skip to Main Content

It’s a wrap: Oklahoma’s 2021 20 Under 2 Awards

Oklahoma’s 2021 20 Under 2 novice teaching awards celebrate 20 of Oklahoma’s most promising educators in their first or second year of teaching. In May we announced the 2021 honorees and this year we were delighted to shower teachers with a gift box to celebrate their excellence.

Teachers received a custom plaque that was produced at the Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences library, along with a $250 gift certificate to Magic City Books thanks to the support of T.D. Williamson and Magic City Books. We shipped gift boxes to honorees across the state from Guymon in the panhandle to Grandfield in the southwest and Grove in the northeast, and many received special award presentations at their school. The Teaching and Leading Initiative’s executive director Jo Lein was also thrilled to deliver gift boxes to honorees in Tulsa and the surrounding area.

Accolades, appreciation, and congratulations also poured in on Facebook and Instagram where we profiled each of the honorees. Many of Oklahoma’s 20 Under 2 honorees were also featured in local press including: The Lawton Constitution, Ponca Post, Muskogee Phoenix, Cushing Citizen, Black Wall Street Times (second article here), Okmulgee Times, and The Seminole Producer.

Honoring Oklahoma’s talented new teachers is a highlight of our year and we can’t wait to celebrate again next year! Nominations for Oklahoma’s 2022 20 Under 2 novice teaching awards will open in January. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter to stay up to date. We wish all Oklahoma teachers a restful and rejuvenating summer, and thank you for your dedication to Oklahoma students!

Thank you to our sponsors!`

Presenting the 2021 20 Under 2 Honorees!

Twenty of Oklahoma’s most talented novice teachers have been chosen as this year’s 2021 20 Under 2 honorees for the third annual 20 Under 2 Novice Teaching Awards. The 20 Under 2 Novice Teaching Awards hosted by the Teaching and Leading Initiative of Oklahoma, celebrate emerging teachers who are setting the pace for excellent teaching and make Oklahoma’s future look bright. 

Across the state, principals, veteran teachers, and district leaders submitted their top novice teachers for consideration. Each nomination was reviewed by a committee of education professionals and chosen through a multi-stage selection process. The 20 honorees were selected for outstanding classroom culture, for fostering academic success, and for their commitment to Oklahoma students and communities.

The 20 Under 2 Novice Teaching Awards were created to recognize the talent and dedication of Oklahoma’s newest teachers amidst a challenging landscape. In recent years, Oklahoma educators have grappled with limited resources, large class sizes, and low pay, and this year teachers faced a global pandemic along with new forms of distance learning. For educators just beginning their profession, these challenges are especially difficult. After five years, only about half of new teachers remain in the classroom and schools struggle to recruit high-quality teacher candidates. The 20 Under 2 awards acknowledges these difficulties, and honors new teachers’ whose emerging strengths and talents are needed now more than ever. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is MCBlogo_crop-1.png

Thanks to the generous support of T.D. Williamson and Magic City Books, 20 Under 2 honorees will receive a $250 gift card to Magic City Books to build their classroom library. Honorees will also receive a gift box that includes a custom 20 Under 2 plaque, a Round Table membership from Magic City Books, a custom notebook and other goodies.   

“Celebrating this year’s 20 Under 2 honorees is a bright spot amidst an especially difficult year. Oklahoma’s 2021 honorees have not only persisted through the pandemic, but their tremendous skill, hard work, and dedication has distinguished them as some of our most promising educators,” said TLI Executive Director Dr. Joanna Lein. “It is critical that we continue to find ways to invest in our state’s teaching talent because our students deserve the most skillful and experienced educators.” 

