BY: Kaci Carpenter
As the 2022-23 school year comes to an end, many schools in the area are naming their best and brightest through Teacher of the Year Awards.
Enid Monthly would like to recognize and introduce our readers to five of these amazing teachers who were named Teacher of the Year at their respective Districts, and two who were finalists: Sandra Lippard, Enid Public Schools; Lacye Russell, Oklahoma Bible Academy; Jim Ebel, Chisholm High School; Amy Barnes, Chisholm Middle School; and Kalli Mason, Chisholm Elementary School.
According to parents, coworkers and administration who nominated them, all five teachers go above and beyond for their students and show tremendous dedication to education.
Sandra Lippard – Enid Public Schools Teacher of the Year
Sandra Lippard is a pre-k instructor at Coolidge Elementary, and in her 18th year teaching.
According to Coolidge Principal Shae Mercer, “Sandi goes above and beyond for our youngest learners each and every day. She creates a safe and welcoming environment for her students and their parents in her classroom. It is amazing to watch how far her students come from the first day of school to the last because of her high expectations and dedication.”
Debra Loop, a staff member at Coolidge, shared more, “Mrs. Lippard is a fantastic choice for our Teacher of the Year at Coolidge because she works so hard to help each of her students feel seen and loved. She not only teaches the academic skills they need to succeed but also the social and emotional skills they need for life. She is also a wonderful friend to the teachers and staff and will offer help and encouragement in any way she can.”
Teaching is not only Lippard’s passion, but it’s in her blood. “I come from a long line of teachers, and I wanted to be a teacher since I was a child,” Lippard said. “My mother was a wonderful teacher and a great inspiration to me, and I longed to be a teacher just like her.”
After pursuing other passions, such as an in him daycare, she felt directly called to teaching, “I opened a home daycare so that I could stay home with my children. That was the push I needed to see that I was born to be a teacher. It is funny how God uses life’s events to get you back on the track he ordinally created you to be on. I loved being with all the children that I cared for in my home and after a couple of years, I knew I wanted to do more. I was ready to go back to college and get my teaching degree. It has been the best decision I have made,” she said.
“I love watching children of all ages grow in their learning.” Lippard has experience teaching students in pre-k through third grade.
“My greatest accomplishments as a teacher have been learning from my own two girls that struggle with dyslexia,” Lippard said. “I don’t have all the answers but walking alongside them as we try to figure it all out has helped me become a better teacher.”
“As a Pre-k teacher, I am honored that I get to be one of the first educators to help build a strong foundation that will help them be more successful for their Kindergarten year. Each teacher should be a building block for the next one because ‘teamwork makes the dream work’.”
Lacye Russell (OBA) – Oklahoma Middle Level Art Teacher of the Year
Lacye Russell started teaching at OBA in the fall of 2016. She teaches art for grades six through 12, as well as yearbook, photography, AP drawing and AP art and design. Before her time at OBA, Russell taught at Mid-South Community College and Oklahoma City Community College. She was a drawing and foundations instructor at both Oklahoma Christian University and the University of Central Oklahoma from 2007-2016.
Lacye knew she wanted to teach art from a very early age based on her time in the mall community of El Dorado, Arkansas. “For a small community of around 20,000 people, we had an amazing arts presence. My elementary school brought in artists-in-residence from our local arts center and working with those artists instilled a love for art early on. I also grew up taking both private art lessons and at the local art center, the South Arkansas Arts Center. By 4th grade, I knew that I wanted to be an art teacher. My goal never changed. Stephanie Busbea, Melinda Cameron-Godsey, Helene Lambert, Marie Bukowski, and Peter Jones are just a few of the art educators and art professors that had a major impact on my life. Honestly, I wanted to be just like them (and still do),” Russell remembered.
“Building relationships with students is one of my main reasons to teach,” Russell said. “All of my art students have a huge piece of my heart and are like an extension of my own family. I know not every student will leave OBA and become a professional artist or even study art collegiately, but my goal is for them to appreciate the arts.”
Last year Russell was named the Oklahoma Middle Level Art Educator of the Year. “I was very honored to receive the Middle School Art Educator of the Year for Oklahoma because I had to be nominated by another art educator,” Russell said. “For another art educator to acknowledge my passion for both my classroom and art students, and to recognize the grit and talent of my OBA students’ artwork is an incredible feeling. It is extremely humbling.”
OBA Headmaster Andrew Wilkins stated, “Lacye finds the educational sweet spot of challenging and supporting students to achieve beyond what they believe are capable. She can educate a student as far as God has gifted them.”
