TeachLINK Revised
Making the Connections
Issue: 15
Summer 2016
The Oklahoma Teacher Connection 
 A Division of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education

Director of Teacher Education

Greetings TeachLink Readers,

Goldie picture

Director of Teacher

Education and the Oklahoma Teacher Connection

I hope you had a wonderful spring semester!

This edition of the TeachLink focuses on teachers doing great things!  Despite the challenges we face in education, the work of teaching and learning continues to move forward.  Teachers continue to inspire, motivate and help students grow, from the early grades all the way through higher education, while committing themselves to lifelong learning and professional growth.  It is important that we honor them and show our appreciation for the tireless efforts and daily contributions they make to the students of Oklahoma.

Please take the time this week to thank teachers and share our gratitude for the work they do!
Enjoy this edition of the TeachLink.


Direct from the Editor's Desk

                             People Make Education Happen!

It is the people in higher education, common education, career-tech centers, and supporting state educational agencies, who make huge contributions to the infrastructure of this great state.

The TeachLink is overjoyed to share a few stories about these silent heroes within and outside of Oklahoma's PreK-12 grade and post-secondary classrooms, career-techs, and state agencies.
Deena V. Thomas, Editor

Every now and then, an out of the box, fanatical teacher surfaces and creates safe silos to protect, to provide, and to prepare marginalized children to be successful academically and socially in the heart of the crime infested and poverty stricken neighborhood.

Oklahoma's committed and caring educators are the shining STARS for you to see!


Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education

          Colleagues, Students - Blended Families Shape Retiring Administrator's Career

Dr. Blake I. Sonobe's San (common Japanese title) strong family ties are at the top of his priority list, including his professional family.

Instead of a vitae or a resume, Sonobe listed 21 bulleted items on a single sheet of paper. The top five items listed were family related, and the remaining bulleted points were brief, single sentence descriptions, posting limited details about his 44 year career.

In his work like in his personal life, Dr. Blake Sonobe's focus remained on others instead of on himself. This selfless mindset supports his decision to retire to spend more time with his only grandson, Grant.

Dr. Blake Sonobe and grandson, Grant

His Father's Wishes

Devoted to carrying out his father's wishes, Sonobe became a first generation college graduate, fulfilling the late Stan Sonobe's desire to have better educational opportunities for his children.

Sonobe attended the United State Air Force Academy and earned a B.S. degree in chemistry, was awarded a master's degree in nuclear chemistry from Texas A&M University, and received a PhD in physical organic chemistry from the University of California at Davis.

After graduating from the U.S. Air Force Academy, he worked four years at Elgin Air Force Base as a program manager for dispenser/cluster munitions, explosive chemist, and attended Squadron Officers School.

Returning to his alma mater United States Air Force Academy and began working in the chemistry department. While there, he served as the director of operations. He designed the chemistry facilities of the new Cadet Education and Training Facility, tor of operations, taught chemistry, and was a budget officer for the chemistry department.  

Career Highlights

Sonobe pushed his father's quest for access to higher educational attainment to his children and to the students at Southwestern Oklahoma State University (SWOSU).

He says some of his most memorable highlights of his life's work took place at SWOSU, where he spent 22 years, the bulk of his career. For eight years, he served as provost. For 8 years, he was the chemistry chair, and for 6 years, he worked as a chemistry faculty member, conducting research in photofragmentation dynamics and mechanisms. 

"I enjoyed seeing the passion and the care faculty and staff had for the students in southwestern Oklahoma.  I appreciated the importance for preparing students well for the future. We tried to focus on that, and we tried to emphasize that.  We wanted to make sure we gave our students what they needed to be successful," says Sonobe. "At SWOSU, we helped our students to do whatever was necessary. When they graduated and if they went on to graduate school, professional school, or straight into the job workforce, they would be adequately prepared."

Changing his career trajectory, Sonobe was selected to serve as the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs with the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education in 2013. In his new role, the committed professional claims he was not quite privy to the political dynamics.

Political Pulse

"You read about the politics of a situation, the politics of government.  That was a real eye opener for me.  I really didn't know the extent of politics.  It was a good learning experience for me to see how the political machine operated. I appreciate the Chancellor for giving me the opportunity to have this experience and to watch him operate in this realm.  He is very, very skilled, knowing how the system operates, and basically, knowing what needs to be done and when it needs to be done.  The Chancellor has a pulse for the political system, and he does a very good job coordinating our efforts," Sonobe said.

Progressive Skill Levels

At each professional stop, Sonobe contends he gained an increasingly progressive higher level of skills that helped him blend and build a more cohesive team within the workplace.

"I have acquired over the years, the ability to work with people, support them, to encourage them, and to get everybody on board as a team, moving in the right direction at the right time. It has been especially difficult at the Regents office, because of the lack of funding.  There are a lot of things that we can be doing, and perhaps, we could be doing, but we are not, because we don't have the resources, manpower, or the money to move forward. But the important skill is that we are getting as much out of our folks and efforts as we can," he said.

Defining Leadership

Sonobe says while in the military, he was taught a great deal about leadership, and what defines effective leadership.

"Many thought because I was in the military, I could just order people around, but you cannot. You have to lead by example, gain the respect of the people, and show that you care about them. It is not just the mission. It is the people involved in accomplishing that mission. If you don't have the people, you cannot accomplish the mission. And it is also important that they receive the recognition they deserve," Sonobe said.

Extended Families

Sonobe says his greatest contribution to higher education has been the number of students he impacted in the classroom.

"To this day, I still get emails, Christmas cards from cadets I taught 25 to 30 years ago at the Air Force Academy. When students from SWOSU pass through, they stop in, call, and send emails and all sorts of things.  I'd like to think my greatest impact has been on the lives of our students I touched," he said.

Sonobe is often viewed as a down to earth, personal administrator.  He says there are two elements that can be attributed to him remaining humble - his dad and being a Christian.

"As I was growing up, my dad made sure that I didn't grow too fat of a head," he chuckles. "He continued to remind me that I was just another person. You can't think too highly of yourself.  As a Christian, one has to learn to have humility.  I practice treating others the way I want to be treated. By all means, the people I have worked for and worked with are my extended family," Sonobe said.  

Sonobe said he has gotten a different input from his extended family of colleagues and students than he has gotten from his biological family.

 "My professional family taught me that people are different. I have worked with people who are difficult to get along with, people who are easy to get along with and everything in between.  My extended family helped me understand people better. I needed to make the effort to understand them.  The things I say and the decisions I make, I must take into consideration the personalities and the skills individuals bring to the office and to the job. These experiences make me more aware of what's going on in the world. We all have our problems, idiosyncrasies, and to work in that context is valuable," he said.

During an informal, impromptu lunch interview, Sonobe shared a story about how he had come home one day after school and found sitting on his bed a brand new pair of baseball shoes.

Grant enjoys the ride.

His father, a man who earned a modest living, purchased the unexpected pair of shoes, replacing a long overdue old, torn and tattered pair.  He said this experience made an impactful impression on his life, a lesson of sacrificial giving.

The administrator admits his experiences with his family, his students, and his colleagues have definitely shaped his life and his career. As he enters retirement, it is his goal to assist in molding the life of his grandson, Grant.

