Skip Navigation

Celebration of Education

Celebration of Education

The Celebration of Education in Oklahoma recognizes educators and education advocates who are making a difference in Oklahoma and beyond. This is a chance to recognize Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education faculty, students and graduates for their impact, as well as others who are transforming lives in Oklahoma and beyond through their work in education.


April 12-16, 2021

Kendra Williams Diehm standing on campus in red blazer
Monday, April 12

Sponsored by Roberta and Steve Burrage 

Celebration of Education Lecture Series
Dr. Kendra Williams Diehm, Professor and Director, Sooner Works

“Building Inclusive Higher Education: the Sooner Works Initiative”

Click Here to Watch
"Building Inclusive Higher Education"

Giving Day written in crimson lettering
Tuesday, April 13

OU Giving Day

Consider honoring an educator that made a difference in your life by participating in OU Giving Day.


Lena Tenney
Wednesday, April 14

Sponsored by Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education Faculty and Staff

Celebration of Education Lecture Series
Lena Tenney, MPA, M.Ed., Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer, Ohio State University College of Pharmacy

“[Re]Framing Diversity and Inclusion: Reaching the Champions, the Critics, and the Couldn’t Care Less-ers”

Click here to watch
"[Re]Framing Diversity and Inclusion


headshot of Mirelsie Velazquez
Thursday, April 15

Sponsored by Cathey and Donald Humphreys

Celebration of Education Lecture Series
Dr. Mirelsie Velazquez, Associate Professor, Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education

“Going Back To The Territory: Centering Black and Indigenous Oklahoma History In Today’s Schooling Context”

Click here to watch
"Going Back to the Territory"

George Henderson
Friday, April 16

Celebration of Education Awards and Keynote

Join us in a taped video presentation featuring this year’s Celebration of Education in Oklahoma winners. We will honor the Emerging Educator, Outstanding Educator, Career Achievement, Meritorious Service, Inspiring Excellence in Education and faculty and staff award winners. The showcase will conclude with a keynote speech from Award of Distinction winner Dr. George Henderson.

Click Here to Watch
the Awards and Keynote Speaker




2021 Celebration of Education Award Winners

Dr. George Henderson

In 1967, Dr. George Henderson became the University of Oklahoma’s third full-time African American faculty member at the Norman campus. In 1969, he became the Sylvan N. Goldman Professor of Human Relations, Education and Sociology. Later, he was appointed to three other distinguished professorships: David Ross Boyd Professor, Regents’ Professor, and Kerr-McGee Presidential Professor. After he became the Goldman Professor, he founded the Human Relations Department, which he chaired for 20 years. From 1996 to 2000, he was dean of the College of Liberal Studies. Thus, he was the first African American in Oklahoma to hold a distinguished professorship; and he was the first African American at the University of Oklahoma to create a degree-granting department; and the first African American dean of a degree-granting college on the Norman campus. Although he retired from the University in 2006, he still teaches on a part-time basis.

A civil rights pioneer in higher education in Oklahoma, George Henderson has achieved many other notable accomplishments. His awards and honors include being the recipient of the OU Regents Superior Teaching Award (1977); University of Oklahoma and University of Oklahoma Alumni Association Distinguished Service Award (1992); American Association for Higher Education's Black Caucus Award for Outstanding Educational Service (1993); C.V. Ramana Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Mental Health of Oklahoma's Children (1996); Outstanding Professor Award, University of Oklahoma Interfraternity Council and Pan-Hellenic Association (1997); Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence Medal for the Outstanding College and University Professor (2000); State of Oklahoma Black Heritage Lifetime Achievement Award (2003); Induction into the Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame (2003) and also induction into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame (2003). In 2010, the Oklahoma City/Norman Chapter of the OU Black Alumni Society awarded him a “Trailblazer Award for Distinguished Service.” The Henderson Scholars Program and the Henderson-Tolson Cultural Center on the Norman campus bear his name. The University of Oklahoma awarded him an honorary doctorate (Doctor of Humane Letters) at the May 2011 Commencement. In 2015, Oklahoma Today Magazine named Dr. Henderson one of the forty-five most influential African American Oklahomans. In 2012, he was inducted into the Oklahoma African-American Hall of Fame.