The 2021 20 Under 2 Honorees are:

Abby Messick, Crooked Oak Public Schools

Addison Lambert, Sand Springs Public Schools

Alice L. Lee, Jennings Public Schools

Allison Kirkley, Muskogee Public Schools

Ashli Robinson, El Reno Public Schools

Blake Karr, Fort Gibson Public Schools

Caitlyn Spoonemore, Grandfield Public Schools

Christina Beverage, Oklahoma City Public Schools

Ellen Florek, Tulsa Public Schools

Emily Gonzalez, Mid-Del School District

Henry Mitchel Bibelheimer, Haskell Public Schools

Jarred Bush, Cushing Public Schools

Kaitlin Wright, Okmulgee Public Schools

Kaitlyn Hull, Lawton Public Schools

Katherine D. Downing, Grove Public Schools

Lauren Kelly, Varnum Public Schools

Leighton Loch, Ponca City Public Schools

Morgan Dragg, Norman Public Schools

Ray’Chel Wilson, KIPP Tulsa

Yesenia Vera , Guymon Public Schools

Click here for the press release and group photo. For additional information please contact Rebecca Fine at rfine@tlioklahoma.org.

Nominations for Oklahoma’s 3rd annual 20 Under 2: Novice Teaching Awards open February 21st

Education scholar Lisa Delpit writes that “Education is not a job for the weak-willed.” Oklahoma teachers have grappled with limited resources, large class sizes, and low pay, and this year teachers faced a global pandemic along with new forms of distance learning. For educators just beginning their profession, these challenges are especially difficult. 

Despite the obstacles, teachers remain committed to their craft and their students. Oklahoma needs talented, experienced teachers now more than ever, and developing expertise requires tremendous skill, hard work, and dedication. 


Our state’s newest teachers deserve to be recognized for their emerging strengths, talents and commitment to Oklahoma students. The 20 Under 2: Novice Teaching Awards celebrates novice teachers who make Oklahoma’s future look bright.

The Teaching & Leading Initiative of Oklahoma is now accepting nominations for public school teachers in their first or second year who demonstrate mindsets and skills integral to high quality teaching and learning: 

  • Believes all students are capable of excellence 
  • Shares responsibility for achieving success with students, parents, and school community   
  • Develops deep learning through thoughtful planning and collaboration with colleagues 
  • Values growth and seeks feedback from students and colleagues 
  • Fosters measurable academic growth   

Nominations are open February 21 – March 7, 2021. All full-time public school teachers in their first or second year of teaching or those who have returned to the classroom after ten or more years, are eligible. See full eligibility requirements here. Nomination details coming soon!


Nominate today! Click here to see last year’s honorees. Please contact us with any questions.

2021 Teacher Pipeline Bills

For nearly a decade, Oklahoma has been facing a severe teacher shortage. Steep budget cuts during this period have forced teachers to make due with limited resources, fewer staff, and chronically low salaries. Unsurprisingly, Oklahoma teachers leave the profession at rates that surpass the national average. The latest 2018 Oklahoma Educator Supply and Demand Report shows that over the past six years on average 10 percent of educators leave Oklahoma’s classrooms each year, compared to 7.7 percent nationally. Approximately half of all teachers exit the classroom within five years. 

To address this shortage, Oklahoma issued 97 emergency teaching certifications in 2012-2013 to individuals with bachelor’s degrees, but who lacked university-based education coursework, content area background or classroom experience. The number of emergency certifications has skyrocketed since this time with 3,320 emergency certifications awarded in the 2019-2020 school year.

Strengthening the teacher pipeline is vital to ensure all Oklahoma students have access to a high quality education. Oklahoma’s teacher shortage has resulted in higher student to teacher ratios and larger class sizes, which has a negative impact on student achievement. Studies have also shown that uncertified teachers produce lower academic outcomes for students than their certified peers. Fixing Oklahoma’s leaking pipeline will require recruiting new teachers into the profession and providing the resources and support educators need to stay in the profession. 

