OKLAHOMA CITY — The 2018 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year is Donna Gradel from Broken Arrow Public Schools.
Gradel, a science teacher for the past 21 years at Broken Arrow High School, has been an educator for 29 years.
She teaches environmental science for 10th through 12th grades.
The teacher of the year was announced Tuesday at the Oklahoma State Fair in Oklahoma City.
“Teaching is one of the only professions that impacts, directly or indirectly, every person on Earth,” Gradel said. “I am proud to be a teacher. I am honored to be the Oklahoma 2018 Teacher of the Year.”
Gradel will remain in her classroom for the rest of the school year.
Beginning July 1, 2018, she will assume full-time Teacher of the Year duties. Those duties include speaking engagements and serving as Oklahoma’s teacher ambassador, encouraging others to enter and remain in the profession.
Gradel was asked about why she chose to stay in Oklahoma, which is experiencing a teacher shortage in part due to low pay.
“I just love Oklahoma and the people here,” she said. “The students are just fabulous.”
Broken Arrow Public Schools Superintendent Janet Dunlop attended the ceremony.
“I have been doing this for 26 years, and she is so much different than what we would consider a stereotypical teacher in that she comes at education in a totally different way,” Dunlop said. “She believes the purpose of education is problem solving, so that is exactly how she teaches. She presents problems to her kids.”
Gradel, 58, was among 12 finalists for the post.
“I thought I understood what an honor it would be to be the Oklahoma teacher of the year and then I met the other 11 finalists,” Gradel said. “And they are such remarkable teachers. They have such a passion for learning and their students.”
All finalists were teachers of the year in 2016-17 for their local school districts.
The 12 finalists were selected after their applications were reviewed by a panel comprising educators, business and nonprofit leaders, and legislators.
State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said Gradel’s commitment to teaching has translated into positive change beyond the Broken Arrow district.
Gradel is the third Broken Arrow teacher to be honored since the award started in 1955. She joins Linda Kay Webb, 1995 Teacher of the Year, and Kay Long, 1998 Teacher of the Year.