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OKC Teacher of the Year candidates featured

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This week marks the first anniversary of Oklahoma’s teacher walkout. Many are pontificating about what happened, why it happened and if the resulting teacher pay increase did enough to restore the public’s faith in our legislative branch. It’s good to keep these conversations going and important to realize this was just the first step in improving funding for public education.

Since much of the discussion across the state focuses on teacher pay, it’s a great time to share stories about some of the extraordinary teachers in Oklahoma City Public Schools. This time of year marks a time when Oklahoma City Public Schools recognizes all teachers. Each school building selects a Teacher of the Year and they are narrowed to nine finalists who vie for district teacher of the year. All will be recognized at The Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools Stars of Education event on May 9, where the Teacher of the Year will be announced.

Reading the portfolios is one of the most inspiring experiences of the year for staff at the foundation. Learning the struggles and achievements of our teachers reminds us of our mission and of the value teachers bring to our students every day.

One of our finalists, Julio Fajardo, works at Capitol Hill Elementary School and received emergency certification four years ago. He grew up in the inner city and spent his youth involved in drug and gang activity. He credits two teachers for influencing his life and pulling him out of a world that he believes would have ruined his life.

He holds his students to the same standards his teachers set for him. Accountability, positive choices, respect for self and others are taught side by side the instructional rigor he instills. Another of our finalists, Christina Kirk, teaches at Rogers Middle School in Spencer. After obtaining her GED, she went on to earn a bachelor's degree, law degree and doctorate. In addition to teaching, she serves as a municipal judge in Langston and Coyle and spends time speaking to youth across the metro area. Among many other things, she believes a core issue in teaching is helping kids learn to love reading.

These are just two of thousands of stories about Oklahoma City Public Schools teachers and prove the old saying that "those who can do, and those who can’t, teach," should be reevaluated.

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