"We are teaching Grant to be kind, to be good, and to obey his mother and father. We would like Grant to grow up to be a good person, a functioning person. We expect him to work hard. Even though he has spinal bifida, it limits him in some things, but the things he can do, then we expect him to do it," Ojichan said. (Japanese for grandpa)

Retiring Test Administrator's Life-Long Career Advocates Equity

for the Underserved

Dr. Cynthia "Cindy" Brown calls herself, just an ole elementary school teacher, but in reality, she is so much more.

"I have seen how one job built me up for the next position," Brown said.  "In addition, without sounding too clichéish, the more the teaching profession has changed, the more things have remained the same."

Her statement is partially correct.  The portion that is slightly altered represents the enlarged number of Oklahoma's marginalized students, who have shown annual improvement on the American College Testing Program (ACT). As the retiring Director for Student Preparation for the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, she has witnessed and can attest to continuous gradual rise in ACT scores among the underserved test takers, because she has been responsible for collecting the data for the past 15 years.

Dr. Cynthia "Cindy" Brown

For example, among the African American, the percentage of black students taking the OK ACT in 1990 was 6 percent, with a total population of 10 percent. In contrast, the African Americans students taking the OK ACT in 2015 increased to 7 percent, with a 9 percent total population.

Overall, the African American students' ACT scores increased from 20.1 in 1990 to 20.7 in 2015.

ACT test takers tracked by ethnic groups include African American, American Indian, Hispanic, Asian, and two or more races.

Brown developed an interest in underrepresented groups early in profession.  She received a doctor of education in 1995 at the University of Oklahoma, expounding upon her dissertation topic entitled, the Underrepresentation of Minority Group Children among those Students Identified for Gifted and Talented Programs as an Issue under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. 

Instead of tagging Brown the ole elementary school teacher, her 47 year career resembles that of a social justice advocate, particularly speaking out for those who live in poverty. 

Prepared and ready, Brown holds certificates as a teacher, an elementary principal, and a superintendent; plus, she has endorsements in gifted/talented, language arts, science, and social studies.

"Life prepared me," she said.

In 1969, she started teaching in Claremore, but she left due to her husband being transferred and began teaching at Oklahoma's neighboring state - Arkansas.  Her first few years of teaching charted her course. As a fourth grade teacher at North Little Rock Public Schools, Brown says her three year experience left an everlasting impression upon her, one  she says she will never forget.

Brown said she grew on a farm in a small town with Native Americans and whites, and she had never been exposed to African Americans. 

"It was during integration; however, there was no busing in elementary schools.  When you were the newbie in town, you got put in the inner city. I had no exposure to African Americans and certainly not inner city. That's a whole different world. That was the toughest thing I ever done in life.  But that experience made me the advocate for the underserved and underrepresented groups that I am today," Brown said.

Brown admitted she made more mistakes than she would like to even think about.  But she did say she did a few things right.

At the close of the school year, Brown said she told her supervisor that she was in the wrong field, and she had not taught her students anything.  Brown's supervisor informed her that she was in the right field, and she asked her to wait, because the next year school, the district was integrating the elementary schools.

"My supervisor told me I would have a different experience than my first year once the elementary schools were integrated," Brown said. 

But she did not.

 "I had 35 fifth graders - 30 African Americans and 5 whites.   They all lived in the same part of town. If you closed your eyes, they sounded exactly alike.  Their readiness to learn was the same. They did not know the name of the river that was 2 to 3 blocks away - the Arkansas River. These kids had not been read to. There were no books in the home. I had one little girl, whose father was retired military.  She was ready to learn," Brown said.

From that point forward, Brown was ready to take on the challenge of preparing the underprepared.

Brown returned to her home state after teaching three years in Arkansas and resumed her teaching career, serving in Lawton, Anadarko, and Ardmore, where she worked as the gifted/talented resource specialist. 

Shortly after being awarded a master's degree in gifted and talented education from Oklahoma City University, Brown landed the position of director of gifted and talented coordinator, with the Oklahoma State Department of Education, headed up by the long standing, former Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Sandy Garrett.

"Over the years I developed that nagging pain, that concern for children, who are underserved.  Man, we have got a lot of them," Brown said.

Brown explained that most districts did not see the underserved students as being gifted.

"When I got there, most districts did not see the underserved children as being gifted and talented, because they are not good test takers. I spent 8 years in the gift and talented section, telling folks that yes; the law says you can give them IQ tests. Yes, that's all Oklahoma law requires that you serve those kids with high IQ s. But you are missing your brightest kids," she said.

According to Brown, she says the goal of testing is to find out what you do not know, so that a teacher can teach what students should know.  However, sometimes she says in today's culture, testing is punitive.

"The goal of our testing that we have paid for - Explore and Plan and whatever else we plan to use in the future has two purposes. First, we need to find out what you do not know, so that I can be sure that you have an opportunity to learn it, so you can be ready for college.  But also, the test results will help me as a teacher understand where I am not being an effective teacher. If three-fourths of my students miss that concept, then I need to rethink how I am teaching that concept. That's the professional development that we do," Brown said.

Brown practiced and performed her skills as a writer, a consultant, a presenter within a wide range of other leadership roles and responsibilities throughout her career. These activities drove her passion, seeking out pathways to move the underserved towards the direction of college and career readiness.

Reflecting over her tenure as an educator, Brown pondered her greatest contribution to the profession.

"I hope, I hope that I have caused some folks, some higher education folks and some K12 folks to rethink some things they thought they knew about children, testing, and educating. If I have done anything that is what I hope I have done," Brown said.

Brown stated it was her goal at the Oklahoma State Department of Education and at the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education to have completed at least one task.

"It is my hope in all of my accomplishments that I was able to shake the foundations of folk's old ways of thinking," Cindy Brown said.   

       The Quiet Resilience of Kathy Quinn's Works Impacts Lives
Teague Retires After 26 Years at OSRHE

Soft spoken, gentle, and attentive, with a comforting influential approach describes the management style of Kathy Quinn-Teaque, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education's (OSRHE) Director of Special Programs.
At first glance, her meek temperament overshadows the confident and more than capable woman, who is responsible for facilitating community colleges' contractual agreement and partnership with the Department of Human Services' Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and the Scholars for Excellence in Child Care Programs.
Kathy Quinn-Teaque

TANF prepares adults for careers and the Scholars for Excellence in Child Care Program equips and credentials early childhood educators to successfully prepare children for school - both  momentous feats. 
 Teague oversees the TANF program that has paired up with 12 community colleges, serving 19 sites statewide to assist participants in reaching self-sufficiency through acquiring skills training, employment strategies, and post-secondary education. 
In addition, she also manages the Scholars for Excellence in Child Care program, working collaboratively with 13 community colleges, 16 scholar coordinators, and approximately 11 technology centers to aid eligible child care providers to earn a national credential, a state certificate, an AA, AAS, or BS degree in child development.
After working 22 years with both programs and upon completing a total of 26 years with OSRHE, Quinn, the inconspicuous leader, is retiring. 
Teague's persona matches more closely with Oklahoma's youngest citizenry - children Pre-K through age 5, a humble and innocent population, untainted by the world around them.  However, on the flip side, she is also known as a bodacious advocate for people who may have taken a difficult turn in life, according to her colleagues.