A race relations and civil rights scholar, George Henderson has taught university courses and spoken at conferences and workshops throughout the United States and internationally. In addition, he has written 34 books and 50 articles, presented papers at over 100 professional conferences; been a consultant to dozens of state and national organizations; and has been a keynote speaker at over 200 student meetings. Prominent among his books are To Live in Freedom: Human Relations Today and Tomorrow (1972); Human Relations: From Theory to Practice (1974); Cultural Diversity in the Workplace (1994); Migrants, Immigrants and Slaves (1995); Human Relations Issues in Management (1996); Our Souls to Keep: Black/White Relations in America (1999); Psychosocial Aspects of Disability (2004); Race and the University: A Memoir  (2010); A Human Relations Approach to Multiculturalism in K-12 Schools (2013) and Introduction to Human Relations Studies (2016). In 2011, the Oklahoma Historical Society selected Race and the University as the Outstanding Book on Oklahoma History published in 2010.

In 2003, he received the College of Education’s Career Achievement Award. In 2019, he received the College of Arts and Sciences’ Distinguished Service Award. In 2011, Dr. Henderson and his wife Barbara were recipients of the Xenia Institute’s Sam Mathews Social Justice Award. They were the first African American property owners in Norman. They are the parents of seven children and the grandparents of eight grandchildren. Dr. Henderson’s master’s degree in sociology and Ph.D. in educational sociology are from Wayne State University in Detroit.

Favorite Educational Memory:
"My favorite moment was seeing the tears in my mother's eyes and her mouth smiling when I received my high school diploma. Her dream had come true. I was the first person in my family to graduate from high school. And I would the first one to go to college."


Lena Tenney

Lena Tenney is the diversity, equity and inclusion officer for the Ohio State University College of Pharmacy. They graduated from the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education in 2016 with an M.Ed. in adult and higher education.

Prior to their position at the college of pharmacy, Tenney was the coordinator of public engagement for the Kirwin Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State. There they directed the national, state, and local public engagement portfolio of the Race and Cognition Program and was co-creator of the nation’s first free, publicly available online learning platform about implicit bias in K-12 education; the first free, publicly available online learning platform about implicit bias in child welfare; and a professional development module on implicit bias in health care provision in collaboration with OSU’s Wexner Medical Center. This online training is now required annually for all 26,000+ employees of the OSU health system.

During Tenney's time at the Kirwin Institute, they facilitated over 190 sessions with more than 13,000 participants in 17 states. Tenney serves on the board of directors at TransOhio and was co-founder and executive task force member of Norman United, a grassroots organization dedicated to ensuring the city of Norman welcomes and protects LGBTQ residents.

Favorite Educational Memory:
"A few weeks after facilitating a workshop on speaking up in response to bias, a faculty member who had participated came to another similar session. When I joked that she might be bored since the content would be very similar, she told me that she couldn't wait to keep learning and taking away new lessons. She continued by saying that a few days after that first workshop, her nephew came out to his family as transgender. This faculty member said that she loved and supported her nephew but would not have been able to effectively express that because lack of facility with language so often limit our ability to convey our deepest feelings. She thanked me for explaining my own pronouns and answering some questions about trans identity at the beginning of that workshop because it empowered her to effectively articulate her love and support to her nephew in that special moment because she had been given the opportunity to learn how in advance."

Rebecca Oglesby

Rebecca Oglesby is an elementary art teacher at Ranchwood Elementary in Yukon and was the 2019 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year. She is a graduate of the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education, earning a bachelor’s degree in elementary education.

