5 OEA Members Named TOY Finalists

The finalists for 2021 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year were named last week, and five of them are OEA members!

  • Jessica Eschbach, an innovative learning coach at Norman North High School.
  • Natalie Haworth, a science teacher at Durant High School.
  • Michael Patterson, a high school speech, debate, and drama teacher at Guymon High School.
  • Keri Smith, a gifted and talented teacher at Independence Intermediate School in Yukon.
  • Lori Zimmerman, a sixth grade language arts teacher at Woodward Middle School.

According the State Department of Education, the 2021 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year will be named during a virtual meeting in February. The honoree will assume full-time Teacher of the Year duties on July 1, spending the next year serving as Oklahoma’s ambassador for teachers, encouraging others to enter or remain in the profession, and attending speaking engagements.

The February announcement is a change from the traditional ceremony during September at the State Fair of Oklahoma. A couple of years ago the SDE moved the Teacher of Year responsibilities to begin in July instead of the middle of the school year, making it easier for the winner’s district to secure a full-time teacher for the classroom.

Other finalists for 2021 Oklahoma Teacher of Year are Melanie Ball, Guthrie; Ginger Billman, Stillwater; Lesa Dickson, Broken Arrow; Amy Lennertz, Piedmont; Krista Starbuck, Alva; and Stephanie Terry, Mid-Del Public Schools.