Gina McPherson, Teague's successor, says, "Don't let her exterior fool you.  Kathy is fearless. Yet, Kathy is also compassionate.   She is known for working for the greater good assisting, working tirelessly for those, whose greatest challenge is restarting their lives after making choices that landed them in an undesirable predicament."

Teague stated after shortly joining the Regents, she became responsible for Aid to Families with Dependent children (AFDC) jobs programs; however, when welfare reform passed in 1996, the programs were extended on a state basis to all of the community colleges.  The Scholars for Excellence in Child Care came thereafter, allowing her the opportunity take on both initiatives, says Teague.

She claims the programs undergird the participants' abilities to earn a livable wage, saying "Individuals gain a boost in self-confidence and self-esteem from the success of earning the certificate or a degree, especially those in the TANF program.  Because of their background, they have had a lot of barriers. Many have not been successful in their employment opportunities, because they have had issues such as transportation, domestic violence, or lack a high school diploma," she said.
Teague stated many people do not realize that TANF is welfare reform, which was created by former President, Bill Clinton.

"Many do not even know welfare reform happened in 1996. They still have the mindset that we have welfare recipients sitting at home watching soap operas. I hate to hear that.  Under the legislation, anyone who is receiving TANF actually has to be doing a work activity that is prescribed in the legislation, which is at least 30 hours a week," Teague said.

The programs at the community colleges lend support with the work activities to help the participants meet the 30 hour a week requirement.

"Participants gain education, work place skills, and other basic skills if needed, so they can be successful in the work place."
She explained there are three top takeaways from the programs. "First, participants are able to obtain an education, which cannot be taken away from them.  Secondly, their certificate or degree will allow them to move up the career ladder for benefits, or move to another profession in a different career. Thirdly, many times earning a certificate or degree will allow them to earn a higher wage. I think the TANF program has grown to allow participants to complete a degree," says Teague.

According to Teague, the original legislation stated the educational component only included vocational education not to exceed a year. 
"However, there are ways to work around that legislation in which a participant can now earn a degree and still meet the federal legislation work requirements.  We are real happy about that, because we know that education, especially degree attainment can help someone go a lot further in their career," Teague said.

In the Scholars for Excellence in Child Care Program, Teague identifies the success indicator is when a childhood director, a provider, or family child care practitioner is given the opportunity to earn a certificate or degree in early childhood development, leveraging their professional mobility.

"Many times it is the first time for an individual to go to college or is returning to complete a degree. When the program first started, there were very few childcare directors or providers that really had a background in child development as far as formal education, with college or technology center education. Most of their training came from community based training, which can be described as make it and take it.  The make and take training were things they learned to create, and in turn, teach the kids how to make it in class, and the children took what they made home. What it was not focusing on was real child development and developmental practices. This program has grown exceptionally in that matter," she said.

To help participants transition smoothly into the college, Teague with DHS resources was able to hire Scholars coordinators on community colleges to help reposition and lend support to degree seekers.  The coordinators reported out that associate degree completers voiced an interest in earning a bachelor's degree. As a result, Teague was instrumental in making an undergraduate degree available, with additional DHS funding.

"In 2008-2009, a pilot bachelor's program was implemented. Now, we currently have at least 40 students at a time pursuing a bachelor's degree. The Scholars coordinators who are out there doing the day to day recruiting are absolutely amazing. There is no one else at their colleges doing what they do, so community college coordinators from across the state have created a bond to support each other.  It is really a cohesive team.  We get together quarterly, and it is so nice to hear their success stories. That makes the program as great as it is," Teague said.

Teague's desire to help others move up and grow professionally is the common thread connecting TANF recipients, Scholars providers, and also her staff of six.  The groups concur that Teague's management style seeks out opportunities and encourages everyone to reach their highest potential.

Gina McPherson says "Very seldom do you see a superior wanting his/her staff to achieve more and grow professionally, looking out for opportunities for each one of us to exceed and maximize our potential."

Jamie Girard, scholarship program specialist says her supervisor holds each staffer in high esteem.
 "Kathy places a high value on us as individuals. She asks our opinions and includes us as much as possible on decisions that affect us, and the team as a whole.  She also trust us to do our jobs and does not micro manage.  The one thing I will miss the most is her management style, her strong leadership skills, and her generosity," Girard said.

Teague attributes her longevity and success to her staff, stating she realizes everyone has a different way of carrying her tasks.  She says as long as the work is completed, she allows each person to facilitate the tasks in his or her own way.
The Scholars for Excellence in Child Care team.  Front: Jamie Girard, Brittany May, Tonya Vineyard, Kiki McWilliams, and Debbie Myrick - Back: Gina McPherson, Kermit McMurry, and Kathy Quinn-Teague.

Brittany May, the newest OSRHE team member says, "Teague engages with us in a motivating and positive way.  Because I'm new to the Scholars program, it been crucial for me to have a supervisor that gives honest, continual feedback.  Kathy always goes above and beyond, and I know I can depend on her to keep the line of communication open."

Kathy Quinn-Teague's quiet, impactful leadership has rebuilt the lives of Oklahoma's needy families, while creating pathways to educate educators to teach the state's youngest learners, giving them a head start in life - a mission passed onto the OSRHE staff to pay it forward.
The individual success of one is dependent upon the accomplishments of many. Teague is living proof of it.

Former OSRHE Policy Coordinator Takes the Helm as TCC's

Dean of Student Services

Mission: To Enlarge the Pool of Hispanic Degree Completers

Push the top elevator button to success, and Jose Dela Cruz, Jr., will be on board moving upward.

Jose Dela Cruz Jr.

His next stop - Cruz is now the Dean of Student Services for the northeast campus of Tulsa Community College in Tulsa (TCC), with the additional duties and responsibilities of testing, assessments, and evaluation for the entire college.


Formerly the Senior Coordinator of Academic Affairs Projects with the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education (OSRHE), Cruz is currently a doctoral student at Oklahoma State University, scheduled to be awarded his degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies in May 2017.

He is a 2005 psychology undergraduate and a 2012 Educational Leadership and Policy Studies master's degree holder from the University of Oklahoma. Cruz wasted little time pursuing his post-secondary and advanced degrees; however, he admits his ultimate goal has changed multiple times professionally in the last three years.

"Originally, I didn't have any desire to become a vice chancellor or a president, and the reason I say that is because some states have institutions that have vice chancellors and chancellors that are on the college level.  However, within the last two or three years, I have reassessed where I would like to go professionally.  Ideally, I would like to be a president at a Hispanic serving institution, because I think it would be a good fit for me," Cruz said.

At OSRHE, Cruz conducted research on state and federal issues related to postsecondary education, while providing critical analysis on issues implicating policy for executive level management, the state system chief academic officers, faculty, and policy makers.

He also coordinated a number of policy related projects, as well as represented and served as a liaison for several academic and governing associations and boards.

