Oklahoma’s 2021 Teacher of the Year is still in school – at East Central University.
Jessica Eschbach, who currently teaches in the Norman school system, received the prestigious honor from the Oklahoma State Department of Education. The award has been presented annually since 1955.
Eschbach is currently enrolled in ECU’s master-level Educational Leadership program, which is designed for the graduate student specializing in administration for grades K-12. ECU’s online program is accredited on both national and state levels and all its instructors have administrative experience or are current practicing administrators. She is set to graduate from ECU this spring.
“I have enjoyed my time as a student at East Central University so much,” Eschbach said. “The Educational Leadership program has helped me develop the necessary skills to be successful in an administrative role, while also being flexible and supportive of students like me who are managing work and school.”
Named a finalist for the Oklahoma Teacher of the Year award last October, Eschbach learned of the honor during an online ceremony on the morning of March 4, which was followed by an in-person award presentation by State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister later in the day.
Eschbach said she was “stunned” by the news, but her ECU professors were not surprised.
“Jessica has a passion for creating environments that facilitate student success for all,” said Dr. Jerry Mihelic, director of ECU’s Educational Leadership program. “She is humble and cares about everyone and will make an outstanding administrator. We are all very proud of her.”
Eschbach said she has learned a lot from ECU’s master-level program, which will help advance her career in the field of education.
“ECU’s professors are experts in their field,” Eschbach said. “I feel lucky to have learned from them. I will always be proud of my ECU degree.”
Eschbach currently works as the Innovative Learning Coach at Norman North High School. She has worked exclusively in the Norman system for seven years. She taught Social Studies and English at Norman’s Alcott Middle School, and she also served as teacher-librarian at Kennedy Elementary School.
“What an amazing honor for Jessica,” said Dr. Katricia Pierson, ECU president. “The fact that a teacher of her caliber is continuing her education at ECU is a testament to how special and well-respected our Education program is. She will be a terrific ambassador for the profession and as a member of the Tiger family we wish her all the best.”
A panel of educators, legislators, and members of business and nonprofit organizations select the 12 finalists for Oklahoma Teacher of the Year. Each finalist selected was also chosen as teacher of the year for his/her respective district. A 22-person committee ultimately chooses a winner.
Eschbach will begin her full-time Oklahoma Teacher of the Year duties on July 1. The award winner traditionally takes leave from classroom duties to serve as state ambassador for all teachers, encouraging others to pursue the teaching profession. Eschbach will also engage in public speaking events throughout the year.