The Ada school district hosted its version of the Oscars Tuesday night, showcasing six outstanding educators and naming one of them the overall teacher of the year for 2018-19.
Ada High School math teacher Chris Eckler was honored as the district’s top teacher for 2018 during a ceremony at the Chickasaw Community Center. Students and parents cheered, hollered and applauded as Eckler’s name was announced.
As the winner, Eckler received a plaque and a $1,000 check from Ada Nissan. He is also in the running for Oklahoma’s Teacher of the Year for competition.
Eckler, who has been with the Ada school district for six years, said he was surprised to hear that he had been chosen for the district-wide honor.
“I’m truly honored because I work with great teachers, not only in my building but throughout the whole district,” he said. “It’s just a complete honor to be named one of the highest among all of them.”
This was not Eckler’s first honor, according to the school district. In 2016, he was named the Mathematical Association of America’s teacher of the year for Oklahoma/Arkansas for outstanding contributions to math education.
Earlier this year, Eckler was asked to make a presentation at the National High School Aviation STEM Symposium in Louisville, Kentucky, where he met and worked with experts on aviation education, according to the district.
Recognizing site teachers
Eckler was also recognized as one of the district’s site teachers of the year, along with five of his colleagues from throughout the district. Each site teacher received gifts from local businesses and a $100 check from Ada Nissan.
The school district supplied capsule biographies for the other five site teachers of the year, who are listed by school:
• Ada Junior High School: Jessica Stettler. Stettler serves as the department chairwoman for the math department and has been instrumental in developing math frameworks for the Oklahoma State Department of Education. Stettler also serves as Ada Junior High’s Coug Tech, responsible for helping teachers integrate technology into their curriculum.
• Willard Grade Center: Camille Howard, who teaches math at Willard. She has taught in the Ada school system since 1992.
“She feels that she is fortunate to live and work in a community that valued education, and she believes that it is her responsibility to help students be prepared for the ever-changing workforce,” district officials said. “She wants to push students to see the possibilities.”
• Washington Grade Center: Maria Ruiz-Blanco, a national board-certified third-grade teacher who is known for finding creative ways to get students and parents involved in the learning process.
The district said Ruiz-Blanco has received numerous grants and participated in several workshops and conferences, demonstrating her commitment to being a lifelong learner.
“Ms. Ruiz-Blanco wants to spread the belief that learning other languages is not only important but that it is essential for the world in which our students will live,” officials said. “She would tell future teachers to talk to their students about science, art and the power of books and to listen to their students’ wonderings and dreams.”
• Hayes Grade Center: Special-education teacher Jolene Bakker, who hopes that her former students can look back and say that she made a difference in their lives.
“She would tell future educators to follow their passion and that if they want to be part of a child’s
‘aha’ moments, that teaching is the most rewarding job that there is,” officials said.
• Ada Early Childhood Center: Kindergarten teacher Cheyenne Wright, who also serves as the school’s Coug Tech.
“She feels that in that role, she has learned to communicate with her peers in a leadership role, and she is happy to help teachers who struggle with technology or who are afraid to learn something new,” officials said. “Ms. Wright encourages teachers to help students ‘think outside the box,’ and she hopes that as a teacher, she can help students break out of the norm and find success in their diversity.”
In addition to the overall teacher of the year and the six site teachers, the district also recognized the 2018-19 winners of the Ada Cougar Award of Excellence. The winning educators were Dannon Thompson, Ada Early Childhood Center; Robin Nelson, Hayes; Megan Groves, Willard; Nancy Logan, Ada Junior High; Sherri Wright, Ada High; and Shaun Henderson, Washington.
Teachers who received grants from Ada City Schools Foundation were also recognized.