The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence has announced the winners of its 2017 Oklahoma Medal for Excellence awards honoring five outstanding educators in Oklahoma’s public schools.

The awards will be presented at the foundation’s 31st annual Academic Awards Banquet on May 20 at the Renaissance Tulsa Convention Center. Each of the five winners will receive a $5,000 cash prize and a glass “Roots and Wings” sculpture, designed by the late Oklahoma artist Ron Roberts and produced by Jim Triffo of Oklahoma City.

This year’s Medal for Excellence winners and their award categories are: Jane Williams, Centennial Elementary School, EDMOND, elementary teaching; Gary Piercey, Francis Tuttle Technology Center, OKLAHOMA CITY, secondary teaching; Dr. Robert Romines, superintendent, MOORE Public Schools, elementary/secondary administration; Antoinette Castillo, professor of humanities, Rose State College, MIDWEST CITY, community college/regional university teaching; and Dr. Allen Hertzke, David Ross Boyd Professor of Political Science, University of Oklahoma, NORMAN, research university teaching.

“We know that education is the best investment Oklahoma can make in its future,” said David L. Boren, founder and chairman of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, a non-profit organization that recognizes and encourages academic excellence in the state’s public schools. “By honoring these exceptional educators, we are sending a message that Oklahomans deeply value excellence in public schools and the professionals who have given so much of themselves to enrich the lives of our children.”

Jane Williams, winner of the Oklahoma Medal for Excellence in Elementary Teaching, teaches fifth-grade social studies and reading at Centennial Elementary School in Edmond. A National Board Certified teacher with a Master’s of Education in Reading, the 27-year teaching veteran has dedicated herself to lifelong learning so her students can become lifelong learners themselves.

“Jane utilizes engagement strategies that capture students’ attention, helping them understand and visualize complex history lessons and texts,” said Centennial Principal Jessele Miller. “At any given time of day, Jane is on her feet working with individual students, instructing whole group, using technology interactively and providing hands-on activities that students love.”

In a unit on the Renaissance, for example, Williams’ students use Smartboards to identify famous artists’ paintings, they use a splitter device to listen to Renaissance music in small groups, and they become artists themselves using paint pallet software to create masterpieces on iPads.  “Incorporating technology into my hands-on lessons, I was able to meet every student’s learning style and … open doors for students to advance their knowledge of technology,” Williams said.

A graduate of the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute and the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge, Williams helps bring American history to life through hands-on experiences, such as building a colonial village and reenacting historic events through readers’ theatre and role-playing. Since 2014, she has served on the planning committee for Colonial Day at the Capitol, providing opportunities for hundreds of Oklahoma students to engage in creative learning activities. In 2015, she was honored as Oklahoma’s Elementary Social Studies Teacher of the Year.

Williams is not only an outstanding classroom teacher, but she has also served many years as a mentor to student-teachers and first-year educators at her school and has guided dozens of Oklahoma educators through their National Board Certification. “She is willing to share her insights and experiences, as well as lessons and resources, to insure that others teach effectively,” said 2012 Medal for Excellence winner Teresa Potter, who credited Williams with helping her navigate the lengthy certification process.

Sixth-grader Jake Amy praised Mrs. Williams for “making learning fun” and helping him learn problem-solving strategies. “I think I am a smarter and better person because of her in my life,” he said.

By: Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence