In June kindergarten teacher Katie Thompson became one of 12 educators in the running to be Oklahoma's 2020 Teacher of the Year and since then she has undergone interviews, completed a video and started the new school year.
For the last six years, Thompson has taught kindergarten at the Shawnee Early Childhood Center and she explained she and the other finalists have competed their judgement requirements.
"I had to create a video of myself teaching, people talking about me...to show the judges...they read my portfolio, watched my video and I had to (do) a full day of interviews...," Thompson said. "So the judging part is over and all of us have been scored so now I just wait to see who wins."
The kindergarten teacher explained on September 17, at the Oklahoma State Fair, she and the other finalists will find out who will be the state's 2020 Teach of the Year.
Thompson won the title of Shawnee's 2019 Teacher of the Year at the 45th Annual Teacher of the Year Banquet in April.
Thompson said since winning the Shawnee title and becoming a state finalist, people in the district and education community have congratulated her on her success.
"It's been neat because as a teacher you never really get that...pat on the back. No one really notices you and says you're doing a good job," Thompson said. "So I feel it's like I'm getting six years worth of 'way to gos,' all at the same time which is great and I wish everyone could experience it..."
Should she win the title, Thompson said, she'd take a break from the classroom next school year and tour Oklahoma informing others on her plan to better education in the state.
"I'd be released from my school contract for a year and I would travel around the state and...I would take my platform, which is the teacher shortage, something I want to improve on here," Thompson said. "I'd visit all the schools...and just lots of speaking engagements...,"
Thompson said she'd meet lawmakers and corporations involved with education as well as sit on various committees.
She explained if she won she would be happy to invoke change, but sad to leave her students and classroom.
"It's bittersweet because this is my passion, but it's also exciting because it's just another way to influence education. To be able to speak with educators and be able to speak with people who have power in this state..." Thompson said.
Though she may leave, Thompson is happy to be with her students this year and said she will continue to enjoy shaping their minds.
"I think I'm going to just be continuing what I always do throughout the year in kindergarten and I think I'd be preparing to leave my class home with the next person...," Thompson said.
Thompson said she and her fellow finalists have wondered what exactly the judges are looking for and she hopes it's to give a voice to those in early childhood education.
"I would be looking for someone who can relate to our new teachers coming in, who can speak with our college students...and I think early childhood now is our time...We have a really good strength going on and I don't want to lose that. I want to feed that strength while we still have it," Thompson said.
The kindergarten teacher is only one of two early childhood educators among the finalists and she's hopeful for the future.