During every Thunder Home Game of the 2016-17 regular season, American Fidelity Assurance Company will honor 41 different Teacher of the Year winners from all over the state of Oklahoma as the Teacher of the Game. Each teacher will receive a special in-game recognition, a gift bag from American Fidelity with a gift card for classroom supplies and VIP seating at the game. During the last game of the season, Thunder fans will be able to join American Fidelity Assurance Company in honoring the 2016 Oklahoma State Teacher of the Year.

Jamie Aguilar: Garfield Elementary - Enid
Thunder vs. Suns
October 28, 2016

  • Why did you choose to become an educator? I've always known that I would work with children somehow and I knew that I wanted to use my creativity to make a difference. Teaching allows me to do just that! I love to create lessons that are full of music, movement, and fun. Every day presents a new challenge, but that is what keeps my passion burning. My desire to see my students succeed is what pushes me to meet those challenges head on!
  • How long have you been an educator? I am currently in my 9th year of teaching. This is my 3rd year with my current school.
  • Who was/is the most influential person in your career? Our district's Early Childhood Director, Chris Smith, has absolutely been an inspiration to me. Her message, from day one, has been that in all we do or challenges we face, we MUST always do what we know is best for the child.
  • Who is your favorite Thunder player? Russell Westbrook
  • What word of advice would you give to young Thunder Fans in regards to the importance of education? Education is the key to success! You are the one who decides how hard you want to work to get what you want in life. Take pride in your work and know that the sky is truly the limit...just believe!
  • Michelle Clonch: Washington Elementary - Ada
    Thunder vs. Lakers
    October 30, 2016

  • Why did you choose to become an educator? Those that were teachers in the past helped guide me to this profession. It was their passion and commitment to see that I had a brighter future that made me latch on to the idea of becoming a teacher myself. I chose to continue pursuing a career in education because I wanted to help students that were less fortunate; I wanted to uphold the integrity of public education by doing my best to teach to ALL of my students no matter their background.
  • How long have you been an educator? Starting my 6th year as a teacher. My 5th year with Ada Public School District at Washington Elementary.
  • Who was/is the most influential person in your career? My students remain to influence me every year. They teach me so much about myself and my chosen profession. They remind me each day to always remain focused on the most important objective, which is the task of trying to make learning as fun as possible!
  • Who is your favorite Thunder player? We took a vote, and the majority of my homeroom class voted for Russell Westbrook.
  • What word of advice would you give to young Thunder Fans in regards to the importance of education? Learning never stops… The longer we are breathing the more opportunities we have to gain experience and knowledge, don’t waste your time. Learning is what will lead you to success!
  • Kathy Cooper: Checotah Intermediate School - Checotah
    Thunder vs. Timberwolves
    November 5, 2016

  • Why did you choose to become an educator? I chose to become a teacher because of my love of music. I feel as a music educator, we need to instill a love of music in all arts in our children. They need to learn how to express themselves positively and music is the perfect place for that.
  • How long have you been an educator? I have been teaching 37 years and all of those have been at Checotah Public Schools.
  • Who was/is the most influential person in your career? My band director my junior and senior year in high school, Mike Newsom. He made me realize my love of music could become a great career. He shared his love of music with us all, Mr. Newsom's teaching still reflect in my teaching to this day.
  • Who is your favorite Thunder player? Russell Westbrook, because of his ethics and his wonderful athleticism.
  • What word of advice would you give to young Thunder Fans in regards to the importance of education? Stay in school and never, ever stop learning!
  • Heather Beaudoin: Choctaw High School - Choctaw
    Thunder vs. Heat
    November 7, 2016

  • Why did you choose to become an educator? I believe educators are like a road map, who have the opportunity to guide students throughout their life helping them become productive, successful and responsible contributors to society. Although education was not my first choice -- I am so grateful and blessed that I get to teach and inspire young people every single day.
  • How long have you been an educator? I have been teaching for 17 years, all of which have been at Choctaw High School.
  • Who was/is the most influential person in your career? There have been so many people who have influenced me throughout my career it’s hard to name just one individual. I must say it is my fellow colleagues, who I work with daily that inspire me with their passion for teaching and working with young people.
  • Who is your favorite Thunder player? Russell Westbrook
  • What word of advice would you give to young Thunder Fans in regards to the importance of education? Your education is the road map to your future -- so make today the day to learn something new.
  • Rebecka Graffigna: Linwood Elementary - Oklahoma City
    Thunder vs. Raptors
    November 9, 2016