Prior to Yukon, Rebecca taught in Moore Public Schools, where she was a teacher at Plaza Towers Elementary. When an EF-5 tornado hit in May 2013, claiming the lives of seven students, she used her body to shield her first-graders as the twister destroyed the school. Known in her school and community as the “Batman Teacher” for the abundance of comic-book memorabilia in her classroom, Oglesby incorporates core subject areas into her art lessons, provides the opportunity for students to express their uniqueness, and provides life lessons.

Rick Cobb

Dr. Rick Cobb is the superintendent of Mid-Del Public Schools. He earned his Ph.D. in educational administration, curriculum and supervision from the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education and is a member of the college's EPD Advisory Council.

Cobb was named winner of the 2019 State Superintendent's Fine Arts Medal for Excellence in Administration, as well as the District 7 Superintendent of the Year from the Oklahoma Association of School Administrators. He was also awarded the 2019 Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence Medal of Excellence winner for elementary and secondary administration.

Favorite Educational Memory:
"When I taught high school English, one of my favorite units was a survey of world poetry. Not every sophomore in Mustang shared my enthusiasm though, and they reluctantly followed along because they really didn't have any choice. After three weeks of teacher-led and student-led activites, culminating in a final project of their choosing, one of my students came up to me and said, very sweetly, 'Mr. Cobb, that didn't TOTALLY suck.' To this date that is one of the biggest compliments I have ever received."

Frank Wang

Dr. Frank Wang is president of the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics (OSSM) and the former chairman and CEO of Saxon Publishers, a national K-12 textbook publisher that was founded and based in Norman, Oklahoma.  In January 2003, Dr. Wang stepped down from leading Saxon Publishers to pursue his lifelong dream to be a classroom teacher, teaching at OSSM for no pay for three years and at the University of Oklahoma for two years at the invitation of then President Boren.  (Dr. Wang earned a modest stipend at OU so that he could get a faculty parking pass but donated his earnings to the OU Libraries to sponsor the Books that Inspire program.)

Dr. Wang has traveled extensively nationally as a motivational speaker and estimates he has spoken to over 30,000 teachers at conferences and teacher workshops.  He has also guest taught and worked with students nationally, including students from the NYC Public Schools, Chicago Public Schools, Washington DC Public Schools, Baltimore Public Schools, and Dallas Public Schools.  As a teaching fellow with the Alexander Dawson Foundation, he has lived and worked with economically disadvantaged students from the region surrounding Denver, Colorado and Las Vegas, Nevada. 

Dr. Wang’s life story of being a child diagnosed with neurological impairment who later went on to earn a BA in math from Princeton and a PhD in pure math from MIT is chronicled in a book titled Opening Doors, a book about 13 Oklahomans who overcame adversity, authored by Tom Lindsey and whose publication was funded by Gene Rainbolt, whose biography was also authored by Lindsey. 

Dr. Wang continues to teach and teaches a semester long class called Special Topics in Math where he introduces OSSM students to number and set theory, abstract algebra, topology, real analysis and game theory.  He lightheartedly calls this class “Math Dim Sum” after the style of Chinese eating where diners sample little plates of different foods. 

Dr. Wang co-authored a widely used high school calculus book that was published when he was 23 years old and served on the math advisory panel for President Clinton’s Proposed National Voluntary Test and was on the Mathematical Sciences Education Board during President George W. Bush’s administration.  He graduated from Norman High School in 1982 and while he was attending Norman High walked to and from OU to take classes at OU.

Frank has been married to Judy Wang for nearly 29 years and they have four children, Christopher (age 24), Emily (age 22), Waverly (age 20), and Olivia (age 16).

2021 Faculty and Staff Award Winners

Corey Peltier

Assistant Professor Corey Peltier is in his third year at OU and has been a welcome addition to the department of educational psychology. He has been a major contributor to the re-emergence of the special education program as a premiere academic unit within the college.