Fortunately, lawmakers have filed a number of bills this legislative session to address the teacher shortage. The following bills aim to strengthen the teacher pipeline in Oklahoma: 

  • HB1592 (Rep. Provenzano) For purposes of state salary increments, teachers with active duty in the military service or out-of-state or out-of-country teaching experience as a certified teacher or its equivalent shall be granted credit for the respective years of experience.
  • HB1813 (Rep. Blancett) Student teachers serving a full-day internship, shall be eligible to receive compensation beginning on the first day of the internship and for up to one full school year. 
  • HB1836 (Rep. Waldron) The State Department of Education shall develop a system to code teacher certification and renewal applications in order to report data on the pathways for teacher certification, including emergency certification.
  • HB1837 (Rep. Waldron) Expanding the teacher shortage incentive program for students enrolled in any major course of study at the undergraduate or graduate levels who teach in Oklahoma for a minimum of five years. 
  • HB1838 (Rep. Waldron) Each eligible student participating in the teacher internship program shall be awarded a one-time stipend of $4,000.
  • HB1840 (Rep. Waldron) Any teacher who graduated from an in-state institution of higher education and who is assigned to teach at a Title I school shall be reimbursed for any testing fee or payment for a competency exam. 
  • HB2692 (Rep. Hasenbeck) Advanced Roles for Teachers and School Leaders Act would establish a three-year pilot program for advanced teaching roles and organizational models in schools.
  • HB2693 (Rep. Hasenbeck) Reward teachers who are renewing their National Board certification by awarding them a portion of the renewal application fee. 
  • HB2752 (Rep. Baker) Establishes a micro-credential program in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and computer science to award add-on endorsements to teachers in STEM and to be used in lieu of the subject area competency examination.
  • SB51 (Sen. Hicks) Remove the requirement of taking and passing the general education exam for teacher certification.

20 Under 2: 2020 Teacher Honorees

Educators have a lot to think about these days. We don’t know exactly what school will look like as Covid-19 news changes each day. School start dates and formats are still in flux.

But here’s what we do know: Excellent Oklahoma educators deserve to be recognized.

“Now more than ever we need to celebrate excellent educators. As the coronavirus changes the way we live, work, and learn, teachers are guiding students and families through these challenging times.” said TLI Executive Director Jo Lein.

Join us in celebrating 20 Under 2’s list of emerging teacher leaders, high performers, and novice educators who make Oklahoma’s future look bright.

Access the full press release here or see individual teacher photos here.

 

Meet the Newest 20 Under 2 Honorees

The Teaching & Leading Initiative of Oklahoma (TLI) has honored twenty of the top novice teachers in the state in the second annual 20 Under 2 list, a list of promising new Oklahoma teachers. This list celebrates emerging teacher leaders, high performers, and novice educators who make Oklahoma’s future look bright.

Across the state, principals, veteran teachers, and district leaders submitted their top novice teachers for consideration. Each nomination from principals and colleagues was reviewed and scored by a panel of education professionals. The list below celebrates the top twenty nominees for outstanding classroom culture, academic results, and contributions to Oklahoma’s public schools.

The full honoree list includes the following: 

Alyson WilliamsStillwater Public Schools
Amber SmithMid-Del Public Schools
Ana BarrosTulsa School of Arts and Sciences
Bailee SayeEl Reno Public Schools
Brittany MillerClinton Public Schools
Candace MortonCleveland Public Schools
Christianna LozaTulsa Public Schools 
Eric ParkerOklahoma City Public Schools
Faith Marie PhillipsStilwell Public Schools
Jessi HeadrickVerdigris Public Schools
Jett ChavezSanta Fe South Schools
Kenya Guidry-SturmHarding Fine Arts
Kyla ZapataBristow Public Schools
Lindsay BoneGlenpool Public Schools
Melani FordMid-Del Public Schools
Nick VincentEdmond Public Schools
Nina RochaOklahoma City Public Schools
Sarah SheldonPositive Tomorrows 
Shaniece RandleGreenwood Leadership Academy
Tess McAnallyBethany Public Schools

Access the group photo here or read the full press release

20 Under 2 Calls For Top Oklahoma Teacher Nominations

Every year, 1 out of every 5 new Oklahoma teachers leave the profession. By year 5, only about half remain in the classroom. While it’s easy to decry the loss of teachers, the persistent classroom vacancies, and the worrisome number of emergency certificates issued this year, there are also plenty of bright spots. We think it’s time to step up and celebrate some of the brightest novice teachers in the state. 

