The State Department of Education revealed Tuesday that Shawnee kindergarten teacher Katie Thompson is one of 12 educators in the running for Oklahoma's 2020 Teacher of the Year .
For the last six years, Thompson has taught kindergarten at the Shawnee Early Childhood Center and she explained she was very happy and honored to be nominated.
"It feels very overwhelming but in all the best ways. It's been very exciting, very humbling. I'm quite thrilled," Thompson said Tuesday.
Thompson won the title of Shawnee's 2019 Teacher of the Year at the 45th Annual Teacher of the Year Banquet in April.
"I thought winning Shawnee Teacher of the Year was going to be the highlight of my career there so it was quite a shock to know I was continuing on and I was a finalist," Thompson said. "To win Oklahoma Teacher of the Year it just seems like one of those things that can feel impossible, but at this point, anything is possible," Thompson said.
Shawnee Superintendent Dr. April Grace said Thompson has been a real asset to Shawnee Public Schools and she's happy the educator was selected.
"Katie is a phenomenal teacher who forms strong relationships with her students and their families. We are proud that she is representing our district," Grace said.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister introduced the 12 finalists Tuesday morning and explained those nominated represent the best of the best in education.
“These 12 individuals represent the highest standard of education in our state and are exceptional examples of the tremendous impact one person can make in the lives of kids,” said Hofmeister. “Their use of innovative instructional strategies and their demonstrated ability to forge meaningful relationships with students and families demonstrate their commitment to the success of every child in their classroom. We are proud of their success, and they are deserving of this important honor.”
For Thompson, it's amazing to be considered one of the best educators in the state and almost unreal, she said.
"It is surreal to hear those words (from Hofmeister) and to think that. I don't feel anymore deserving than anybody els, but it's very special to me," Thompson said.
If she is named State Teacher of the Year, Thompson will assume full-time Teacher of the Year responsibilities beginning July 1, 2020. These responsibilities will include public speaking, serving as the state's teacher ambassador and encouraging others to enter or remain in the profession.
Should she win the title, Thompson said she will use her influence to address issues in education that are very important to her.
"What's really heavy on my heart currently is the teacher shortage across the state. It's very personal to me," Thompson said. "A lot of my co-workers have left the state, left the profession or retired early so I really feel like that's an issue that's a foundation issue that's holding us back from moving forward in education in our state."
The 2020 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year will be named Sept. 17 in a ceremony at State Fair Park in Oklahoma City.