Dr. Peltier has demonstrated outstanding research productivity, publishing 17 journal article with two more currently in press. One of the most impressive aspects of his publishing is his involvement with students as he has 11 articles with students listed as co-authors. This shows an amazing dedication to ensuring the students in his program will have the research experiences they need for the future. In addition, he has taken an active role in the recruitment and hiring of new faculty in the department and serves on various committees in service to the college.

Daniel Hamlin

Assistant Professor Daniel Hamlin joined the department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at OU Tulsa in 2018 after a post-doctoral fellowship at the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government. In his two-plus years at OU, he has deepened his inquiry into issues of school choice, safety and parental involvement, emerging as a recognized expert in these areas.

Nearly half of his 17 peer-reviewed journal publications to date have been solo authored and he currently has five more under review. Dr. Hamlin is also a committed teacher and advisor and mentor to our master’s and doctoral students, currently serving as a dissertation advisor for 12 students and eight more as a committee member. He has given back to the college by playing an instrumental role in the evolution and success of the Professional Development Leadership Academy at OU-Tulsa and has been an integral part of the work at the Oklahoma Center for Education Policy.

Crag Hill

Associate Professor Crag Hill joined the JRCoE faculty in 2013 as part of the English education program and has been a leader in research focusing on how young adult literature and comics speak to adolescents about their world and helps develop strategies to teach critical engagement. He is especially interested in examining how young adult literature and comics reinforce or challenge cultural assumptions about poverty, friendship, individuality, the environment and other issues pertinent to adolescents.

Since arriving at OU, his research has been shared through five edited books, 14 books chapters, six peer-reviewed articles and dozens of conference proposals. Another notable area of his research efforts is his co-founding of the online journal Study and Scrutiny: Research in Young Adult Literature which provides a venue for established and new scholars of young adult literature to publish their research on a wide range of societal issues. His new line of inquiry in poetry and poetry education has worked toward sharing his and other’s poetry through anthologies and exhibitions.

Mirelsie Velázquez

Associate Professor Mirelsie Velázquez joined our faculty in 2014 and was named a Rainbolt Family Endowed Education Presidential Professor in 2020. Dr. Velázquez consistently receives the highest scores on student evaluations in the department and college, and her advisees speak passionately about her presence in their lives. Her students have shown themselves to be active participants in college discussions and events, asking questions through concepts that reflect deeply entrenched structural inequities in education, jobs, housing, and policing.

In nomination, her students refer to her guidance, mentorship and teaching style as having given them a personal sense of belonging in academia. Dr. Velázquez creates a space where rigorous discussion is pursued in a way that people are drawn in rather than cast out. One of her doctoral students wrote that Dr. Velázquez has challenged her to think critically about issues of equity in schools and how historically rooted structures and policies influence how diverse populations experience education. Dr. Velázquez models what engaged, transformative learning looks and feels like.

Aiyana Henry

Associate Professor Aiyana Henry tirelessly strives to improve the life of the ILAC department as the elementary education program coordinator, and of the college as associate dean for professional education, as well as inspires and students and colleagues to be the very best versions of themselves through her hard work, dedication and commitment to justice. As elementary education program coordinator she has updated and streamlined processes and procedures, built connections to local school partners, worked across program areas to improve the experiences of students, and built strong relationships with students and faculty alike. Since being appointed as associate dean, she has continued to lead through her ability to form strong relationships and respond to a variety of needs while maintaining a focus on the good of our students and our college.

Dr. Henry has been actively engaged with the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, the Office of Educational Quality and Accountability, and the Oklahoma Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. She initiated a program in coordination with Norman Public School's Indian Education Program which has brought hundreds of second grade students to the College of Education. In addition, she helps to organize and lead the Find Your Future Summer Education Camp, which aims to bring together students of color from across the state and provide support as they envision themselves at universities and in education professions.

Ron McCarty

Ron McCarty is the director of technology for the college and has been instrumental in keeping faculty, staff and students connected during this last year. Ron has always gone out of his way to support their needs. As the college made the shift to online instruction last spring, he was instrumental in making sure everyone had the tools and resources necessary to support instruction and learning. Those who nominated Ron for this award spoke over and over about his kindness, patience and willingness to help no matter the time of day or task at hand. As one person said, he is a great asset to the University of Oklahoma, and we are very fortunate to have him and all the IT personnel in the education department.

