Spencer educator named top OKC district teacher
Oklahoma City Public Schools' top teacher dropped out of high school because of illness. Christina Kirk, though, went on to earn a GED, a bachelor's and a law degree.
On Thursday night, Kirk, who teaches English language arts and a college preparation course to eighth-graders at Rogers Middle School in Spencer, added Teacher of the Year for the 2018-19 school year to her impressive resume.
Gold streamers fell on Kirk, 41, a lawyer who entered the teaching profession three years ago by way of emergency certification following a divorce.
"It's always been something that I've wanted to do," she said of teaching. "You kind of change your whole life and you want to do something different. I said it's time for me to do what I want to do."
Kirk, who will teach at Star Spencer High School in the coming year, was among those honored for outstanding achievement during the annual Stars of Education event sponsored by The Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools.
About 400 people attended the event at Oklahoma City’s historic Farmers Public Market.
"My guiding life principle is to be the person I needed when I was growing up," said Kirk, who serves as a municipal judge in Langston and Coyle. "My greatest contribution is the relationship I cultivate with each student."
Kirk was selected from eight other finalists and received a $1,500 cash award from the foundation. She will represent the district in the state Teacher of the Year competition.
Foundation President and CEO Mary Melón said Kirk's passion is unmatched.
"The district is full of amazing educators who give their all for students, but Christina Kirk stands out," Melón said. "Students see how much she valued her own education, and they feel how much she cares about them."
The first runner-up was Molly Jaynes, a third-grade teacher from Cesar Chavez Elementary, and the second runner-up was Julio Fajardo, who teaches sixth-grade at Capitol Hill Elementary, which is being converted into a middle school in the coming year as part of the district restructuring plan that will result in Kirk's relocation.
That plan, which includes the closure and consolidation of multiple schools, was a topic of discussion for Superintendent Sean McDaniel, who is nearing the end of his first year with the district.
McDaniel said the district has more than 100 project teams working to ensure that schools — several of which will be reconfigured to accommodate different grade levels and programs — will be ready for the first day of school on Aug. 12.
"I am excited to report that of right now we are 85% staffed," he said.
Also recognized for excellence were top principals, volunteers, support staff members and community partners.
Pierce Elementary School Principal Paula Pluess and Northwest Classen High School Principal Jahree Herzer received outstanding principal awards, while support staff members Mayra Cisneros (Linwood Elementary), Nguyet Nguyen (Britton Elementary) and Sherri Han (Putnam Heights Elementary) were recognized for playing significant roles at their schools.
Samantha Ballard (Linwood Elementary), Larry Long (Britton Elementary) and Michael Mackey (Webster Middle School) were recognized as valuable volunteers.
The event also featured a special video presentation and a lifetime service award for Cliff Hudson, former chairman of the foundation's board.
Other Teacher of the Year finalists were Katie Alsup, Belle Isle Enterprise Middle School, seventh grade geography; Tara Bassett, Oklahoma Centennial Mid-High, English; Sally Berry, Johnson Elementary, sixth grade; Debra Cox, Buchanan Elementary, special education; Amanda Girdler, Kaiser Elementary, sixth grade; Monica Green-Griffin, Hillcrest Elementary, reading remedial specialist.