A longtime teacher for Latta Public School is the winner of character.org’s Game Changer in Education award for 2019.

Marketing teacher Stacy Oakley will claim her prize during the 2019 National Character Awards ceremony, which honors people who have made a commitment to lead character-driven lives. The ceremony is set for Oct. 24 in Washington, D.C.

Latta’s former HealthCorps coordinator, Shelby Gibson, nominated Oakley for the award several months ago. Character.org, an organization which gives people the tools they need to build character, notified Gibson in May that Oakley won the award, and Oakley received her official notice in June.

Latta Schools recently paid tribute to Oakley during a pep rally for the high school’s fall sports teams and the drama team.

Oakley said she thought the pep rally was only for the sports and drama teams, and she did not know at first it was for her as well.

“I was truly amazed when I found out that I was being honored as an education game changer at Latta, and I feel like that I have so many other colleagues who are game changers,” she said. “And I was very surprised when all of the students stood up and gave me a standing ovation.

‘I can only say that as a team, we make a difference, so I’m certainly not a game changer by myself. My colleagues and I, I feel though, are game changers every day.”

‘Always making sacrifices’

Oakley said she was the speech and debate teacher for Ada City Schools for 15 years before moving to the Latta school district in 2000. While she was in Ada, she started the district’s mock trial program and the Cougar News Network, as well as the public relations marketing and sports entertainment marketing programs for the DECA organization.

After joining the faculty at Latta, Oakley launched that district’s DECA organization, which offers PR and sports entertainment marketing programs as well as other marketing programs. She also started the Latta Rotary Interact Club, a service-based organization that provides support and guidance for students ages 14 through 18.

Oakley also helped start Latta’s after-school LEADS program, which is designed for preschoolers through sixth-graders and aims to teach students new skills.

Among other accomplishments, Oakley began a Lego robotics program for third- through eighth-grade students. The students build and test robots made of Legos, and they design a project to help solve a community problem.

Oakley also organizes an annual fundraiser, in which students walk to raise money for a charity of their choice. She also stages a Veterans Day program to honor veterans in the community.

Oakley continues working with children when school is not in session, according to the letter nominating her for the game-changer award. She teaches CPR certification courses, trains students how to be lifeguards and offers swimming lessons for young children.

“It is difficult to summarize everything that Stacy does for her school and community, but the list is endless,” Shelby Gibson wrote in the letter. “She is always looking to better her students’ lives, the school and her community. She is always making sacrifices to a good cause she believes in.

“This is just the beginning of the scope of what Stacy does. She is very deserving of recognition.”

‘I have been blessed’

Oakley said she was stunned when she learned that she had won the Game Changer in Education award, because she felt so many other teachers deserved the award.

“I have been blessed with so many students who are absolutely my idols,” she said. “My students are my heroes. They’re the ones who are going to make a difference in the world.”

Oakley said she appreciated the support and leadership of Latta Superintendent Cliff Johnson, Latta High School Principal Stan Cochran and other district officials. She also wanted to thank her parents, Jean and Leon Irwin; her husband, Arles Oakley; and her daughter and son-in-law, Lashun and Bryce Mowers.

Eric Swanson is the City Hall and general assignment reporter for The Ada News. He spent 15 years working at the Dodge City Daily Globe in Dodge City, Kansas, before joining The Ada News’ staff in 2012.

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