2021 Inspiring Excellence in Education Award Winners

Rodney Bates

Dr. Rodney Bates is the director of graduate student and postdoc retention and support at OU completed his Ph.D. in adult and higher education from the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education.

His research focuses on African American males’ experiences at historically white institutions, as well as on dominant and resistant notions of success in higher education. Dr. Bates’s areas of interest include unpacking the inequality of student experiences, understanding important implications for broadening equity and inclusion for underrepresented populations, and student of color access to higher education.

His research and practice speaks to the need to fully include marginalized students in institutional decision-making, curriculum development, and the day-to-day leadership and operations of our institutions. Dr. Bates’s research and professional activities continually focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Furthermore, he intentionally collaborates with students, faculty, and school practitioners on topics related to social justice, diversity, equity, education policy, access to higher education for traditionally underserved populations, and addressing inequities across the P-20 pipeline

"I have profound respect for the efforts the higher education puts forth to train, teach, and inspire college students.  Receiving an education is very important to me. As a first-generation college student, I have had many struggles while going through college. My goal is to inspire young minds, create equal opportunity, and to promote equality regardless of difference, particularly in Oklahoma. Education is one of most successful components that affects someone quality of life and life satisfaction."

Brittany Egger

Brittany Egger is currently the Director of Child Care Partnerships and Quality Assurance for Tulsa Educare, a high-quality early care and education program with three centers serving over 500 ‘at risk’ children, age birth to 5, and their families. For the past six years, Egger has worked to oversee the successful implementation of two Early Head Start Child Care Partnerships Grants with seven child care partners. In addition, Egger oversees the internal and external monitoring systems for Tulsa Educare.

Egger has 10 years of early childhood education experience including five years as a classroom teacher. She is also a certified Program for Infant and Toddler Care trainer. A graduate of the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education at OU-Tulsa with a degree in early childhood education, she lives in Sand Springs with her husband and two children.

"I chose the field of early childhood education to make a difference in the lives of the youngest children. Access to high quality early childhood education can change the trajectory of a child’s life. I have chosen to spend my entire early childhood career thus far at Tulsa Educare because of the commitment to the area’s most at risk children. Working in a field and at an agency that aims to transform the lives of children and their families understands that you have to share your practices with others. Through the partnership grants with Early Head Start I have had the opportunity to share resources and funding with other centers and family child care homes in Tulsa, thus increasing access to quality care."

Charlotte Gordon

Charlotte Gordon retired from the public school system in 2005 after having served as a teacher, basketball coach, counselor, and principal in Norman and Moore.  She has served as a consultant for Collaborating for Results, a substitute teacher, an Instructional coach for elementary teachers, teacher of Language Arts, Social Studies and part time Reading Resource Specialist for middle school. Gordon spent several years working for Pioneer Library System’s Norman Public Library branch as a children’s story time storyteller.

She has also been active in the community and has served on numerous boards at the University of Oklahoma and for the city of Norman. Gordon has researched, planned and coordinated the Norman Public Library’s yearly African American Read-In and Crown’s Tea events.

Currently, Gordon is a supervisor for intern teachers for the University of Oklahoma and as a leadership coach for Moving Up, a program designed for supporting assistant and early career principals. She is a member of the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education Board of Advocates.

"The value of education was stressed early for me because parents knew that education was the key to unlock doors to greater opportunities and freedom of thought and purpose. We were a farm family, but our parents made sure that our home was filled with literature of all kinds so that we’d know there was a larger world beyond the farming community.

Observing the impact that my village of parents, teachers, prominent local civil rights leaders had on educating the community strengthened my resolve to commit to my calling.  My siblings, extended family, and dolls could not escape me when I wanted to play school. My Sunday school teachers allowed me to prepare lessons and teach students who, many, were my own age. My small local newspaper even indulged me and allowed me to submit weekly articles of news from my community.

