Honors abound at school year’s last YPS board meeting

Yanda scholarship winners recognized; YMS choir members perform

Four members of the Yukon High School Class of 2023 accept the Anton V. Memorial Scholarship from the Yukon Professional Educators Association: From left, YPEA President Robert Whetzel, Graysen Hoke, Kellan Orr, Emily Schneider, and Shanna Varghese. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)

By Conrad Dudderar
Staff Writer

An alliance of Yukon’s educators has bestowed a prestigious scholarship on four college-bound members of Yukon High School’s Class of 2023.

Graduating seniors Graysen Hoke, Kellan Orr, Emily Schneider, and Shanna Varghese are recipients of the Anton V. Yanda Memorial Scholarship.

These four top students were honored during the May 1st Yukon Public Schools’ Board of Education meeting – the last meeting of the 2022-23 school year.

The Yukon Professional Educators Association (YPEA) selects Yanda scholarship winners annually based on their academic prowess and extracurricular activities.

The presentation was made by YPEA President Robert Whetzel, a seventh-grade science teacher at Yukon Middle School.

“The real praise goes to the students themselves,” Whetzel said. “They put in the effort and hard work, so we like to recognize as many as we can with the Anton Yanda Scholarship for high school seniors who are going off to college.

“All of them have done such great things throughout their school career.”

The Anton V. Yanda Memorial Scholarship is named in honor of the 1967 YHS graduate and distinguished Yukon civic leader who was an advocate for teachers.

A Yukon funeral home director and owner, Yanda was named H.B. Frank Citizen of the Year for 2005. He was a member of the YPS Board of Education when he passed away.

During one tough contract negotiation between YPS administrators and the YPEA, Yanda pushed for Yukon’s teachers to receive even higher pay than they requested.

Yanda also served on the Yukon City Council, YPS Foundation for Excellence Board, Yukon Chamber of Commerce Board, Yukon Alumni Association Board, Compassionate Hands’ Board, among other civic service.

He helped start Compassionate Hands, a non-profit service ministry; and helped establish its Care-A-Van transportation program.

Yukon Middle School choir students Molly Lebsack, Avery Hogland and Carson Bowen sing the “Star Spangled Banner” at the start of the May 1st Yukon Public Schools’ Board of Education meeting. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)


Three Yukon Middle School choir students sang the Star-Spangled Banner to help kick off the May 1st YPS Board meeting.

Seventh grader Molly Lebsack, eighth grader Avery Hogland and eighth grader Carson Bowen are members of the Oklahoma Junior High All-State Chorus.

“As you heard, there’s a lot of talent there – and most of it is natural,” YMS choir director Tami Massey told the audience.

Lebsack, Hogland and Bowen were among 2,044 students across Oklahoma who auditioned before being selected for the all-state choir.

YPS Assistant Superintendent Desarae Witmer earns a hug from YPS Superintendent Dr. Jason Simeroth after she was named the District 14 Assistant Superintendent / Central Office Administrator of the Year by the Oklahoma Association of School Administrators. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)


Several other YPS honorees were introduced during May’s monthly school board meeting.

  • Assistant Superintendent of the Year: YPS Assistant Superintendent Desarae Witmer was selected as the 2023 Oklahoma Association of School Administrators (OASA) District 14 “Assistant Superintendent / Central Office Administrator of the Year.” Calling Witmer a “friend and colleague,” YPS Superintendent Dr. Jason Simeroth said the district is “really, really fortunate” and blessed to have her.
  • Outstanding Social Studies Teacher: YMS seventh grade geography teacher Josh Hardie earned the Oklahoma Historical Society’s William D. Pennington Award as the “2022 Outstanding Oklahoma Social Studies Teacher.” Hardie was selected among nominees who demonstrate effective teaching by any measure of excellence. He was the only Oklahoma award winner, YMS Principal Clay McDonald pointed out.
  • National Athletic Trainer of the Year: Leander Walker, the Yukon school district’s head athletic trainer, was named the District 5 Athletic Trainer of the Year. Walker was instrumental in getting the state Legislature in 2019 to pass Riley’s Rule, a law that ensures all Oklahoma schools have medical emergency plans for sites that host athletic events.