"Philosophically, I feel that it is my responsibility and my commitment to work at a two year college campus that gives back to a student population from which I came. I think that's where my service needs to be. I would like to be on a college campus that resembles me, who I was as a student.  I never attended a community college, but being a first generation student and a minority, the two-year Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) is my ultimate goal," Cruz said.

TCC's new dean of student services says his experience at OSRHE has been invaluable, and indeed it aligned, prepared, and strengthened his skill set to elevate him to reach his ultimate goal.

"My experience of working with a coordinating board helped me gain a better understanding of a state system in respective and in regards to policy and compliance issues.  In my new position at TCC, I am hopeful that it will now give me the administrative experience that I currently lack. All of this is happening to me at the right time. Ultimately, I would like to see myself retire from a two-year institution," he said.

One key component learned from OSRHE that Cruz plans to take with him to TCC are the skills acquired to conduct two-way communication with a wide range of shareholders, while remaining constantly aware and sensitive to each individual's needs.  

"Having the experience of working with legislators, chief academic officers, and student affairs officers on the state system level, has broadened my abilities to facilitate various time sensitive issues from different perspectives and angles.  I can better and quickly assess what the priorities are for each individual, then internalize it, think about it, and talk about it to be able to approach it objectively," he said.

Jose Dela Cruz spoke into the future and addressed the constituents he plans to serve, putting into motion, pushing forward and upward his visionary mission for higher educational attainment for all.  

He shared these words, saying, "Having a college level education and having an education in general is something that cannot be taken away. Money can be taken away. Our material belongings can be taken away. However, education is the only thing that is yours and only yours forever," he said.

According to Cruz, the Latino students are not where he would like to see them. He stressed other minority groups are equally as important, yet the institutions locally and throughout the U.S. are not being responsive to the needs of Latino students. Although Latino students are entering college and universities at increasing rates, they are not graduating at the same rate.

"The research is not there to figure out why. By going to TCC, it is my hope to bring the difficulties to light, create a greater awareness, and bring about an understanding as to why Latino students and other minorities are not graduating at the rate we want them and need them to graduate. Our state depends on their level of education," Cruz said.

Cruz's dissertation is entitled, The College Experience of Undocumented Students. Hopefully, it will uncover and identify the stoppage blocks minority students face. 

With this new information and research, Cruz is determined to employ solutions, which will headline a newfound population of degree completers, who will gradually move straight to the top.

Northeastern Oklahoma State University

 NSU Science Professor Retires but Roots Remain

Northeastern Oklahoma State University's (NSU) Professor of Science, Dr. April Dean Adams, says her interest in science took root when her fifth grade teacher conducted science inquiries.

The Seed

The experiment's objective was to investigate what would happen to a plant if it was left in the dark, which she says was her most favorite inquiry.  


"We had two plants," Adams said, "One plant was placed in the sunny window, and the other plant was placed in the closet. We all thought the plant in the closet was going to die, but when she took the plant out six weeks later, it was six feet tall and very sickly green. We were all just shocked."

Adams' elementary school inquiry lesson was the seed that grew into a plant, creating a tree, the largest plant, representing her lifelong


Dr. April Adams


When her fifth grade teacher asked the students what they thought happened to the plant in the closet? 


Adams replied, "I said it looks like the plant was trying to get the light. My teacher replied - that's right!  At that point, I was hooked."

Positioned in direct sunlight, the Indiana native's post-secondary and terminal degrees were extended branches into her professional journey.

After 28 years of service to public education, Dr. April Adams is retiring.

 The Roots

Born in New Castle, Indiana, Adams shared that her father worked for the Indiana Telephone Company, so the family moved within Indiana every three years while growing up. She said her interest in science carried over into high school, and as a result, she applied for a National Science Foundation (NSF) program for high school juniors at Purdue University, one of the nation's leading flagship institutions.

"The grant enabled us to live in a dorm on the Purdue campus for six weeks in the summer. We experienced a variety of science lectures given by Purdue faculty.  The best part was we got to conduct research in a faculty member's lab," Adams said.

In the early 1970's, Adams was awarded an undergraduate degree in physics and a master's degree in biology from Purdue University. 

"I was in Dr. Edwin Mertz's chemistry, research lab. He is the developer of high-lysine corn. I enjoyed being in the lab, isolating proteins. It was very exciting," says Adams. 

Mertz was globally recognized for his co-discovery of high-lysine corn. He was a biochemistry professor of at Purdue from 1946-1976.  Today, Purdue University awards $1,000 Mertz Memorial Scholarships to biochemistry undergraduate students annually.

Later, the STEM professor obtained a Texas teaching certificate and a doctorate in curriculum and instruction from the University of Houston.

The Trunk

The rings within the trunk of a tree represent the seasons of professional growth.  Adams' career resembles the black walnut tree on the Northeastern campus, which was planted by Gideon Morgan, a well-known Cherokee businessman and political figure.

In 1988, Adams began working as a high school physical science and physics teacher in a minority school in Houston for eight years, an experience she says she enjoyed. 

"As I was teaching, I became really curious about how students think and how they learn, so I began taking graduate courses at the University of Houston in downtown Houston.  Soon after, I enrolled in the doctoral program, and I was mentored by Dr. Eugene Chiappeta, a science education advisor, she says.

Adams said she feels like she has always been a reflective teacher, "I have always loved to learn, and I love to help others learn.  Because I was a full time teacher while in graduate school, I felt I had an advantage. I was able to try out what I learned in graduate school in my own classroom," she said.

The educator said she focused on inquiry based instruction, integrating engineering projects and technology into physics.  In addition, she said she worked on making physics accessible to all students, while writing science curriculum for the Houston district, making way for students with limited math.

"Through the designing of curriculum, all students within the school had a physics course before graduating from high school. All of these experiences helped me to become a better college professor," Adams said.

Her transition to higher education brought about a new season of expansion, joining the NSU team in 1997 as an assistant professor and closing out her career as a tenured professor.


 "The integration of science and pedagogy has always been very important to me," Adams said.

The branches, twigs, and leaves, forming the tree crown

The multitude of rings within Adams' career as a teacher, professor, facilitator, administrator, author, coordinator, grant writer, committee member, board member, awardee, honoree, a colleague and a friend has contributed to her success.

"All these things sound different, but they are not different to me.  They are all the same, because all of my works, no matter what it was - be it committees, publications, grants, or teaching - they all have been focused on improving science education for everybody," Adams said.

The science master says she remains passionate about science education.

"I am  passionate about preparing strong teachers, providing professional development for the improvement of science teaching, enabling science students to be successful, and securing the funds and resources that are necessary to make that happen," Adams said.

Underlying all that, the retiring NSU professor says every student has the right to a good public education.

"I feel that STEM is an important component of a good education. I invested my time to provide science education for all," Adams said.

Oklahoma City University

                Successful Learning Outcomes Translates Into

                                      a Universal Language

Retiring Dr. Lois Lawler-Brown Exceeds the Standard

French:  Je suis docteur LLB y je suis une professeure aventureuse.

Spanish:  Yo soy profesora LLB y soy una profesora aventurera.

In a basket on her desk, Dr. Lois Lawler-Brown stores the obituary of Sister Joan Marie Sanchez.