I didn’t choose this job of being a lifelong teacher; it lovingly chose me. I wanted to be that voice to help others to find theirs, that window as a way of escape from any darkness, that stronghold for the misunderstood and tossed aside, that ear that actually heard. I wanted to be that force for students to see their worth when they couldn’t see it for themselves.  It excites me that I’m still awakening and assisting in discovery of learners. Always mindful of possible hidden potential, I know that education is  the route for learners to think critically with intent and purpose. I strive to be the kind of educator that  inspires students to pass the torch to others. Education has been my work of heart and my life is been richer for it."

Dr. Ebony Johnson is a Tulsa native who takes pride in having grown up in North Tulsa and graduating from McLain High School in 1994. She began her journey in education in 1999. Dr. Johnson has been a language arts middle school teacher where she was named Teacher of the Year for Monroe Middle School after teaching for only two years; an elementary school principal at Academy Central; and a high school principal at McLain Magnet High School for Science and Technology. While at McLain she raised test scores, fostered college acceptance for many seniors and changed the culture towards high expectations for all students.

Dr. Johnson served as principal of Central Magnet Junior and Senior High School for Fine and Performing Arts and recently led as the executive director of student and family support services within Tulsa Public Schools. She is the co-lead for the Wallace PSELI grant and is the chief learning officer for Tulsa Public Schools. She has served her community by sitting on a number of boards, committees and speaking to various groups and constituents about the power of education for all children.

Dr. Johnson has received many awards and accolades for her work with high-poverty, urban students as well as her commitment to collaborating with the community as a whole. This includes the Tulsa Metropolitan Urban League Educational Excellence award in 2010 and the Williams/Shocks Women of Inspiration award. In addition, while an undergraduate college student she was inducted into the NSU Hall of Fame and was named Miss Black Oklahoma 1997 and served as the founding president of the Rho Sigma Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. In order to keep our community informed of educational information, Johnson sends the “What’s Happening in Education” to radio station 105.3 –Kesha the Daytime Diva. In 2014, Johnson received the 100 Black Men of Tulsa Hall of Honor Community Service Award.

Most recently, she received the honor of a top 10 Tulsan to Watch in 2015 by the Tulsa World. She was also named Educator of the Year by the Perry Broadcasting and Company in 2015 and Principal of the Year by the Tulsa Metro Chamber of Commerce Partners in Education 2016. She also received the Status of Women Award by Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority in 2016.

Johnson has conducted numerous trainings on classroom management for the urban child, culturally responsive teaching and progress monitoring. She received her Bachelor’s of Arts in Education from NSU in 1999, her Master’s in Education from NSU in 2001 and her Doctorate in Education from the University of Oklahoma in 2011. She is a board member of the YMCA of Greater Tulsa and Women of the United Way of Tulsa. Most importantly, she is a proud mother of two and a proud wife for 19 years!

Juan Renteria

Juan Renteria, Jr. is a fifth-grade teacher at Truman Elementary in Norman, Oklahoma where he also serves as head teacher .As a teacher, Renteria considers his role as an educator his highest leadership responsibility. He is introduced to a new group of students and parents every year and is expected to lead them. He analyzes each students' strengths, weaknesses, and formulates growth plans to ensure that students are achieving academic and social success.

He is responsible for creating positive alliances with families in order to cultivate a strong support system for all his students. Through his experience in public education, he has learned the value of communication, collaboration, and consistency as essential factors for success.

Renteria is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma where he received his Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education as well as his Master of Education in Educational Administration, Curriculum, and Supervision. His professional and community involvement includes Norman Public School’s Diversity Enrichment Council, Norman Public School’s Leadership Academy, University of Oklahoma Alumni Ambassador, Leadership Oklahoma LOYAL Alumni, as well as being an active member of Antioch Community Church.

