Teachers at Eisenhower Middle School, Eisenhower Elementary School and Freedom Elementary School took top honors Tuesday during Lawton Public Schools’ Celebration!
The district’s annual effort to recognize excellence among its staff designated Teacher of the Year in three categories: Secondary, Elementary and First Class (meaning, first year of teaching). It’s the first year that Lawton Public Schools has honored a secondary and elementary Teacher of the Year, under a change that allows larger school districts in the state to submit more than one candidate for Oklahoma Teacher of the Year.
The audience in Eisenhower Middle School’s auditorium was loud and rowdy as Alisha Cortes, Eisenhower Middle School, was named Secondary Teacher of the Year, while Stephanie Overby, Eisenhower Elementary School, was recognized as Elementary Teacher of the Year. Lydia Clendenin, a first-year kindergarten teacher at Freedom Elementary on Fort Sill, was named First Class Teacher of the Year.
Clendenin said any one of the First Class candidates would have been a good choice for Teacher of the Year. A substitute for Lawton Public Schools before she became a certified teacher, she said she has worked in other schools across the district and knows the quality of teachers.
“Others deserve it, too,” she said of her honor.
Cortes has taught for Lawton Public Schools for 13 years, and has been an algebra and pre-algebra teacher for the last seven years. Co-workers describe her as tenacious; Cortes herself said her students soon realize they “just got a teacher who will not give up on them.”
“It’s a job I love and I get paid for it,” she said.
Overby, a kindergarten teacher who was LPS Rookie Teacher of the Year in 2020-2021, has taught for Lawton Public Schools for four years. Overby said her job as a teacher is to “make sure her students love school” and her colleagues said she was described by a parent as a “teacher by heart.” She also gave a shout-out to other teachers in the district.
“The kids are winning because of what you’re doing,” she said.
Other finalists in the elementary and secondary categories were Janet Hamilton, Whittier Elementary; Jessica Martin, Crosby Park Elementary; Kristina Morris, Pat Henry Elementary; Kayla Pettit, Life Ready Center; and Misty Hively, MacArthur High.
Celebration! also is about recognizing educators and support staff across the district, who all work toward the common goal of excellence in education. LPS Executive Director of Communications Lynn Cordes said the district wants to recognize a special group of individuals for their accomplishments and their service.
So for Celebration, that also means recognition for Champions for Children, LPS First Class teachers, and LPS Friends of Education.
Champions for Children highlighted 10 individuals in the district for their work on behalf of youth. They are Amanda Benke, Lawton High; Suki Bloomfield, Eugene D. McMahon Media Technology Center; Amanda Bordelon, Lincoln Elementary; Sheryl Dean, MacArthur High; Cidalia Fernandez-Flack, Woodland Hills Elementary; Nicole Hubbard, Freedom Elementary; Brittani Mahan, Life Ready Center; Dawna Schettler, MacArthur High; David Stanley, Lawton High; and Andrea S. Winstead, Shoemaker Education Center.
First Class nominees who were recognized by the district were Abbey Huston, Hugh Bish Elementary; Chelsea Born, Pioneer Park Elementary; Christina Chilcote, Almor West Elementary; Danny McKillip, Edison Elementary; Dawn Coss, Lincoln Elementary; Emily Poindexter, MacArthur High; Gerardo Bello, Life Ready Center; Jesseca McDonald, Eisenhower Middle School; Jessica Bushell, Carriage Hills Elementary; Kristi Giordano, Pat Henry Elementary; LaShanda Brewer, Cleveland Elementary; Lydia Clendenin, Freedom Elementary; Nicko Miranda, Eisenhower High; Raegan Medders, Crosby Park Elementary; Steven Haber, Lawton High; and Tamara Magofna, Eisenhower Elementary.
Bridget and Ervin Randle were recognized LPS Friends of Education, with district officials saying the couple “donates to everything” to help support LPS students.