English:  I am Dr. Lois Lawler-Brown, and I am an adventurous teacher - favoring Sister Sanchez, her high school Spanish teacher, who motivated her to teach. 

"It was Joan Marie Sanchez at Bishop McGuiness High School, who inspired me to enter foreign language education.  I had her for three years for Spanish, and she was the most incredible teacher, who never used a word of English.  By the time I got out of high school, I was very fluent in Spanish.  She also had a great sense of humor, and she was just a joy to be with," Brown said.

                                                                     Cultural Appreciation

Dr. Lois Lawler-Brown

Brown stated when she began thinking seriously about what she wanted to do; she decided to seek a degree in Spanish, and she eventually added French as well.  Graduating with the highest honors, Brown completed her undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Oklahoma (OU) in Spanish, with minors in French and education.  She also earned her doctorate at OU in Spanish, with a minor in education administration, curriculum, and supervision.

She wanted to bring a different culture, an unfamiliar perspective into her classroom, with the objective of exposing and engaging her students in a contrasting scholarly pursuit.

"I wanted my students to completely understand that the Spanish language was also tied to a culture and a literature.  The Spanish culture has a different perspective on the world.  I wanted students to be aware there are other cultures outside of their own. I wanted them to understand that the Hispanic is not just one culture.  They are completely unique as you travel from one country to country.  I also wanted them to have an appreciation for the arts, the literature, and everything that is produced by the Spanish speaking people. Students need to be aware of the world around them," says Brown.

To heighten their awareness, Brown explained that she took her students to Mexico and Europe multiple times, spending a lot of time in Spain, expanding their knowledge base, while broadening their experiences of other cultures around the globe. 

4 Language Skills - An Impactful Career

Brown has effectively submerged her students and her fellow-educators statewide, working to ensure academic progress was achieved over past 30 years.  She led by example and has communicated the language skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing, demonstrating her diligent commitment to the teaching profession.

These language modes were interwoven into her professional, community, and civic life's work - a courageous instructional leader.

 Listening/ Responding to Trends

The former Norman Public School teacher and departmental chair became National Board Certified in world language in 2003.  She was selected by her peers as Norman's Teacher of the Year finalist in 1989.  Brown has experience as a College Board AP Spanish Language Exam Reader (ETS) at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, creating a pathway into higher education. 

There is an influx of second language learners in Oklahoma's classroom, as well as across the country, with 11 of 77 counties populated by Limited English Proficient (LEP) students, according to the Oklahoman. In addition, the U.S. Census Bureau predicts that by 2043, the U.S. will be a country of color. Contributing to the teacher shortage is a huge demand for foreign language instructors. However, Brown contends that it will not only be foreign language teachers, who will make an impact on LEP students, but also regular classroom teachers will play a crucial role in the facilitation of instruction as well.

Speaking/ Constructing Pathways

"If we can have foreign language teachers to teach in the language in which they are instructing and help regular classroom teachers make their instruction comprehensible to limited English proficiency students, that would be huge for us," Brown said.

Brown explained teachers have to look outside the classroom to improve upon the learners' outcome, because students' needs are so great.  Developing relationships is a must, Brown says. 

As the former education leadership coordinator, serving as the state NBCT liaison, Brown heavily recruited, trained, and developed collaborative partnerships particularly within rural communities to increase the numbers of NBCT foreign language teachers.  To forge the message of achievable student growth, Brown advanced student and parent partnerships from within common education and higher education communities.

"While I was at Norman high, one project I worked on most intently was a relationship with the Hispanic organization at the University of Oklahoma. There, we established a Hispanic leadership organization so that the students, who were Spanish speaking, had leadership opportunities within the community, and the parents of those students were involved, helping to move forward the initiative," Brown said.

At the close of the school, Brown hosted a banquet to honor the students and their families, which fused stronger relationships.  

"The students want to be able to participate, but they don't necessarily have the language skills or the proficiencies skills required to participate in front of other students in a classroom.  They feel intimidated.  Therefore, we have to make them comfortable and valued," she said.

The non-stop educator also aided her students as an interpreter for Spanish speaking students for end of instructions tests, and as an individual education program (IEP), while simultaneously   adding an adjunct Spanish instructor for OU and for the Oklahoma City Community College (OCCC) to her vitae, effortlessly paving her way into state agency and higher education positions.

Reading/ Statewide Impact

For three years, Brown held the position of state director of program accreditation for the Oklahoma Commission for Teacher Preparation, which is now known as the Oklahoma Office of Educational Quality and Accountability (OEQA).

As the director of accreditation, Brown assumed a multitude of roles and responsibilities, collaborating with, at that time, the 22 state colleges of education, the Oklahoma Association of College of Teacher Education (OACTE), the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), formerly known as National Council for Accreditation Teacher Education (NCATE), the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education (OSRHE), and the Oklahoma State Department of Education (SDE).

"I think that working with the accreditation body helps us maintain excellence," says Brown.  "To have standards and to have input into those standards is very important when you are part of the profession.  Whenever I go to other campuses, I always learn something new."

Brown stressed education is a profession, and in order to uphold the integrity of the profession, standards are paramount.

"We have to have national standards that are followed to maintain the professional status of educators," Brown said.

Writing/ Defining the Educator

Professor Brown has relinquished her career of preparing pre-service teachers at Oklahoma City University after completing 10 years of service.  She gave her time and expertise as an education department chair, TESOL, as well as several other duties and tasks.

"I am so proud of the education programs in Oklahoma and the educational agencies for their coming together and working together for a common cause. I think it is so outstanding. I think the way that OACTE, OEQA, and the SDE are working together in a cooperative process to improve education is just amazing and very admirable," Brown said.

No matter what the language, the conversation, which sums up une  professeure aventureuse (French), una profesora aventurera (Spanish) , the adventurous teacher - Dr. Brown was  shared by her successor, OCU dean, Dr. Elizabeth "Liz" Willner.

Dr. Elizabeth Willner

"She is the consummate professional.  She does not ever avoid not doing her job. She researches what she needs to do. She makes sure she carries her weight in every single task. OCU would not be nationally accredited if it wasn't for her, and we would not have the strong programs we have if it weren't for her," Willner said.

Taking the helm, Willner says she has tried to emulate Brown's organization and review skills to make sure all bases are covered.

"Besides those attributes, I think she's pretty funny.  So I hope a sense humor makes a difference too," Willner chuckles.

The comments Willner made about Dr. Lois Lawler- Brown are similar sentiments Brown echoed about her favorite teacher, Sister Joan Marie Sanchez.

Reflecting, Brown said, "Sister Joan Marie Sanchez had a great sense of humor, and she was just a joy to be with." 

Finding joy in learning is a universal language for both the teacher and the student.

The adventurous Sister Joan Marie Sanchez would be so very proud!

Poverty and Resiliency Projects Reshape Perceptions and Practice

Oklahoma City University's Poverty Simulation and Resiliency Project was a heuristic study brought to the surface by preservice teachers modeling the realities of families living on a limited income.

The future teachers from 15 universities learned very quickly that the day to day grind and complexities of living a marginalized life is stressful and frustrating, sometimes dehumanizing, and for most, it is an endless cycle of despair.

