By Alyssa Sperrazza
Ranchwood Elementary’s own Batman, art teacher Rebecca Oglesby, was named the 2019 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year Tuesday at the State Fair as peers and education officials looked on.
Nominated by her peers, Oglesby was awarded the honor as her fellow Ranchwood teachers and students cheered her on in their classes.
“It’s been kind of a whirlwind of emotion,” Oglesby said, following a school-wide assembly celebration Thursday, where teachers and students dressed in their best Batman gear, Oglesby’s favorite superhero.
“All my family was [at the fair] and a couple of teachers from [Ranchwood] got to come with our principle, my third grade teacher showed up, the superintendent was there… there was just a lot of support there.”
Oglesby said her third grade teacher heard about her nomination and showed up in support, bringing some Batman gear along with him.
“I had written about him in my portfolio and I had sent that to him and said, ‘you know, you’re the reason I’m a teacher,’ and so he showed up at the school last Friday and he brought me a little batman gift, then he was there [at the ceremony],” Oglesby said. “It was special.”
Oglesby, or Ranchwood’s Batman as some have begun to call her, walked down the halls towards her art classroom, passing a multitude of batman drawings and portraits of her notes of encouragement lining the hallway.
“The kids are always drawing me Batman photos and I keep them in a binder, but I think I’m going to need another one,” she said laughing.
The whole school was buzzing with excitement, kids approached her for hugs and some brought more Batman drawings for her collection. The hallways full of drawings are a fitting celebration for the school’s art teacher, who said she wants to keep encouraging the importance of art, just like she was taught.
“My dad was an artist,” Oglesby said. “We’d travel the country doing lots of art shows and stuff so I’ve always liked art and had an affinity for it and I feel like this is the perfect job. It’s the fun part of school every day.”
Kristin Kilpatrick-Lipe, principal at Ranchwood Elementary, said Oglesby was nominated by her peers but this is a first for Ranchwood, having one of their own win Oklahoma Teacher of the Year.
“We’ve never had one go to the state level before,” Lipe said, “I was there… and five of our faculty members went along with me to celebrate her, whether she won or not… We were just thrilled to be there to experience it with her. She’s an amazing young lady and a teacher at heart.”
Oglesby’s love of art has encouraged other Ranchwood teachers to incorporate the subject into their core curriculum, showing students that art can be found anywhere.
“Last week we did color mixing so instead of just talking about color, we do it with math,” Oglesby explained. “We did missing variables so I had a mystery color which is when you hide the coloring in baking soda so they can’t see what it is and so you pour it in and it creates a new color. So we incorporated math with missing variables, we incorporated science with the scientific method, so I always try to bring in the core subjects. I think they need to see art is everywhere because they like art, and if they see art can be in math, art can be in science, then it can up their motivation to learn those subjects as well.”
For third grader and art lover Karli Holmes, Oglesby makes art fun and something she wants to do when she grows up.
“There’s these oil pastels that I like to do and draw a big hill and some snowman,” Holmes explained, eyes lighting up mentioning artists like Vincent Van Gogh, who “likes to do some swirls and he has a little picture of himself that he painted, and he’s like really good!”
Holmes said she likes painting with Oglesby. Holmes plans on being a drawer when she grows up and said she looks forward to art class every week.
Oglesby will begin her Teacher of the Year tour this summer, going across the state to talk with teachers about their needs and the improvements that can be made to improve education in Oklahoma.
The teacher strikes in April made national headlines and Oglesby said she hopes to keep that momentum going and bring more optimism into schools, knowing that progress has been made but there’s more to be done.
“There’s been a lot of discouragement [this past] year but some really positive good changes out of what happened,” Oglesby said. “I think just keeping that momentum going and keeping positive morale up are the two things that really need to be focused on and looked at. I’m a pretty optimistic person and I strive to see the best and I see some really good things coming, some changes in education and even just public awareness of what we’ve been lacking… I just want to keep that momentum building and rolling.”
When asked how she feels about being the teacher’s Batman, Oglesby joked, “no pressure, right?”
During her time as 2019 Teacher of the Year, Oglesby said she did has a few things she wants to accomplish before passing the baton next fall.
“I think we need to be investing more in our kids and I think that they’re worth it and it’s worth the investment and I think that’s coming,” Oglesby said. “The teachers got a raise but I think it’s time to invest in our students. So I’d love to see per-pupil expenditure go up. I also would love to see maybe a shift in the perspective of what teachers are and what they do. I think that maybe we’re not always seen as professionals, or not necessarily given the recognition that our profession deserves.”
Oglesby said she’d also love to see more STEM incorporated in schools, especially at a younger age.
“I think that when you start that young, that cultivates something at students desire to go into those professions and I think that’s where our state is moving and I think that’s where our nation’s moving,” Oglesby said. “And of course I want to advocate for the arts a little bit. There’s still some schools that don’t have art in their elementary schools and just the difference it makes in kids being able to come and do that… it’s such a creative outlet and I think kids need that.”
With eight years of teaching under her belt, Oglesby is furthering her own education, working on a master’s degree in education leadership. She hopes to eventually work as an assistant principal or principal in order to widen her sphere of influence and bring more positive change to education as a whole.
Oglesby was awarded $5,000, with an additional $5,000 given to Superintendent Jason Simeroth to go towards Ranchwood Elementary. Oglesby also received a custom Thunder jersey and a key to her Teacher of the Year car which she will use as she travels across the state. It’s not the Batmobile, but Oglesby said she’s excited nonetheless.