher Donna Ross was also overcome with emotion.
"I'm overjoyed. I don't know whether to laugh, to cry, through it all, because, you know, due to the pandemic, you know I still made it through. I'm just happy; it's been great. It's a blessing,” Ross said.
Of the 12 finalists for 2022, seven are from Green Country, including teachers from Bixby, Tahlequah, Collinsville, Union, Tulsa, Coweta, and Bristow Public Schools.
Lauren Vandever teaches 7th Grade Reading at Bristow.
"I was kind of overwhelmed. We haven't had a finalist from Bristow ever that we know of. Even in Creek County, we normally don't have a finalist. So I'm very excited just to kind of represent our area," Vandever said.
Vandever, along with the rest of the finalists, are looking forward to the opportunities ahead.
"I would love to be able to work with other teachers and learn what are the needs around the state, not just in my little pocket,” she said.
Being a Teacher of the Year involves a lot more than earning the title. The teacher will take a year-long sabbatical for official duties, including traveling across the state, and being an ambassador for teachers.
The 2022 Oklahoma Teacher of the year will be announced in March, then he or she will take over their new duties starting in July.
Shannon Altom, 11th Grade English Language Arts Teacher
Bixby High School (Bixby Public Schools)
Tina Dewey, Special Education Teacher
L.W. Westfall Elementary School (Choctaw/Nicoma Park Public Schools)
Emily Freise, Speech-Language Pathologist
Greenwood Elementary School (Tahlequah Public Schools)
Kerry Ingersoll, Kindergarten Teacher
Bethel Lower Elementary School (Bethel Public Schools)
Cindy Johnson, 10th-12th Grade Mathematics Teacher
Collinsville High School (Collinsville Public Schools)
Rebecka Peterson, 10th-12th Grade Mathematics Teacher
Union High School (Union Public Schools)
Juan Renteria, Jr., Fifth Grade Teacher
Truman Elementary School (Norman Public Schools)
Donna Ross, Fourth Grade Teacher
McKinley Elementary School (Tulsa Public Schools)
Shelley Self, Ninth-12th Grade Art Teacher
Coweta High School (Coweta Public Schools)
Kortni Torralba, Therapeutic Educator
Moore Alternative School and Treatment (Moore Public Schools)
Sheila Treadwell, Pre-Kindergarten Teacher
John D. Moeller Primary School (Snyder Public Schools)
Lauren Vandever, Seventh Grade Reading Teacher
Bristow Middle School (Bristow Public Schools)