Kay Evans - Preservice Teacher

Chuckles filled the room when Bob Brandenburg from the Oklahoma Association of Community Action explained the responsibilities and the dynamics of the simulation, lying out the instructions for each person to act out his or her assigned age or to pretend to be an obnoxious teenager.   

However, living an underserved lifestyle is no laughing matter.

Based on a 2011 Oklahoma Kids Count report, 23 percent of Oklahoma children live in poverty, another 12 percent reside in extreme poverty, and 30 percent of parents with young children are unemployed.

Oklahoma's classrooms are populated with children that resemble the simulation, and Patricia Webb with the Resilience Project shared coping mechanisms to help children gain control of their own emotions, and ultimately, their own environment they create for themselves.

"We are not taught in this culture to come home to ourselves," says Webb.  She modeled breathing techniques and other exercises to equip teachers to help students learn to manage and to self-insulate themselves from the pressures of an unstructured, taxing environment. 


University of Central Oklahoma

UCO's Teacher Academies Reaches Northern State, Statewide

It could not have come at a better time. The University of Central Oklahoma's (UCO) College of Education and Professional Studies hosted 70 high school students and 30 of their parents for their annual Prospective Teachers Academy, which was one of many academics conducted this past spring.

As the nation faces teacher shortages, Oklahoma is no exception; however, one interested applicant from Normal, Illinois recognized the value in driving 567 miles, a 9 hour and 26 minute one-way trip to check out the progressive regional institution's college of education program. 

Brooklynn Reed, an Illinois native, says her rationale for traveling the distance is to come and examine up-close and personal the true value of the program and all of what its website and literature touts.  Plus, she said the cost to attend UCO as an out of state student was comparable to attending Illinois State University (ISU), where she would have gone to college.

Brooklynn Reed from Normal Illinois

2016-2017 UCO student

"I looked around for some of the best teaching schools," Reed says, "UCO seemed the most like ISU. UCO has a really good teaching program.  I thought this would be a pretty good fit," she said.

Reed plans to major in early childhood education, and she admits the cost to attend UCO contributed to her decision to relocate.

"The cost of being here was the biggest part of it," Reed saying, "The cost was not much different from staying at home and attending at ISU. I looked into the average grades of the freshmen here, which are pretty good.  I also heard a lot of good things about the teachers and the program here. "

UCO Professor of Education, Dr. Susan Scott, heads up and provides leadership for the academies.

"Our College of Education and Professional Studies have several pipelines that we introduce them to and hope to have them participate in programs like the Urban Teacher Preparation Academy," Scott said.

According to Scott, the purpose is to acquaint K-12 students to the teaching education program, to certification, and to meet key faculty and staff in the teacher education program. She says the way to reach prospective teacher candidates is to show them what the university has to offer by way of student support services, scholarships, as well as explaining the finer details that make-up the college experience. 

Oklahoma City Public School's UCO Teacher Academy Participant

To give a glimpse into where the participants reside, UCO's reach was statewide. Student attendees were from the surrounding suburbs as far north as Deer Creek and as far south to Norman and Moore;  going west touching Mustang, Lawton, and Clinton; connecting with rural towns like Tuttle, Bixby, Cordell, Kingfisher, and Cashion; eastbound to Tulsa, and finally, student representatives lived as close in proximity as Oklahoma City, Midwest City, and Edmond. 

"I think it is fantastic that we have so many high school students interested in becoming a teacher." Bryan Duke said.  Duke is the assistant dean of the College of Education and Professional Studies saying, "I really appreciate the support the program the Oklahoma Teacher Connection provides through the grants offered, helping us try to host them, which gives them a little bit of induction.  Hopefully, we can help them transition from high school into UCO."

             UCO's Black Male Summit Places a Different Face on the Mainstream Statistic

Central's Student Support Services Teach Recruits Black Male Teachers

The University of Central Oklahoma's Black Male Summit is an empowerment movement on a mission - to rebuild generations of African American men for leadership.

Instead of young African American men leading the statistics for dropout rates, incarcerations, and unemployment, envision a new trend - successful post-secondary educational attainment, professional employment, and contributing citizenry.

UCO President, Don Betz, asked the young black men from across the metroplex if they could feel the deep sense of commitment of Dr. Myron L. Pope, UCO's vice president of student affairs and Harold Wallace III, coordinator from the office of diversity and inclusion.

"You brought us together today. If you were not here, then we would not be here. We have this unbridled belief in the possibilities for individuals, that when they apply themselves, they will have access to great opportunities - which is a great education," Betz said.


OSRHE Vice Chancellor, Dr. Kermit McMurry and UCO President, Don Betz


Oklahoma University (OU) and Booker T. Washington alumnus, Jabar Shumate, of Tulsa served as this year's keynote speaker.  Shumate is currently OU's Vice President of University Community, where he oversees diversity programs on all three campuses, including admissions.

After voicing shout-outs to the attending schools from the various districts, Shumate asked students to represent their respective schools by cheering, saying "We are all connected no matter what school you come from. We all have our school pride, but this event is about coming together.  I am, because you are. We want you to understand that we are all linked in a fashion to succeed."

OU Vice President of University Community,

 Jabar Shumate

A network of more than 230 professionally dressed students from common education and higher education, 70 special guests, and numerous community leaders attended the event, which was facilitated by 65 UCO faculty and staff volunteers.

"We are here and are dedicating our time, because we want to make sure you are successful. I want to see you successful if you attend the University of Central Oklahoma, or any other institution in this state, including if you should attend Harvard University. No matter where you attend college, we want you to see your potential, understand it, and then develop a strategy and a plan to get there. Knowledge is the ability to make your plan, work your plan, and execute your plan," Shumate said.

After spending 11 years in the Oklahoma legislature, serving in the Oklahoma House of Representatives and in the state Senate, Shumate admitted he realized early on that black men were and continue to be underrepresented in both legislative branches.

"In this state, I know as a policy maker that we have challenges," Shumate says, "Why do we have challenges? Here's why.

UCO Student Support Services Teach Recruiter, Randal Holiday
For example, if you attend U.S. Grant, where you make up four percent of the population, you constitute 32 percent of the suspensions. At that particular rate, we have an alarm at the gate. At that rate, you are on the path that says you cannot make it.  You are in a system that is always pulling you down. Our goal and objective is to let you know you are destined for success. You are your brother's keeper by helping raise other people up."

Also elevating the bar for the advancement of African American men are those like Randal Holiday, a former teacher of Marcus Garvey and Frederick Douglass High School with Oklahoma City.

Holiday currently serves at UCO as a retention specialist under the umbrella of Student Support Services Teach.

As a retention specialist, Holiday says, "We seek out education majors to provide support and share information with them about scholarships and other free opportunities that will help them be successful and succeed in college."

Holiday is also a member of UCO's Black Male Initiative and the African American Staff Association, saying "I am here to support these young black men in their pursuit for higher education, and I want to encourage a few of them to become teachers."

UCO's Black Male Summit Participants

For the second year, the Black Male Summit committee and breakout speakers were made up of successful men and women in higher education, state and federal government, and private industry, who received an 8.4 survey approval rating for the event.

