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NEWS • TIP SHEET



Tip Sheet for the week including 3/7/2016

 

2016 Teacher of the Year finalists announced

Updated 3/9/2016

Date/Time

3/8/2016 , to

Location

Tulsa Public Schools


Contact

Chris Payne

918-746-6898
paynech@tulsaschools.org

Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Deborah A. Gist surprised 5 teachers at their schools on Tuesday, March 8, to congratulate each for being named a finalist for the district's 2016 Teacher of the Year.

The finalists are:

  • Robert Kaiser, PE teacher at Cooper Elementary;
  • Elyse Smith, math teacher at Mayo Demonstration School;
  • Kristina Vassella, drama teacher at Hale High School;
  • Elizabeth Wattoff, math teacher at Will Rogers College Junior High; and
  • Merrie Wolf, math teacher at Memorial High School.

"I am so pleased to recognize these extraordinary team members for their commitment to personal and professional excellence," Gist said. "Teachers do such important work to prepare our students for success, and all of them deserve to be celebrated and honored. We are fortunate to have these dedicated men and women on our team."


Kerri Biggs
full size photo

Kaiser is in his third year teaching, all with TPS. He began as a 4th grade teacher at Cooper before becoming the PE teacher this school year. Kaiser's journey to teaching began as a freshman in high school where two teachers pushed him to become the best person and student he could be. In college he found a passion working with elementary students during his basketball team's visits to local schools to read to kindergarten-6th grade students. Kaiser has started many groups at Cooper, including the Amazing Athletes program this year which gained support for and showed off the skills of students with multiple disabilities. He has a bachelor's degree from Lynchburg College and is working on a master's from the University of Oklahoma.


Kerri Biggs
full size photo

Smith has nine years' experience in education, almost exclusively with TPS. Having taught previously at Kendall-Whittier and Disney, she has been at Mayo since 2013. School was always a No. 1 priority for Smith. As a child, she loved to play teacher or librarian and setting up a pretend classroom and library (where she even had a check-out system for her brother). Initially wanting to study political science or psychology in college, teaching was constant pull in her mind. Lacking consistency at home growing up, Smith realized how important providing a calm, structured and safe learning environment is for students. Despite struggling in math growing up, she chose to specialize in math thanks to a college professor who helped her understand from where true math instruction comes. Smith earned her bachelor's from Oklahoma State University.


Kerri Biggs
full size photo

Vassella has been at Hale for four years and teaching drama and theater since 1986. Vassella's interest in drama started in seventh grade when she asked a counselor for an open class to take instead of study hall. To her, theater was magic, and after the applause following her first performance, she knew theater would be a part of her life forever. Vassella says she wants her students to feel that same magic and to find their own passion through all theater arts -- not just acting but set design or costuming. Teaching drama is not just about learning lines and creating a character to her, it's also about speaking with confidence and being self-aware -- both skills that translate well to adult life. Former students often visit to tell Vassella how she changed their lives. She earned her bachelor's from OU.


Kerri Biggs
full size photo

Wattoff has 13 years' teaching experience, all with TPS. Wattoff wanted to be a teacher for as long as she can remember. As the daughter of a science teacher, Wattoff thought teaching had to be a cool job. Her desire advanced thanks to a wonderful first grade teacher, who she later caught up with and introduced her to the idea of teaching special education. Teaching children with disabilities sounded like a challenging, but rewarding, endeavor. Although she began her career as a special ed teacher, a supportive principal (current Lead Secondary ILD Oliver Wallace) challenged her to become certified in math. Wattoff's experiences teaching math have been equally fulfilling to her. Wattoff earned her bachelor's at Oral Roberts University and is working on a master's at OU.


Kerri Biggs
full size photo

Wolf started with TPS in 1997 and has 20 years teaching experience. Multiple factors led to Wolf becoming a teacher 22 years after high school. Wolf went to work after high school in the optical manufacturing industry. There she started training new coworkers. Later, Wolf went into a full-time ministry in Indiana and she became the sole teacher for six children in first to eighth grades. After a return to optical manufacturing, Wolf decided to go to college for ophthalmology where she also tutored other students in math. All these teaching and training experiences were fulfilling accomplishments for her. Experiencing her own struggles in college and seeing those of her son who didn't have caring teachers, Wolf decided to become a teacher. She wanted to be a difference-maker for students and someone they knew cared for them. Wolf earned her bachelor's and master's from Northeastern State University.


The selection committee congratulates each of the five for the difference they make in the lives TPS students, families, employees and others each day. The winner will be announced in April, along with the Support Employee of the Year.