Kalli Mason – Chisholm Elementary Teacher of the Year and District Teacher of the Year
Kalli Mason attended Chisholm Public Schools from pre-K through 12th grade. After graduation, she went on to receive her associate degree from Northern Oklahoma College and then earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education at Northwestern Oklahoma State University.
She started her teaching career in Texas while her husband was finishing his master’s. She has been teaching at Chisholm Elementary for the past six years. For the first five years, Kalli was teaching fourth-grade science and social studies. This year she made a change to teach fourth and fifth-grade special education.
Mason stated, “This has been my favorite year in my career so far. It is an unbelievable honor to receive this award because I am surrounded by incredible educators who make a difference in our student’s lives every day. I am thankful that I am able to spend my days doing what God has put me on this earth to do.”
One parent described the impact Mason made for her son. “Kalli went above and beyond for my son when he was in fourth grade. He was diagnosed with Charcot Marie Tooth disease in June of 2019. We had no idea what school was going to look like, but she made it more than amazing for him that year.”
“He lost the privilege of doing things that every kid gets to do all the time, such as skating, jumping rope, running, jumping on trampolines, and bounce houses. Every time the kids in the school got to do one of those things she made sure to find a different activity or way to reward him, since he too had earned whatever the activity was.”
“Now that she is a special education teacher, she is touching the lives of so many students. She is touching the lives of children and truly leaving a lifelong impact.”
Amy Barnes – Chisholm Middle School Teacher of the Year
Amy Barnes is a middle school science teacher at Chisholm. During her five and a half years with the district, she has also coached volleyball, basketball and track.
Barnes started her teaching career a little later than most. After graduating from West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas with a degree in biology, she thought a career in the medical field was her future.
While in school, Barnes took a few education classes to have as an alternate option, which ended up being her true passion. She grew up in a household of educators and had several family members who also followed that path, and they always told her that she was meant to be a teacher. She just wasn’t sure at the time.
After a few years of working within several elementary and middle schools doing different jobs, she decided to spend nine years at home raising her children. Amy and her husband, Brett, have two children, Brylee and Brayson, who attend Chisholm.
Barnes stated, “I have loved every year of being in the classroom. The relationships I have built with students and the joy of seeing them grow in their education makes it all worth it.”
Barnes was nominated by three different teachers for Teacher of the Year. One nomination stated, “Amy is a go-getter inside and outside of the classroom. She manages to balance academics with athletics without fail. She goes above and beyond for her students.”
The nomination continued, “When it comes to academics, she takes the time to ensure that her students are prepared and are learning even when she is worn out from giving so much to her athletes. If a student is not performing to the best of his/her ability, she is always willing to pull him/her aside to chat about what it would take to be successful in his/her learning. She is patient and understanding with her students and is always willing to go above and beyond for each one of them.”
Jim Ebel – Chisholm High School Teacher of the Year
Jim Ebel grew up on a farm in North Dakota. After high school, he served in the Army for 12 years in medical services. He has many hobbies including boating, skiing, riding his motorcycle, jogging, and has a side hustle of restoring old vehicles. Mr. Ebel is married and has four children.
Teaching runs in Ebel’s family – his mom, grandma and aunts were all teachers. Mr. Ebel worked as a nurse in Minnesota for three years and found his way to St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Enid for another five years.
Mr. Ebel continued his education at Northwestern Oklahoma State University obtaining both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in history. Ebel taught history for ten years at Longfellow Junior High, one year at Waller Junior High and is completing his ninth year at Chisholm High School.
Co-worker Gary Hula said, “Mr. Ebel strives to make connections with each of his students. Whether it is talking about movies, cars, sports, or even Pokemon characters, Mr. Ebel goes the extra mile to get to know his students to establish a rapport to facilitate his teaching.”
Hula shared a situation illustrating Ebel’s ability to engage with students. “One of our students was having trouble with his car. This student obtained advice from Mr. Ebel, who has a wealth of knowledge about vehicles,” Hula said. “I overheard Mr. Ebel say to the student, ‘If that doesn’t work, give me a call, and I will come over and help you out’.”
“That is a reflection of Mr. Jim Ebel and the type of person and educator he is. Not only does he devote time to students within the classroom but also outside the walls of Chisholm as well.”
It goes without saying that all five of these teachers are more than deserving of these awards they have received. All five of them give their all to represent their schools with such great merit. Enid is extremely grateful for the commitment and devotion they show their students day in and day out. Teaching is definitely not the easiest career choice, but these teachers above prove that it is worth it just to be able to change the lives of their students.