Jena Nelson


OKLAHOMA CITY — To Oklahoma’s 2020 Teacher of the Year, education is more than a calling. It was the inspiration that saved her life.

Jena Nelson became the 65th state Teacher of the Year winner Tuesday at a ceremony at State Fair Park in Oklahoma City. The composition teacher from Deer Creek Middle School credited her own former teachers for giving her the guidance to overcome a childhood of poverty.

“As someone who came from less than humble beginnings, I am proud to represent every kid that has struggled and failed and has picked themselves up again to achieve their goals,” Nelson said. “I am the proud product of every single teacher that believed in me and pushed me to be more than my circumstances.”

One of those educators was Stephen Smallwood, Nelson’s drama teacher at Broken Bow High School and the 1996 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year.

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