 


 

TPS announces finalists for Support Employee of the Year

Updated

Date/Time

3/7/2016 , to

Location

Tulsa Public Schools


Contact

Chris Payne

918-746-6898
paynech@tulsaschools.org

Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Deborah A. Gist surprised five employees at their work sites Monday, March 7, to congratulate each for being named a finalist for the district's 2016 Support Employee of the Year.

They are:

  • Kerri Biggs, paraprofessional at Thoreau Demonstration Academy;
  • Vicki Campbell, principal's secretary for special facilities;
  • Lela Clayton, parent involvement facilitator at Remington Elementary;
  • Gerald Cook, preventative maintenance craftsperson for the facilities department; and
  • Melinda Taylor, teacher assistant at Lindbergh Elementary.

"I am so pleased to recognize these extraordinary team members for their commitment to personal and professional excellence," Gist said. "Our Support Employee of the Year finalists are committed to exceptional service to our teachers, families, and schools. We are fortunate to have these dedicated men and women on our team."


Kerri Biggs
full size photo

Biggs has been at Thoreau since 2008. Kerri has always worked at Thoreau. She believes students don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care and she lives this philosophy. Anytime she goes on a trip, each student in her tribe and Micro Society business at Thoreau receives souvenirs. Biggs oversees the Stuff It business for Thoreau's Micro Society, spends much of her time tutoring special ed students, learned Spanish to better communicate with some students and their families and once per week has the Tulsa Humane Society come in to show off an animal and explain responsible pet ownership. Being somewhat of an introvert herself, Biggs is always looking for ways to support those students who are quiet and shy.


Kerri Biggs
full size photo

Clayton has is a 26-year employee at Remington. She works closely with Remington's Partners in Education to create a school culture that fosters positive relationships and builds a strong support system. Organizing such events as the Back to School Bash, Family Day of Thanks Giving dinner, Santa Shop, and monthly teacher wish lists, Clayton works with the community for months in advance to hold all of these events at no cost to families and teachers. This year for example, thanks to Clayton Remington was able to serve around 400 people a traditional Thanksgiving meal at no cost while providing math and literacy engagement tools for parents to help their children. She also coordinates numerous other educational and supportive programs for Remington students and families.


Kerri Biggs
full size photo

Campbellbegan her career as a paraprofessional working in a classroom for emotionally disturbed students and moved into a secretarial position in 2010. Campbell frequently takes initiative to complete others' tasks when they are busy. Campbell started the food pantry program and enhanced the lunch program at Phoenix Rising, a TPS alternative school. She helps with site budget questions, initiates and expedites materials from warehouse and other vendors and works to solve any problem or complaint brought to her. Campbell is a proactive organizer and makes sure each teacher at the sites she covers has what they need. Outside of TPS, she also serves on committees at Dove Science Academy and helps out with various programs at the YMCA and United Way.


Kerri Biggs
full size photo

Cook came began with TPS in 1988 in the paint shop. With his creativity and drive he began designing and applying logo work to gym floors and was the driving force behind an initiative to refurbish many historic details in Tulsa's schools. When the recession hit Oklahoma schools, Cook's position was trimmed, but he took the initiative to learn a new trade online and started in his current position. Without a lead technician in shop the last year, Cook took it on himself to organize his fellow technicians and helped streamline their processes while at it. His development of inventory and procedures has become vital in ensuring quick responses for schools. He still maintains the gym floor markings across TPS as well. Off district time, he has designed TPS' Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Parade float for several years. Cook is also a consistent volunteer, including aiding in the annual Day of Caring planning.


Kerri Biggs
full size photo

Taylor began her employment with TPS in 1996, left and returned as a teacher assistant in 2004. In addition to her duties, she also serves as a special education paraprofessional. After transferring to Lindbergh from Bell, Taylor started an afterschool robotics program for fourth through sixth graders. As Lindbergh's PTO president, she makes sure there are ongoing activities to encourage parents to spend more time with their children. Taylor also volunteers as a robot inspector at the regional, state and world levels for FIRST Robotics Competitions and helps Memorial High School's Circuit Chargers robotics team. Taylor has visited several different companies to learn more about engineering applications and brings this knowledge back to the students. She believes children can do anything if someone shows them how, believes in them and works beside them, cheering them on.


The selection committee congratulates each of the five for the difference they make in the lives TPS students, families, employees and others each day. The winner will be announced in April, along with the Teacher of the Year.

 


 

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