  • Why did you choose to become an educator? I chose education as a profession because of the opportunity to learn more about children and become a better parent.
  • How long have you been an educator? I am in my 9th year of teaching. I have been at Linwood for 7 years.
  • Who was/is the most influential person in your career? My mentor Darlene Teh was the most influential person in my career.
  • Who is your favorite Thunder player? Enes Kanter
  • What word of advice would you give to young Thunder Fans in regards to the importance of education? My advice is to stay curious, ask lots of questions, and have fun!!
  • Melanie Crowder: Upper Elementary - Grove
    Thunder vs. Clippers
    November 11, 2016

  • Why did you choose to become an educator? I chose to become an educator because I was excited to be able to interact daily with young people. I wanted the chance to provide some encouragement to them and hopefully make a difference in their lives.
  • How long have you been an educator? This is my sixth year in education. I have spent all six years at Grove Public Schools.
  • Who was/is the most influential person in your career? One of the most influential people in my teaching career was a former teacher of mine. Mr. Ray Lomax was my high school math teacher. I loved his sense of humor and how he made learning math more fun. I put his lessons to use now when I teach my students math! (Even if they don't get his jokes!)
  • Who is your favorite Thunder player? Russell Westbrook
  • What word of advice would you give to young Thunder Fans in regards to the importance of education? Young Thunder Fans, do not take your education for granted! Work hard, try your best, stay motivated, and soon it will pay off!
  • Kevin Doudican: Glenpool High School - Glenpool
    Thunder vs. Magic
    November 13, 2016

  • Why did you choose to become an educator? Desire to work with students and do everything possible to make their world’s better never confusing kindness for weakness.

  • How long have you been an educator? 12 years as a teacher 20 as a youth minister 16 as a father; 5th year at current school.
  • Who was/is the most influential person in your career? My Basketball coach and history teacher in High School, Nate Harris
  • Who is your favorite Thunder player? Russell Westbrook
  • What word of advice would you give to young Thunder Fans in regards to the importance of education? Don't look at education as a chore, but have fun and attack learning.
  • Robin Haworth: Tecumseh High School - Tecumseh
    Thunder vs. Rockets
    November 16, 2016

  • Why did you choose to become an educator? I became an educator because of the impact a teacher had on my life. I wanted to help others’ find their path in life.
  • How long have you been an educator? This is my 20th year as an educator and I have been at Tecumseh High School for 14 years.
  • Who was/is the most influential person in your career? Chet Hundley was my biology teacher in high school. He is the reason I love science and he is why I chose to teach. He motivated us to learn and guided us toward success. I strive to teach the way he taught me.
  • Who is your favorite Thunder player? Russell Westbrook
  • What word of advice would you give to young Thunder Fans in regards to the importance of education? Education is the path to happiness. It allows you to find your passion in life and it allows you to have the security to follow your dreams.
  • Kristen Dover: Cache Intermediate Elementary - Cache
    Thunder vs. Nets
    November 18, 2016

  • Why did you choose to become an educator? I became an educator to have a positive impact on people’s lives, and to share my joy for learning and education.
  • How long have you been an educator? I’ve been teaching 11 years. How long have you been teaching at your current school? 5 years at my current position.
  • Who was/is the most influential person in your career? The most influential person in my career has been Mrs. Amie Whitehead. She is a good friend, and she was a mentor to me when I was just starting out teaching. Each day I strive to make the kind of impact she creates in students’ lives.
  • Who is your favorite Thunder player? Steven Adams
  • What word of advice would you give to young Thunder Fans in regards to the importance of education? Keep your head in the game, because you have to be able to compete on and off the court in life.
  • Trina Gardner: Stone Canyon Elementary - Owasso
    Thunder vs. Pacers
    November 20, 2016