Two Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education administrators played pivotal roles in the Summit.  Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Dr. Kermit McCurry, was present offering leadership. In addition, Associate Vice Chancellor for State Grants and Scholarships, Bryce Fair, took part in sharing information about Oklahoma's Promise.

Director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, MeShawn Conley said, "In many instances, the Black Male Summit is the first experience for many African American men to see a multitude of educated, determined, and successful men that they can relate to.  This leads to a seed being planted for that student, with the hope that if these professional Black men can do this, so can I."


Common Education/ Clinton Public Schools

Nance Elementary Instructional Leader Fills the

Buckets Within the Clinton Community

A Fable Brought to Life, Practiced Daily

Just babies themselves, more than two dozen kindergarteners sat on their classroom floor with folded legs, listening intently to the story Alligator Baby by Robert Munsch.

The book, like Nance Elementary School's culture and community of children, parents, support staff, teachers, and the administration mirrors the fable.

Nance's principal, Janalyn Taylor, read the story to the children, and her disposition personified the same characteristics of the main character, the mother, in Munsch's adventure.

Nance principal, Janalyn Taylor reading the story Alligator Baby by Robert Munsch.

What's the moral of the story?  -  Unconditional love for all children, modeled by Taylor.



In a high pitched unified voice, the children and their principal mimicked the screeching noise made by Kristen's parents' car pulling away from the zoo - The zoo?  Yes, the zoo, Taylor read.    After making a wrong turn, the expecting parents arrived at the zoo instead of their intended destination - the hospital.   While there, they picked up the wrong baby.

They brought home an alligator baby.  It was not a people baby.

According to the story teller, their mistake became more welcoming complex after Kristen's mom and dad returned to the zoo to bring home not just one but two additional non-people babies, a seal and then a gorilla. 


Clinton's Nance Elementary School Pre-K class.

The alligator, the seal, and the gorilla were loved, cared for, and embraced as new members of Kristen's family.

Determined to bring home Kristen's baby brother, his parents returned to the zoo a fourth time and was welcomed by the crying of a people baby.  The missing baby brother was lying in the middle of the angry mama gorilla's cage.  Finally, mom and dad picked up Kristen's baby brother and brought him home. The non-people babies were reunited with their parents, a happy ending to the fable.

However, the story does not end there. Instead, it resumes at Nance Elementary, where 481 children from different communities and cultures enter classrooms headed up by people, teacher leaders.   Taylor, the people leader, and the Nance team ensure their students grow socially, as well as academically within a safe and secure environment - a true reflection of a living fable.

It is not a job, Taylor says, "It's my calling." 

Taylor is a bucket filler, pouring goodness into the lives she touches. The educator has been filling the buckets of children, teachers, and the Clinton community for 34 years.

Well acquainted with the rural community, Taylor could identify each and every pocket location, as well as disclose what each pocket contained - be it poverty or privilege.

"When we do interviews, I always ask prospective teachers how comfortable are they with diverse communities. We have lots of families who speak Spanish. We have all kinds of socioeconomic differences. We have racial differences," says Taylor.  "About any kind of diversity there is, we got it at Clinton. I don't' want anyone at our school, who is not comfortable with that, and not all people are comfortable with that. " 

The National Board Certified teacher, who was also Clinton Public Schools' 2000 Teacher of the Year, says it takes the entire staff to serve as an effective principal.  Nance Elementary has 39 certified staff and 31 support staff, who team up to run the school that meets the needs of a student population made up of 82 percent free or reduced lunch.

"We have a team of professionals, who help out where needed.  When I have people like Tonya, who has a job that lets her out of the classroom to work the technology, that's a plus!  Then, I have J.G., a counselor, who is awesome at everything he does and touches.  He is like having another assistant," Taylor said.

Taylor connects and maintains transparent two-way communication with parents and other community partners through the use of social media, monthly newsletters, and the relationships she fosters.

Relationships determine the outcome of school success, according to Taylor. Her personal philosophy advocates building strong and genuine relationships are vital to any school setting.  "Respecting, focusing, and learning the needs, the strengths, and the weaknesses of our children to help students grow and thrive, while creating a safe and amazing climate, where everything is possible," Taylor said. 

Taylor says it is a whole way of thinking for teachers. She stated it is about how to manage very young children, because they have short attention spans.  In addition, it is also important to meet each child's need, depending on each circumstance at any given time.

 "The teachers are very good about spotting needs, making the exception, figuring out what needs to be done differently and doing it. I am really proud of the teachers for doing that," she said.

Socially, an extension of Nance Elementary' s reach is their partnership with the Methodist Healthcare Center, where two early childhood classes are housed and facilitated at the senior citizen center. Children are paired with seniors, creating a bond between the old and the young.

"Initially, there were many misconceptions about the partnership;  however,  the concerns  which were once present, no longer exist," Taylor says, "Now, I don't hear any of those concerns anymore," she said.

Academically, the stimuli tapping into the left side of the brain is the Nance Innovation Station, where students work in concert, creatively blending play and work to create, invent, tinker, explore, and discover.  Two Nance teachers wrote and received grant funding to create the Nance Innovation Station.

A few of the important aspects of education include test scores, academics, relationships, respect, and character.  However, Taylor says relationships, respect, and character were her top priorities and are necessary components to achieve academic growth and elevated test scores. 

Instructional leader,

Janalyn Taylor

"For me, relationships, respect, and character would come before academics and test scores. I really feel like if a kid knows you love him, care for him, and he comes for the right reasons, he will suck it up do anything you give them.  They love that, and they will do their best.  But if they don't feel loved, and cared for and wanted, forget it. They are never going to try hard, and why would they try," Taylor said. 

Modeling the behavior one would like to see was exemplified in Taylor's first principal mentor, Darrell Trissell.  Taylor said Trissell was a student of her father, who was also a principal and a superintendent.

"Darrell was firm, yet he was a kind man, and many said he was a gentle man. I learned from him that when the students know you love them; they will do a lot of things.  As the instructional leader, I give the same love to teachers, staff, and their families," Taylor said, "because they need love too." 

        Teacher Creates a Place of Refuge for Children At Risk

U. S. First Lady, Michelle Obama Recognizes Clinton Teacher, Lillian Collins

Located across the street from the drug corner in Clinton, Oklahoma is the Eastside Academy Inc. - a safe haven for 120 underserved children - ran by a teacher - Lillian Collins.

Lillian Collins, a native of Clinton, is the 21st century Marva Collins, who was a teacher that established the Westside Preparatory School in the impoverished Garfield Park neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois, with the goal of improving the academic and social outcomes of a marginalized community of children.


Lillian Collins, founder and executive director of the Eastside Academy Inc.

Collins, a native of Clinton, and a Southwest Elementary third grade teacher, saw a need and

decided to do something about it.


In 2003, Collins became the founder and executive director of the Eastside Academy that was established near the Lincoln Housing Addition in Clinton. Initially, the academy began tutoring students in community churches and public libraries.  In 2009, the Eastside Academy, Inc. was incorporated and relocated at 215 E. Modelle Avenue in Clinton. 