20 Under 2 is a list of new Oklahoma teachers who represent the best our state has to offer. Like Forbes’ 30 under 30 collection of honorees, this list celebrates emerging teacher leaders, high performers, and teachers who make Oklahoma’s future look bright. 

This year, nominations are open from March 1-15, 2020. All full-time public school teachers in their first or second year of teaching are eligible. See eligibility requirements here or start a nomination today.  

As Chief of Staff Marissa King pointed out, “Novice Oklahoma teachers need support and encouragement to learn to teach, an especially hard job in underfunded and overburdened systems. Regardless of certification, whether a new college graduate or mid-life career changer, each new Oklahoma teacher is filling a critical public role.”

Have a question or want to see last year’s honorees? Give us a shout!

20 Under 2: Celebrating Oklahoma’s Novice Teachers

A teacher’s first years in the classroom can be long and lonely. Learning to teach is a big, important job and yet the experience is also punctuated with unnecessary hurdles like low pay, large class sizes, and underfunded systems. 

It’s not surprising that so many novice teachers leave before they feel fully competent. In Oklahoma, one out of every five new teachers leaves after their first year. After five years, only about half remain in the classroom. 

Here at the Teaching & Leading Initiative, we’re obsessed with ways to support new teachers. Usually, that means concrete support like weekly coaching, practice-based professional development, or training leaders to work with new teachers. 

This year, we rolled out another way to support teachers: a big, public round of applause for top-achieving teachers. Meet the 20 Under 2 campaign, a list of twenty of the top novice teachers in Oklahoma and an ode to high-achieving novice teachers everywhere. 
Across the state, principals, veteran teachers, and district leaders submitted their top novice teachers for consideration. Each nomination was reviewed and scored by a panel of education professionals. The list below celebrates the top twenty nominees for outstanding classroom culture, academic results, and contributions to Oklahoma’s public schools. Find out more information about each honoree on our website.

  • Jeremy Britt | Tulsa Public Schools | McClure Elementary
  • Katie Burgess | McAlester Public Schools | McAlester High School
  • Christina Cook | Santa Fe South | Pathways Middle College
  • Brooke Copeland | Fort Gibson Public Schools | Fort Gibson Intermediate Elementary
  • Katherin (Kat) Evans | Deer Creek Public Schools | Grove Valley Elementary
  • Hannah Folks | Stilwell Public Schools | Stilwell High School
  • Kyle Foster | Jenks Public Schools | Jenks High School
  • Rachel Henderson | Kiefer Public Schools | Kiefer Upper Elementary
  • Kelsey Hicks | Broken Arrow Public Schools | Timber Ridge Elementary
  • Benjamin Imlay | Tulsa Public Schools | Collegiate Hall
  • BJ Jiles | Edmond Public Schools | Central Middle School
  • Lindsay Judd | Mid-Del Public Schools | Pleasant Hill Elementary
  • Kimberly Morgan | Pryor Public Schools | Lincoln Elementary
  • Sarah Muzny | Muskogee Public Schools | Muskogee High School
  • Sara Mote |Springer Public Schools | Springer Elementary
  • Audra Peterson | Anadarko Public Schools | Mission Elementary School
  • Olivia Wehmuller | Jennings Public Schools | Jennings Elementary
  • Jennifer Winchester | Bridge Creek Public Schools | Bridge Creek Middle School
  • Garrett Weir | Glenpool Public Schools | Glenpool High School
  • Austin Wood | Paoli Public Schools | Paoli Elementary School
Back To Top