By Conrad Dudderar
A woman credited with transforming a new Yukon school has earned the district’s highest individual honor.
Stephanie Parker was named Yukon Public Schools’ 2023 Teacher of the Year during the annual TOY Event on April 28 at LifeChurch-Yukon, 1101 E Main.
Parker is the library media consultant at Redstone Intermediate, which Principal Tracy Sowinski said she has “transformed” since the school’s opening in 2020.
Parker had taught eight years at Lakeview, whose then-Principal Scott Hein did not want to lose her to the new school.
Parker interviewed with a selection committee to become Redstone’s librarian.
“We knew immediately that she was our person,” Principal Sowinski told the audience. “She has ‘opened’ Redstone.
“If you haven’t been to the Redstone library, people, you all need to come see it. It is amazing. It’s the beautiful.”
Sowinski told Parker, “You make me better and you’ve made Redstone the school that Redstone is. I don’t have enough to say. … We’re so, so, so proud!”
Parker said the Yukon school district “means the world to me” and she called YPS educators the “best of the best.”
“If it weren’t for the people that I have learned from and grown from, I could not be the teacher I am today,” she added. “I have to give a special ‘shout out’ to Scott Hein for hiring somebody with absolutely no experience and really shaping me into the educator that I am.
“I have to thank Tracy Sowinski for hiring somebody who had no idea how to run a library, giving me a brand new one and trusting me to do that job.”
She also thanked her family for their support and encouragement.
Parker beat out 11 other finalists to become Yukon’s Teacher of the Year:
Maegan Barnes of Surrey Hills Elementary, Kristi Boyanton of Parkland Elementary, Dusty Crabtree of Yukon High School, Lena Kofoed of Lakeview Intermediate, Mallory Kozan of Shedeck Elementary, Jennifer Moon of Skyview Elementary, Allison Scott-Coltharp of Myers Elemetary, Staci Sperry of Central Elementary, Donna Stamp of Yukon Middle School, Cory Stricker of Ranchwood Elementary, and Kaitlyn “KaSi” Wiggins of Independence Intermediate.
After being announced as the winner, Parker was joined in the celebration by her husband Kellan, daughter Paige and younger sister Denise Massey.
Parker has bachelor’s and master’s in education degrees from the University of Central Oklahoma.
The 12 YPS Teacher of the Year finalists were selected last fall by fellow educators as building site winners for the 2022-23 school year. They advanced to the district-wide competition.
YPS Superintendent Dr. Jason Simeroth described the group as “special” and “phenomenal” teachers.
The Teacher of the Year award demonstrates how these outstanding educators better the lives of their students and colleagues, he added.
“To be recognized by your peers, to be voted on by the people that you work with every day in your building – and they show the respect for you and your craft in what you do over the years – is just wonderful,” Simeroth said.
A YPS committee reviewed portfolios submitted by the 12 site representatives and interviewed finalists before selecting Parker as the district honoree.
The Yukon school district has had two Oklahoma state Teacher of the Year winners – Rebecca Oglesby in 2019 and Jane Kennedy in 1985.
Oglesby, of Ranchwood Elementary School, attended Thursday night’s Yukon TOY celebration.
Eight YPS teachers have been state finalists – Keri Smith in 2020, Kayleen Browning in 2009, Karen Evans in 2004, Julia Wilhite in 2002, Mac DeVilbiss in 1999, Kathy Davis in 1998, Linda Knox in 1996, and Susie Grimes in 1995.
“We have quite a history of people who have represented our district so well,” Simeroth pointed out.
Also recognized at Thursday night’s YPS Teacher of the Year Event were 2023 Rookie Teacher of the Year Hannah Hodge of YHS and Support Employee of the Year Star Brazell of Independence Intermediate.