Shawnee Public Schools 2019 Teacher of the Year Katie Thompson spoke at State Fair Park Tuesday, Sept. 17, where Deer Creek Middle School educator Jena Nelson was named the 2020 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year.

According to SPS Superintendent Dr. April Grace, though Thompson did not win, she is a talented educator who does great work in the district, Shawnee community and state.

“We are incredibly proud of Katie and how she represented not only the district, but our state, our profession and our community. Katie is a true educational champion and we are blessed to have her as our Shawnee Public Schools Teacher of the Year,” Grace said.

For the last six years Thompson has taught kindergarten at the Shawnee Early Childhood Center and was one of 12 finalists in the running to become state Teacher of the Year.

At the ceremony, Thompson thanked everyone for nominating her and explained her passion for education as well as the need for educators such as herself and the other finalists.

"Teachers like our 12 finalists who are innovative, qualified, bold and passionate are an endangered species in Oklahoma...," Thompson said. "Today I chose to wear the color of our red dirt as a symbol of my dedication to teaching (on) Oklahoma soil..."

The kindergarten teacher explained there is a serious teacher shortage in Oklahoma and she hopes going forward the state will work hard to better education for both students and teachers.

"I hope you will join me in supporting our schools and putting kids first and encouraging others to find their passion in teaching and to use their gift of teaching right here on red dirt with me," Thompson said.

Should she have won, Thompson would have left her classroom and students next year to give similar speeches throughout the state about the teacher shortage and bettering education in Oklahoma.

However, now she will stay with her students and continue shaping the young minds of kindergarteners.