  • Why did you choose to become an educator? Being a teacher was something I think I always knew I was destined to do. I enjoy finding new and innovative ways to work with children using their learning styles to guide me.
  • How long have you been an educator? I have taught for 27 years. I have been at Stone Canyon for 5 years.
  • Who was/is the most influential person in your career? There are so many people that have influenced me, however, a fellow teacher from Texas, Cindy Cagle-Ruff, inspired me to be better at making each individual child feel special and important.
  • Who is your favorite Thunder player? I would say that Russell Westbrook is my favorite. Besides being an amazing player, I love that he supported OU by wearing a Sooner shirt! (my alma mater)
  • What word of advice would you give to young Thunder Fans in regards to the importance of education? Being a lifelong learner, in whatever path that you choose, will not only make you better at what you do but will help you to be more passionate about your choice!
  • Amy Goad: Westwood Elementary - Stillwater
    Thunder vs. Pistons
    November 26, 2016

  • Why did you choose to become an educator? I became a teacher for many reasons. As a child, I loved school and would continue to play “school” when I came home. I would assist my parents, also educators, in their responsibilities after school and in the summers. More importantly, I became a teacher, because I love working with children and seeing them grow not only academically, but also as people.
  • How long have you been an educator? I’m currently in my 25th year of teaching and all have been at my current school, Westwood Elementary in Stillwater.
  • Who was/is the most influential person in your career? My parents instilled the importance of education by being the first in their families to graduate from college. They taught for 30 years and always demonstrated their love of children.
  • Who is your favorite Thunder player? Russell Westbrook
  • What word of advice would you give to young Thunder Fans in regards to the importance of education? Education is necessary! You need reading, writing and math every day of your life. When you go to the store, bake a cake or drive a car you use these important skills. Education makes every other job possible. So do your best, stretch your brain and learn all you can!
  • Julian Hibbard: Midwest City High School - Midwest City
    Thunder vs. Wizards
    November 30, 2016

  • Why did you choose to become an educator? I had always wanted to teach, even as a kid. As a Business major in college, I started taking German classes as electives. I soon became more interested in German, started studying in Germany, and then changed my focus to Foreign Language education.
  • How long have you been an educator? I am in my 27th year in Mid-Del. I am in my 10th year at Midwest City High School, but also taught German for 17 years at Monroney Jr. High, which feeds into Midwest City High.
  • Who was/is the most influential person in your career? My high school art teacher Mr. McVey was a great role model, and one of my principals at Monroney, David Birchett, was a fantastic leader.
  • Who is your favorite Thunder player? RUSSELL WESTBROOK, because he is so SUPER COMPETITIVE. I love that about him, and he is such a great ambassador for the city of OKC!
  • What word of advice would you give to young Thunder Fans in regards to the importance of education? You get out of school what you put into it. Take advantage of what is being offered to you in school. Get involved in your school. And, use your education as a springboard for whatever it is you want to achieve in life.
  • Marjorie Green: Bartlesville High School - Bartlesville
    Thunder vs. Pelicans
    December 4, 2016

  • Why did you choose to become an educator? I have loved music from a very early age. I had an influential teacher when I was in school that made a significant difference in my life. These two things combined sealed the deal that teaching music was my calling.
  • How long have you been an educator? I have been teaching for 17 years. This is my seventh year with the Bartlesville Public Schools district.
  • Who was/is the most influential person in your career? Louise Slinkard was my choir director from the 6th-12th grade in Checotah, OK. She inspired me. She believed in me and helped me develop my musical talents and strongly influenced my decision to become a vocal music teacher.
  • Who is your favorite Thunder player? Russell Westbrook
  • What word of advice would you give to young Thunder Fans in regards to the importance of education? Get connected! Find something to be a part of in your school that will connect you to a community of students! Get involved! A well-rounded education starts with being involved in a club or activity providing a connection to your academic success making your investment in school more meaningful!
  • Jon Hazell: Durant High School - Durant
    Thunder vs. Rockets
    December 9, 2016

  • Why did you choose to become an educator? My father was a college biological sciences professor. From a very young age, I was impressed by the positive influence that I saw my father have on the lives of so many people. I wanted to be able to positively influence people like that and I knew from very early on that there was no better way to do this than by being a teacher.
  • How long have you been an educator? 34 years-all 34 of them at the same school where I’m currently at, Durant High School
  • Who was/is the most influential person in your career? My father was by fear the most influential person in my career. The positive impact he made on peoples’ lives was something that not only I, but hundreds of his former students strove to imitate.
  • Who is your favorite Thunder player? Russell Westbrook
  • What word of advice would you give to young Thunder Fans in regards to the importance of education? Education is the door that leads to every possibility in life-not only for your life, but also for your ability to have a positive influence on other lives and thus on your whole world. The better your education, the better are the opportunities for not just your success in life, but also your ability to help others succeed.
  • Becky Herriman: Northwest Elementary - Coweta
    Thunder vs. Celtics
    December 11, 2016

