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Tulsa Public Schools Announces 2020-2021 Teacher of the Year

This afternoon, Tulsa Public Schools announced the district’s 2020-2021 Teacher of the Year. Superintendent Deborah A. Gist surprised Monroe Demonstration Academy teacher Laura Grisham at her school to name her as the 2020-2021 Tulsa Public Schools Teacher of the Year. TCTA President Shawna Mott-Wright, Monroe Interim Principal Rob Kaiser, 2019 Teacher of the Year Nicole Powell, and Grisham’s parents also attended the surprise announcement.

“Although this is not our traditional way to celebrate our Teacher of the Year, we are thrilled for Laura to represent our district as the 2020-2021 Teacher of the Year,” said Gist. “Being a teacher is an extraordinarily challenging job, especially in a pandemic, but it is also profoundly rewarding. Great teachers are not only the heart of excellent schools; they are the foundation from which our communities are able to grow and thrive.”

Four Teacher of the Year finalists were surprised at their homes by their school leader, board member, or other team members.

The five finalists were:

  • Veronica Diaz-Rodriguez, Dual Language Academy;
  • Laura Grisham, Monroe Demonstration Academy;
  • Sarah Ivie, Eliot Elementary;
  • Akela Leach, Lanier Elementary; and
  • Ashley Powell, Owen Elementary.

Gist said: “These five educators have demonstrated exemplary instructional practice, the ability to form meaningful and life-changing relationships with their students, and a relentless focus on ensuring that every child has the tools and supports that he or she needs to be successful. They will go above and beyond to serve our students as we begin the new school year in distance learning.” 

“My heroes have always been teachers,” said TCTA President Shawna Mott-Wright. “When you teach a child, you change the world. We have the most amazing teachers who are making such a difference in the lives of our children. This is an opportunity to recognize and celebrate those dedicated educators, and we are so proud of Laura and all of the finalists.” 

After a community-wide nomination process in the fall, schools throughout the district named site-level Teachers of the Year in the winter of 2019. These site-level winners each created a portfolio of work to be reviewed by a committee that included Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association President Shawna Mott-Wright, as well as school and district leaders. The five finalists were selected following a portfolio review and an interview with the committee.

The district presented Grisham with a $1,000 award and each finalist with a $500 award sponsored by the Foundation for Tulsa Schools.

Watch the announcement here, check out Laura's surprise on Facebook, and view photos of all the finalists here.