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Thompson Always Knew She Wanted To Teach


August 1, 2019

OBU photo by Heather Hamilton.

OBU alumna Katie Thompson has been named a finalist for the 2020 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year award. Thompson earned her bachelor's degree in early childhood and elementary education in 2013 from OBU. She teaches Kindergarten at the Shawnee Early Childhood Center and is the current Shawnee Public Schools Teacher of the Year.

As a young girl growing up in Sapulpa, Katie Thompson, Shawnee Public Schools Teacher of the Year who's just been named a finalist for 2020 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year, knew she really wanted to be a teacher.

"But I thought I wasn't good enough," Thompson said Monday. To her childhood way of thinking, "being an astronaut would be easier."

Before she could set her sights on a career in space, her mentor, who was also her Sunday School teacher, math tutor and neighbor, pointed out to her that what she really wanted to do was what she should pursue: teaching.

Today, Thompson is the first early childhood teacher to be named Teacher of the Year from the Shawnee Early Childhood Center, and, observers think, only the second ever to win Shawnee Public School District Teacher of the Year.

She has been named to serve on Oklahoma Schools Supt. Joy Hofmeister's advisory committee and is working fast to complete an extensive video about her career for submission to the state Department of Education by next Monday, Aug. 5.

Thompson says she still has trouble believing the district teacher of the year designation and on being notified that she was a finalist for state teacher of the year, "I was just blown away! Very very honored."

Following her mentor's advice, after graduating from Sapulpa High School, Thompson earned a bachelor's degree in early childhood education and elementary education from Oklahoma Baptist University.

In Aug. 2013, she walked into her first day of teaching a roomful of more than 20 five and six-year-old kindergartners in Shawnee's relatively new Early Childhood Center.

"It was overwhelming at first," Thompson said. "They come with different backgrounds and that makes it difficult to work through, to get them ready to learn."

She's still there. Last school year was her sixth year at Shawnee Early Childhood Center. She had 24 students; not all had been through Pre-Kindergarten.

"At the beginning of the year, the first thing I do is establish a school community," said Thompson, now 28. "A class family. The other kids are like their brothers and sisters and I class them kind of like a home." It works well, she said, "so far."

While still working on her degree- eight years ago- she and Zachary Thompson were married. They now have a daughter, Charlotte Thompson, age 18 months.

Zachary Thompson is an officer with the Shawnee Police Department, a member of its SWAT Team and has completed 10 years' service with the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. "We are getting ready for a deployment right now," she said. "He will be serving in Afghanistan."

Katie Thompson was named Shawnee Public Schools Teacher of the Year at a school banquet at the OBU Geiger Center in February.

She could hardly believe it. "A lot of disbelief," she said, was her first reaction to hearing her name called as recipient of the honor.

"They don't usually pick an early childhood teacher; usually it's a secondary teacher, someone from high school, middle school or upper elementary grades. There may have been one other early childhood teacher selected (in the past) but they've never had a teacher of the year from this building, Shawnee Early Childhood Center," Thompson said.

"I'm not exactly sure why they chose me."

Since then, Thompson said she has "been able to meet a lot of really great people, gotten to go to job fairs at OSU, been able to speak at OBU, and I will be serving on Joy Hofmeister's advisory committee."

Twelve finalists for winner of the 2020 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year title were announced July 23 at an Engage OK conference at Moore's Southmoore High School. Thompson was one of the dozen selected from throughout Oklahoma.

Selection officials had called her in early June to let her know she was one of the finalists. "It was top secret," she said, until the official announcement was made.

"I was just blown away! Very very honored and a little nervous," she said when she received that phone call.

There is just one other early childhood teacher among the finalists. She is from Oologah Public Schools.

In addition to Shawnee and Oologah, some the other school districts represented by finalists for state teacher of the year are Edmond, Deer Creek, Norman, Claremore, Dewey, Duncan and Grove, in northeastern Oklahoma.

The winner will be announced Sept. 17 at a ceremony at State Fair Park in Oklahoma City.

As a finalist, Thompson has plenty to do before then. She has some interviews to participate in, but first, an extensive video about herself must be submitted by Aug. 5. She was notified in early June so there would be time to prepare it.

"That's almost done. We've been working on it all summer," she said. "Ann Worden, my principal, will have a part in it, too."

The video interview will tell her story, include comments from her co-workers about her teaching, and will show her class.

For the competition, she will have two types of interviews: the first by a panel of about 24 judges, and then by a panel of 12.

"And kind of like the Miss America contest, there will be one question that you will have to answer quickly," Thompson said.

Photos provided

Katie Thompson (third, from right) is shown with Oklahoma State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister (third, from left) and some of the other 12 2020 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year Finalists.

She knows it will be education related and she said she "feels very comfortable with that," and it will be "a little political, and I'll be comfortable with that, too, but the hard part will be keeping the answer short!"

Her platform will be the teacher shortage in Oklahoma: how it is impacting the whole community and what she thinks we can do, to get out of it.

"And, also, how we got to this point; what drove our teachers out of Oklahoma's teaching system," she added.

"It's been amazing," Thompson said. There have been "lots of prayers.

"If I was to win, for one year I would be traveling, and visiting schools, legislators, speaking at conferences, all kinds of different things," she said.

Thompson said she hopes she might win, "but I am not any more deserving than anyone else. The others are wonderful people.

"I hope to represent my students well and my school district well," she concluded.


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