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Tulsa Public Schools announces five finalists for 2018 Teacher of the Year

Published 2/15/2018




Tulsa Public Schools


Emma Garrett Nelson


Superintendent Deborah A. Gist surprised five teachers at their schools on Thursday, Feb. 15, to congratulate each for being named a finalist for the Tulsa Public Schools 2018 Teacher of the Year.

"Being a teacher is an extraordinarily challenging job, but it is also profoundly rewarding. Great teachers are not only the heart of excellent schools; they are the foundation from which our communities are able to grow and thrive," said Gist. "These five educators have demonstrated exemplary instructional practice, the ability to form meaningful and life-changing relationships with their students, and a relentless focus on ensuring that every child has the tools and supports that he or she needs to be successful."

The five finalists are:

  • Patricia Curtis-Dunbar, third grade teacher at Celia Clinton Elementary School
  • Emily Durbin, U.S. and AP U.S. history teacher at Hale High School
  • Tara Gordon, gifted and talented teacher at Thoreau Demonstration Academy
  • Elizabeth Noordyke, math teacher at McLain Jr. High School
  • Shaniqua Ray, math teacher at Monroe Demonstration Academy

After a community-wide nomination process in the fall, schools throughout the district named site-level Teachers of the Year in December 2017. These site-level winners each created a portfolio of work to be reviewed by a committee that included 2017 Teacher of the Year Elizabeth Steinocher and Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association Vice President Shawna Mott-Wright, as well as school and district leaders. The five finalists were selected following a portfolio review and an interview with the committee.

The district's 2018 Teacher of the Year will be announced in spring 2018.

Patricia Curtis-Dunbar has 13 years of teaching experience, ranging from alternative high school to middle school to kindergarten with various grades in between. She has been at Celia Clinton Elementary School for seven years and is currently teaching third grade. As a team leader, she enjoys mentoring young teachers and serves as the site technology coordinator. She hopes to add special education and ELD certifications to her credentials within the next year. Curtis-Dunbar received her bachelor's degree from Oklahoma State University and a juris doctorate from the University of Tulsa.

Emily Durbin is a graduate of Tulsa Public Schools and is in her fourth year teaching U.S. History and AP U.S. History at Nathan Hale High School. Durbin's journey to teaching started when she was a student at MacArthur Elementary. Her teachers inspired her to become an educator, especially her first and fourth grade teacher, Billie Bates. Durbin has created partnerships with nearby neighborhood associations to foster community support of Nathan Hale and organized school-wide initiatives to connect students with the community, including Hale's mock election. Durbin is a graduate of Oklahoma State University.

Tara Gordon started her 17 year teaching career in at Tulsa Public Schools after graduating from the University of Tulsa. She is a also proud Tulsa Public Schools graduate. Gordon previously served as lead teacher at Mayo Demonstration School where she developed curriculum, organized overnight field studies and led school-wide professional development. Gordon then moved to Thoreau where she began teaching ELA, before moving into gifted education. The projects and daily activities in Mrs. Gordon's G&T classroom push students to engage with each other, communicate and have fun. Gordon lives in Tulsa with her husband and 2 children.

Elizabeth Noordyke is in her fourth year of teaching math at McLain Junior and Senior High School. Noordyke came to Tulsa Public Schools through Teach for America and stayed after her two year commitment ended. She has been instrumental in bringing Teach to One: Math to McLain and has seen significant gains in student achievement with the program. Noordyke is also a member of McLain's instructional leadership team and will bring Model United Nations to McLain in conjunction with the social studies department. She graduated from Oklahoma State University, majoring in sociology and a minor in educational psychology.

Shaniqua Ray teaches math at Monroe Demonstration Academy. Her teaching career started internationally in Honduras where she taught math and English at a bilingual school. Her love for math began in high school where she had a math teacher that saw something in her that she did not see in herself. Ray's passion for youth began long before her teaching career. In 2012, she co-founded a tutoring and mentor program, Give Em' Hope, that commits to helping youth overcome barriers to academic success. Ray graduated from the University of Arkansas, and holds a master's degree from the University of Phoenix and a specialist degree from Arkansas State University.





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