When Sarah Skaggs decided to enter a statewide contest for the best license plate design, she turned to Ada for inspiration.

The Latta High School student based her watercolor painting on the little red schoolhouse in Wintersmith Park but did not reproduce it exactly. Her goal was to create an attractive overall design rather than focus on a specific landmark.

Skaggs’ decision paid off Wednesday, when she won the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s statewide competition for license plate designs. The winning design will be reproduced on special license plates, which will be sold to raise money for efforts to curb the state’s teacher shortage.

Skaggs chose the schoolhouse in Wintersmith Park for her design because it symbolized the history of education in Oklahoma, she said.

“I wanted to do something that wasn’t too like mainstream education,” she said. “Just sort of something that represented where we came from in education, and I kind of drew inspiration from that.”

Skaggs said she produced several drafts of her design before she came up with one that satisfied her.

The Department of Education sponsored the License to Educate art contest, which was open to students in pre-K through 12th grade, to support education. Nearly 800 students across the state submitted entries, using a variety of media and themes.

A panel of judges chose six finalists based on their originality and creativity, their depiction of education-related themes and the quality of the artwork. The entries were displayed on the Department of Education’s website and social media, and the winner was chosen by a public online vote.

More than 16,500 people participated in online voting during the two-week contest period, and Skaggs’ design emerged as the winner.

The design offers a strong visual reminder of the state’s commitment to free public schools for all children, which is enshrined in the state Constitution, said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister.

“The results of the online vote demonstrate the enduring power of this image of a rural institution on the prairie,” she said in a news release. “Sarah tapped into an inspiring subject and executed it beautifully.”

Latta art teacher Jenny Slater, who urged Skaggs to enter the contest, said she knew Skaggs would do a good job. She added that she was pleased when the Department of Education notified her that Skaggs had won the contest.

“I was excited because any kind of positive light on public education is what we need,” she said.

Skaggs’ design will be available on specialty license plates throughout the state.

People who want to buy plates featuring Skaggs’ design may preorder them through the Department of Education’s website, www.sde.ok.gov or contact their local tag agency. The plates cost $35 apiece plus a $3 mailing fee, for a total of $38.

Most of the proceeds from the license plate sales will benefit the state’s efforts to recruit and retain teachers, according to the news release. The Oklahoma Tax Commission must receive at least 100 orders by May 1, 2018, to put the plate into production.

Skaggs said she was glad that her design will help raise money for education.

“Right now isn’t the greatest time for Oklahoma education, but I’m happy to help for it,” she said.

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