Union Public Schools teacher a Top 5 finalist for national teaching award


Source: Union Public Schools

Rebecka Peterson, Oklahoma’s State Teacher of the Year, and a math teacher at Union High School, was announced today as one of five finalists for the 2023 National Teacher of the Year by the Council of Chief State Schools Officers (CCSSO). 

She will be welcomed home by Union students and staff at a special celebration and press conference to be held in her honor at Union High School. This is the first time in Union’s history that the district has had a finalist in the Top 5 for National Teacher of the Year.

Peterson says her students bring out the best version of her, and she hopes she does the same. She helps administer the blog “One Good Thing,” in which she posts something good from her classroom every day. She has contributed 1,400 posts to the blog, inspiring her students to reflect on hope and joy in their own journals.

This year, she has broadened the scope of “One Good Thing” as she is visiting teachers in all 77 Oklahoma counties in her role as Oklahoma Teacher of the Year. She reports about Oklahoma educators’ stories of hope, tenacity and creativity on the “Teachers of Oklahoma” social media pages. At the forefront of her education philosophy is listening to stories.

Peterson is passionate about making mathematics engaging, relevant and accessible to all, no matter their background.

Peterson was recently named one of six state-level finalists for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. This is Peterson’s 14th year in education and her 11th at Union High School. She earned a Bachelor of Science in mathematics from Oklahoma Wesleyan University and a Master of Arts in mathematics at the University of South Dakota.

The other finalists for the CCSSO Teacher of the  Year honor are: 

Harlee Harvey, the 2023 Alaska Teacher of the Year, is a first-grade teacher who works to authentically integrate the local Alaska Native Iñupiaq culture and knowledge systems into her lessons.

Carolyn Kielma, the 2023 Connecticut Teacher of the Year, is a high school science teacher who provides a trusted adult ear for students who need help, and who creates an inclusive environment where all students feel valued, accepted and treated with equity.

Jermar Rountree, the 2023 District of Columbia Teacher of the Year, is a preschool through 8th grade physical education and health teacher who emphasizes the importance of teaching mental health along with physical wellness and believes in the importance of involving family and community in all aspects of schooling. Along with being a district-wide leader in physical and mental health education, he has developed relationships with a large variety of community organizations that help support his students to meet their full potential.

Kimberly Radostits, the 2023 Illinois Teacher of the Year, is a secondary Spanish teacher. She leads a mentoring program for students, utilizing an early warning system to identify struggling students and ensure they’re on track to graduate in four years. She also co-directs a New Teacher Academy for all new hires to the district.

“Teachers across the country have met the extraordinary challenges of the last few years with dedication and ingenuity, helping students recover and setting them up for long-term success. CCSSO is proud to celebrate teachers across the country – from the coast of Alaska to Washington, D.C. and everywhere in between – through the National Teacher of the Year Program,” said CCSSO Chief Executive Officer Carissa Moffat Miller. “Congratulations to the finalists and thank you to the Selection Committee for your work in selecting finalists from among the outstanding 2023 State Teachers of the Year.”

Each year, states, U.S. extra-state territories, the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense Education Activity select outstanding educators to serve as State Teachers of the Year. There are 55 teachers in the 2023 cohort. From that group, the National Teacher of the Year Selection Committee, comprised of 17 individuals and education organizations, selects finalists based on written applications.

The finalists announced today will conduct interviews with the National Teacher of the Year Program’s Selection Committee, and CCSSO will announce the selected 2023 National Teacher of the Year later this spring. The 2023 National Teacher of the Year will spend the next year serving as an ambassador for education and an advocate for all teachers and students.

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