  • Why did you choose to become an educator? I had the world’s best 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Graves at John Glenn Elementary in Oklahoma City, who gave me a love of reading and education. Growing up I considered many careers, but I always went back to education.
  • How long have you been an educator? This is my 12th year as an educator. I have been at Northwest Elementary for 5 years.
  • Who was/is the most influential person in your career? My teammates over the years have influenced me and encouraged me greatly. I have learned the most about teaching from my friends at school.
  • Who is your favorite Thunder player? Russell Westbrook… he’s a stud!
  • What word of advice would you give to young Thunder Fans in regards to the importance of education? Education can make your wildest dreams come true! Always give 110% to your education. I love the quote by Nelson Mandela… “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” I couldn’t agree more!
  • Brittany Hix: Jenks West Intermediate - Jenks
    Thunder vs. Suns
    December 17, 2016

  • Why did you choose to become an educator? Growing up, I always wanted to be a teacher. I loved school and learning about the world around me. However, I was a very reserved student who was nervous to speak out. My teachers recognized my passion for learning, helped me embrace my unique qualities, and gave me opportunities to break out of my shell in order to take risks. The longer I was in school, the more that passion grew from simply a love of learning to the idea that I can truly do something with this. My teachers helped me find my voice and I realized I could do the same thing for students.
  • How long have you been an educator? This is my 5th year as an educator, and I have been at my current school, Jenks West Intermediate, for all five years.
  • Who was/is the most influential person in your career? During my career I have realized that teaching is truly a “team sport”. Instead of naming just one person who is the most influential person in my career, I would have to say that each of those that I work with day in and day out have a tremendous impact on me. I’m always inspired to continue to grow and learn!
  • Who is your favorite Thunder player? Russell Westbrook is my favorite Thunder player. His intense passion for the game is evident as he lays is heart out every time he steps on the court. I admire his dedication; how he gives every moment his all, yet never stops seeking to improve.
  • What word of advice would you give to young Thunder Fans in regards to the importance of education? Every one of us has something we are passionate about. Education is a wonderful opportunity to explore and cultivate those passions. Harness the skills and life lessons that come from education to push you towards your goals.
  • Melissa Johnson: Piedmont Elementary - Piedmont
    Thunder vs. Hawks
    December 19, 2016

  • Charmin Holland: Woodrow Wilson Elementary - Duncan
    Thunder vs. Timberwolves
    December 25, 2016

  • Why did you choose to become an educator? I became intrigued in the many ways young children learn when I had my own son. Each stage of development was fascinating to me. I knew I wanted to be involved in early childhood education to honor and support young learners.
  • How long have you been an educator? This is my 20th year as an educator having taught at Elgin, Rush Springs, Walters, and now Duncan. I have been at my current school, Woodrow Wilson Elementary for 5 years.
  • Who was/is the most influential person in your career? The most influential person is my mom. She has shown me by example how to be a professional in my career and how to be respectful of others. She has always encouraged me to pursue my dreams and to have a growth mindset.
  • Who is your favorite Thunder player? The number/name I wear on my shirts is #4 Nick Collison. I admire his work ethic. He consistently implements the fundamentals of the game and I like the fact he always hustles. I think he is a great team player.
  • What word of advice would you give to young Thunder Fans in regards to the importance of education? An education provides you the opportunity to learn skills and gain knowledge to make a positive difference in your life and the lives of others. Education is a lifelong journey and does not end with a diploma. Keep striving to learn and grow, even when it is tough.
  • Robert Kaiser: Cooper Elementary - Tulsa
    Thunder vs. Clippers
    December 31, 2016