In addition, Renteria was recognized as Norman Public Schools’ inaugural Rookie Teacher of the Year in 2015 and he is currently a district finalist for Norman Public Schools’ 2021 Teacher of the Year. He is originally from Hennessey, Oklahoma and now resides in Norman. A first-generation college graduate and the proud son of hard-working immigrants, Renteria enjoys going to the movies, spending time with family and friends, OU football, and reading Harry Potter. His goal is to continue changing lives in the classroom and to someday become a school administrative leader.

"My family history is an important part of my professional journey as an educator. My parents raised me, loved me, and pushed me to fight for the future I wanted, just like they had. Additionally, my parents always valued the idea of education and the promise it carried of infinite possibilities that sadly, they weren’t afforded. In retrospect, it truly is no surprise I chose to become a teacher. From a very young age, I knew that I had to do well in school. Not just for myself, but to honor my immigrant parents and the many sacrifices they had made for me. One of the greatest longings of my heart has always been to prove to my mom and dad that I was worth it. Even though they’ve told me I was, am, and continue to be, I can’t help but want to keep proving to them that I am as resilient and driven as they are. If anything, I want to show my parents how proud I am to be their son; their American dream. As a first-generation college graduate, I’ve been able to contribute something so special to my students that my parents instilled me, which is a deep sense of pride and respect for education. By sharing my journey with others, I have been able to highlight the beauty of learning and the towering walls it can tear down."

Jacob Rosecrants

Rep. Jacob Rosecrants has been a Norman resident for over 30 years. After graduating with a history degree from the University of Oklahoma, he became a social studies teacher in Oklahoma City. He has been the proud state representative of House District 46 since 2017, which encompasses mostly West Norman and Noble. He has two young children who proudly attend Norman Public Schools. Jacob aims to strengthen our public schools, rebuild a thriving middle class, and to continue to be a true representative of the residents of both Norman & Noble.

“Education and empowering educators is important to me because our children are our most important natural resource. There is no more important career than being an educator because they teach the children who will someday affect the future. Everything stems from education!”

Erin Simpson

Erin Simpson (she, her, hers) is the Director for the Gender + Equality Center and Coordinator for the OU Advocates at the University of Oklahoma. In this role, Erin directs the gender-based violence prevention programs, advocacy response to sexual assault, gender outreach programming, and LGBTQ+ education and programming for all three University of Oklahoma campuses. She has previously served in Residence Life at the University of Oklahoma, focusing on the first-year experience, curriculum development, assessment, and graduate student development. Erin currently holds two degrees in education from the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education as well as Women’s and Gender Studies. She is a doctoral candidate in the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies program at OU.

"Education has the opportunity to be liberatory, the promise of unlocking a better future for all of us. I chose to become an educator because I wanted to be an agent of change; what I didn’t know is how much the learning would fundamentally change me. Audre Lorde taught us “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.” I would have never had the lens or the vocabulary to understand that truth if it were not the for the educators who have taught and cared for me. My single greatest hope is to be able to pass along that same care and space for learning."

John Waldron

John Waldron began his teaching career in Washington DC and came to Oklahoma to teach social studies at Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa in 1999. In his twenty years at Booker T., he received awards including Tulsa Public Schools’ Teacher of the Year in 2003, the National Council for International Visitors Educator of the Year Award in 2006, and the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence Secondary Teaching Award in 2013. In 2016, he ran for State Senate because he was frustrated about the state of education policy in Oklahoma. He lost, but subsequently won election to the House of Representatives in 2018. He currently serves on the Committees for Common Education, State’s Rights, Wildlife Conservation and A&B Select Agencies. He lives in Tulsa with his wife Krista and their son Van, aged 12.

"Education matters because providing a good public education to every child is part of the American creed. Education is the great equalizer, having the capability to uplift all Americans and allow our young people to rise up to achieve their potential. I am committed to fighting for better education policies for and investment in Oklahoma public schools."

Past Award Winners