Editor’s Note: Yukon Public Schools’ 11 “Teacher of the Year” finalists are being profiled in The Yukon Progress. Finalists were selected by peers to represent their school sites. A committee of past YPS winners and professional development site representatives will select Yukon’s Teacher of the Year with the winner announced at a March 26 banquet.
Lucus DeKinder has been chosen by his peers to be the 2019-20 Teacher of the Year for Yukon Middle School. DeKinder teaches seventh grade special education with a focus on mathematics and has been in his current position for three years.
Before teaching in Yukon, he was part of the Oklahoma “Troops to Teachers” program where he helped military members transition into civilian careers as teachers.
DeKinder’s prior teaching experience comes from a stint at Tulsa Public Schools where he taught social studies and coached football at Memorial High School.
Lucus is a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces where he was able to retire with 20 years of service between active duty and reserve time. He has deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan to his credit to go along with an outstanding service record.
His time serving in austere environments prepared him well for teaching in the 21st century and his desire for a challenge.
DeKinder wanted to work in special education because that is where he saw the greatest need for teachers in Oklahoma.
“During my time working at the State Department of Education, the two greatest needs were special education and math, and if I was going back it needed to be in one of those areas,” he said.
So happened, it would work out for him to teach both.
“Special education is such a difficult area to become certified in to begin with,” DeKinder said. “Then to work as a special education teacher; it is not for the faint of heart and burnout is common.”
So what does a middle school special education teacher do on a daily basis? The special education teacher wears many hats and there are several types of special education teachers.
In a district as large as Yukon, they are afforded teachers who can specialize in specific areas such as severe and profound disabilities, mild moderate disabilities, emotional disturbance, specific learning disabilities, ADD/ADHD, and autism spectrum. These teachers are required to complete books of paperwork for each student and teach them academics as well as social/behavioral skills.
“We don’t do it alone; we rely heavily on our paraprofessionals who work alongside us and really are the untold heroes of our profession,” DeKinder said.
DeKinder has had a long journey back to the teaching profession after leaving Oklahoma and his teaching career behind in 2006 to go back on active duty with the U.S. Air Force. His reasons for leaving were mainly to support a young family.
“I realized how difficult it was going to be to support a family on a teacher’s salary and knew the pay and benefits in the military were better, so I bit the bullet,” DeKinder said.
He emphasized that he is glad to be back in the classroom and feels the life experience added to his ability as a teacher.
DeKinder indicated that it was sad at the time to give up on one dream, but he found coming back to teaching that he appreciated the profession more.
“My heart is full when I teach because I work for my students and their future and our future as a nation,” he said.
DeKinder is a proud parent of three Yukon students, Isabelle who attends YMS; Dirk, who attends Lakeview Elementary; and Blair, who attends Skyview Elementary.
He is married to his wife Amy who is very active in volunteering and heads up the Helping Hands program at Skyview Elementary.