  • Why did you choose to become an educator? I chose to become an educator because of two teachers/coaches I had at Stroudsburg High School that made a profound impact in my life. When I went to Lynchburg College my passion for working with youth in a school only grew under the guidance of Coach Hillary Scott and the Men’s Basketball Program and the tremendous Physical Education Teacher Program at Lynchburg College
  • How long have you been an educator? I have taught at Cooper Elementary School for the past 3 years. This is my fourth year teaching all at the same school.
  • Who was/is the most influential person in your career? There are so many people who have influenced me throughout my career. From my coach at Stroudsburg High School Shawn Thornton, to my college basketball coach Hillary Scott, to the countless mentors I’ve had in Tulsa Public Schools and Teach for America Oklahoma. The teacher that I constantly look up to and hope to teach like someday is Kathy Shreve who teachers our students with Multiple Disabilities.
  • Who is your favorite Thunder player? Russell Westbrook
  • What word of advice would you give to young Thunder Fans in regards to the importance of education? Education is the key that can be used to change your life. Dream big, set goals and strive for greatness.
  • Becky King: Highland Park Elementary - Broken Arrow
    Thunder vs. Nuggets
    January 7, 2016

  • Why did you choose to become an educator? Being an educator was not really my plan. In middle school I had grand aspirations of being an architect or an astronaut; however, throughout my high school years, I was presented with several opportunities to teach and work with students at our local elementary schools. I found that I loved it and had natural teaching talents, so long story short...teaching captured my heart, and I will forever be grateful for all that being a teacher has taught me.
  • How long have you been an educator? This is my 23rd year of teaching. I have been at Highland Park, formerly Park Lane Elementary, for the past 14 years, and this is my 5th year as Enrichment Resource Specialist.
  • Who was/is the most influential person in your career? I have to say my students. Each of them is so unique. They are full of potential and hope and I want the best of each of them. They inspire me daily. We really don't give our youth the credit they deserve.
  • Who is your favorite Thunder player? We all know teachers can't play favorites!!!!! Let's just say a teacher is very much like a coach, so I'll go with Coach Donovan for this one.
  • What word of advice would you give to young Thunder Fans in regards to the importance of education? No one can make you learn. The choice to learn is yours. But, you must understand...the choices you make today will affect the future you live tomorrow. Be wise.
  • Lisa Kindsvater: Etta Dale Jr. High - El Reno
    Thunder vs. Grizzlies
    January 11, 2016

  • Why did you choose to become an educator? It was in the stands at a Crescent High School girls’ basketball game as a fifth grader, where Jesus inspired an interest in teaching and coaching. Through my junior high and high school years, I observed many great teachers and coaches in action. Years later as a college student at Central State University (now the University of Central Oklahoma), my choice to become a teacher introduced an avenue to invest in the lives of young people. Even further, my decision to teach mathematics to students who struggle and succeed has been a crowning joy.
  • How long have you been an educator? 21 years and 4 years at El Reno.
  • Who was/is the most influential person in your career? There have been a few people in education that have influenced me. However, the most influential person in my whole career has been and is my husband. He listens to all my concerns and helps give me Godly advice. He stays up with me when I am grading papers into all hours of the night. Most importantly, he supports me, when teaching gets in way of family and he realizes that “this too shall pass.”
  • Who is your favorite Thunder player? Russell Westbrook
  • What word of advice would you give to young Thunder Fans in regards to the importance of education? To the young Thunder fans, my advice would be that education is important and a difficult road worth traveling. When you have something you are learning that you do not understand, such as fractions or decimals, do what you need to do to figure out the difficult.
    This will provide endurance that will develop a strength of character that will develop a hope of learning anything in life that you need to.

    If you ask Russell Westbrook if it is easy for him to get to the basket, he would say no. But, he has done the training and each game figures out a way to get to the hoop for the hope of a dunk at the end.

  • Ellen Kraft: Truman Primary School - Norman
    Thunder vs. Mavericks
    January 26, 2016