"When I get discouraged, I don't put quit in my mind. I go home and pull out a pencil and a piece of paper and write down what we can do to make up for what we don't have, or  what we would like to see happen. I don't think to quit. Not quit. Not give-up. Just keep going," says Collins.

The academy is an after-school tutoring and extra-curricular program for underserved pre-kindergarten to 12 grade students that provides additional instruction in math and reading, as well as creative outlets that include sports, ballet, gymnastics, and also musical theatre.

Students are given opportunities to partake in interactive clubs such as Eastside Gents and Ladies of Essence, encouraging Eastside students to uphold their civic duty, as well as their academic success.

She says her goal is to provide more than just tutoring. Collins says she established the Eastside Academy to offer students meals made available by the Oklahoma food bank, transportation, field trips, and incentives for attendance and effort, coupled with love, guidance, and discipline when necessary.

Due to increased enrollment, the Eastside Academy was relocated to an updated secure building that has four classrooms fully equipped with computers and tools to help facilitate teaching and learning.

"Many thought the kids would tear up the new building, but they did not. We manage to keep our bills paid.  We keep the lights on, the gas on, and we keep it fixed up. That's their home," she said.

Recognized by U.S. First Lady, Michelle Obama


Eastside Academy Founder, Lillian Collins (far right)  recognized by first lady Michelle Obama during the MORE Magazine Impact Award's luncheon. Other honorees are pictured.

Collins' impact has not only been felt in Clinton, but the news about the love she has shown to the eastside children has made its way and has touched the U.S. White House, capturing the attention of first lady, Michelle Obama in 2015.  

Obama made the keynote address at the MORE Magazine Impact Award's luncheon, honoring Collins and four other outstanding women.
The MORE Magazine Impact Awards honors four exceptional women, chosen by MORE editors, who have made a significant impact in the areas of health and exercise, veterans and military families, and education, both domestically and internationally.

"I told my kids you can shake the hand that shook the hand of Michelle Obama," Collins says laughing. "When I learned that I was being recognized, and they told me that, I just went in shock, shock.  It was shock to me. We were given the award for doing the work in the community, and we have been doing it for a while," Collins said.

In 2015, she was also recognized with the ONE Award. In 2009, Collins received the Clinton Woman of the Year and the L'Oreal Paris Women of Worth Award; in 2008, she was honored with the Ebony Magazine Powerful Difference Award and in 2004, Collins was recognized as Clinton Teacher of the Year.

The L'Oreal Paris Women of Worth Award took place in New York City, and Collins was recognized alongside with Mary J. Blige, a national R & B recording artist and 10 other women from all different walks of life. The Eastside Academy received $5,000 for the award.

Collins says she does what she does, because her children need stability, and she and staff try to provide them a safe place to thrive.

 "Our children are coming from all walks of life, where they don't have or they can't get.  They need stability. We are going to be here. Their test scores were so, so, very low, but when they come to the academy, they know we will be here for them.  On Friday, we are not open, but we often go on Fridays just to pass out food," Collins said.

Through the work of the academy staff made up of two teachers and several volunteers, the test scores of their children have risen from the 30th to 80th percentile. 

"Now, we are living in an age when grandmothers and grandpas are taking care of kids.  The moms are not there, because they are in prison.  The lock up rate for mothers is unfortunate.  We bring these children to school, and tell them they need to complete their math assignment.  Well, a child cannot complete his math assignment, because they were in a knock out brawl the night before, or you may have seen one.  After experiencing something like that, we want them test, and we want them to be okay. Well, it doesn't work like that," she said.  

After school is out, Collins explained that the academy staff feed the children, help with homework, gather signed field trip permission slips or go and collect them, while making home visits.

"Let me tell you, I have talked with the best of drug dealers.  Let me tell you.  It is something when you are talking with a parent, whose first name is Short. This may be our only link. In doing all this, at least you know you have tried to make some kind of contact. That is what makes a difference, but that's the life they live, full of drugs, abuse, violence," Collins said.

Collins quoted Martin Luther King saying," 'We are not alright unless they are alright.'"

The Eastside Academy's mission says it is to teach self-discipline, induce self-love, and raise self-esteem while instilling the power of knowledge.
Lillian Collins and the staff of the Eastside Academy have given the children of Lincoln Housing Addition a reason to live.

Office of Educational Quality and Accountability

National Board Certified Teachers Advocate For the Profession

To kick off the National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT) Summit, more than 100 NBCTs from all four corners of the state convened in Oklahoma City to celebrate the newly certified and the renewed NBCT certifications.

Participants received gifts, welcomes, accolades, and congratulatory wishes from most every Sooner state educational agency, teachers' unions, and the secretary of education.

The NBCT Summit's unified thematic charge - Seize the Profession!

The Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) Vice President, Katherine Bishop, told the NBCTs, "We are here to celebrate and fellowship. We will integrate our minds with information, and then we are going have a call to action.  Oklahoma is facing a teacher shortage, and the time is right for us to seize our profession now!"

To date, Oklahoma is ranked 9th in the nation with 3,109 NBCTs, adding 13 newly certified in 2016 and 32 renewals, totaling 412 renewals in 2015.

NBCT participants

Assistant Director of the Oklahoma Office of Educational Quality and Accountability (OEQA), Jennifer Gambrell, also a NBCT, spearheaded the celebration.

Oklahoma Secretary of Education, Natalie Shirley said, "Teachers are those individuals, who believe in the children they teach. If you are lucky, some those same students you pushed will come back to you and say thank you."

Shelly Stanton from Billings, Montana gave the Summit keynote address. Stanton, a NBCT business education teacher and a Google Certified instructor, shared technology tools and tips on how to integrate the various formats into a curriculum.

Oklahoma Secretary of Education, Natalie Shirley

The summit also facilitated sessions on effective public relations, networking, and advocacy.  

Jenny Parther, a first grade teacher from Lakehoma said, "I want to stand up for my babies, my young children, who are under pressure due to the test culture. I don't have anything against testing at all, but the tests need to be developmentally age appropriate. If we can come together and work out balanced, age appropriate tests, then I feel we have accomplished a great deal. I am here to advocate for our children."

At the close of summit, the master teachers constructed the Oklahoma NBCT Excellence in Education Plan that puts into motion the action plan, establishing indicators for accomplished teaching.

To read the Oklahoma NBCT Excellence in Education Plan, visit:

To learn more about National Board Certification, visit: 

Oklahoma Teacher Connection


The Oklahoma Teacher Connection, a division of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, will electronically publish the TeachLINK E-newsletter three times a year.


The purpose of the E-Newsletter is to promote, market, and showcase news stories, creative features, curricular highlights, research data, and technological updates, which impact Oklahoma's Colleges of Teacher Education, common education, higher education faculty, students, and communities.


We welcome all comments, opinions, and/or concerns. Please forward your remarks to Deena Thomas at dthomas@osrhe.edu.


In This Issue
Direct from the Editor's Desk
Direct from the Editor's Desk
Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education
Northeastern Oklahoma State University
Oklahoma City University
University of Central Oklahoma
Common Education/ Clinton Public Schools
Office of Education Quality and Accountability
Editor's Note

Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education | 655 Research Parkway, Suite 200 | PO Box 108850 | Oklahoma City | OK | 73101