  • Why did you choose to become an educator? Education chose me! While working on a master's degree in unrelated field I starting working with English language learner students in Norman Public Schools. My goal upon finishing my degree was to make a difference in the world. I soon realized that was exactly what my work as an educator would allow me to do. I am inspired everyday by my students and their families to be the best teacher I can be. As an ELL teacher I get to work with children from all over there world. I learn something new everyday!
  • How long have you been an educator? I have been an educator for twelve years. I have been with Norman Public Schools for twelve year and 6 years at my current school.
  • Who was/is the most influential person in your career? Dr. Robert Lee Kidd III was my music teacher at Eisenhower Elementary School. Dr. Kidd preferred to be called Bob by his students. His passion for his craft was contagious. The way he celebrated his students made us all feel like we could accomplish anything. I strive to impact the lives of my students in the same manner in which Bob impacted the lives of his students. Additionally, my students positively influence my career as a teacher. Their willingness to learn and grow despite the obstacles they face is a constant source of joy.
  • Who is your favorite Thunder player? Every player on the team contributes to the team’s success. However, Russell Westbrook is my favorite Thunder player. I admire is his “fiery” spirit, talent and willingness to speak his mind.
  • What word of advice would you give to young Thunder Fans in regards to the importance of education? Education should always be a part of your life. We don’t learn to simply pass tests. We educate ourselves so that we can learn about others, gain different perspectives and to be the best global citizens we can be. When you have a positive attitude and the willingness to be open to learning new things you can accomplish greatness. Be a life-long learner and never give up!
  • Kristin Linholm: Cimarron Middle School - Edmond
    Thunder vs. Bulls
    February 1, 2016

  • Why did you choose to become an educator? When I was in 8th grade, my school was close to an elementary school where my grandmother was a teacher. Some days after school, I would go to my grandmother’s school and watch her teach her third graders for the last few minutes of their school day. She was an amazing teacher, and I wanted to follow in her footsteps.
  • How long have you been an educator? I’ve been an educator for 14 years. This is my 5th year at Cimarron Middle School in Edmond, OK.
  • Who was/is the most influential person in your career? The most influential person in my career has been JoAnn Hays. JoAnn and I shared a room when I was a first year teacher. JoAnn was a master teacher, an involved faculty member, a selfless friend, and hard-working community member. She was an unbelievable role model for me, and her example guides me to this day.
  • Who is your favorite Thunder player? Steven Adams
  • What word of advice would you give to young Thunder Fans in regards to the importance of education? Read, question, challenge, and inquire for the rest of your life! “Learning is the only thing the mind never exhausts, never fears, and never regrets.” Leonardo da Vinci
  • Charles Kirchen: Eisenhower High School - Edmond
    Thunder vs. Grizzlies
    February 3, 2016

  • Laura Latta: Rosa Parks Elementary - Tulsa
    Thunder vs. Trail Blazers
    February 5, 2016

  • Why did you choose to become an educator?
    I chose to become an educator because of the powerful positive influence of my own teachers throughout the years. I consider myself a lifelong learner and am grateful for those teachers and mentors along the way who supported my love of learning. I hope to inspire my students to also be lifelong learners and seekers of knowledge.
  • How long have you been an educator? I’ve been an educator for five years and have taught at my current school for three of those years.
  • Who was/is the most influential person in your career? My grandmother, Juanita Jernigan -- who was an educator for over fifty years -- is the most influential person in my career. My grandmother’s unwavering dedication to supporting her students’ achievement, interests, and talents inspires me to be the best teacher that I can be for my students.
  • Who is your favorite Thunder player?
    Russell Westbrook
  • What word of advice would you give to young Thunder Fans in regards to the importance of education?
    Getting an education leads to success in the future and empowers you to be whatever you want to be. Stay committed to your education, work hard, and embrace challenges as opportunities for growth.
  • Eric Lyons: Deer Creek Public Schools - Edmond
    Thunder vs. Cavaliers
    February 9, 2016

  • Kasey McKinzie: Wanette - Wanette
    Thunder vs. Warriors
    February 11, 2016

  • Why did you choose to become an educator? I became a teacher to help Oklahoma children and families attain success using the power of education.
  • How long have you been an educator? This is my 4th year as an educator. I taught at Wanette Public Schools for 3 years, and am proud to say I am now a Whittier Warrior with the Norman school district.
  • Who was/is the most influential person in your career? My friend and fellow educator, Crystal Shaw!
  • Who is your favorite Thunder player? Steven Adams
  • What word of advice would you give to young Thunder Fans in regards to the importance of education? Education is so important because you can use it to create change. As Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
  • Tiffany Massie: Canyon Ridge Intermediate - Mustang
    Thunder vs. Knicks
    February 15, 2016

  • Why did you choose to become an educator? I knew I always wanted to work with students who have disabilities, I just didn’t know in what capacity. Students with severe disabilities have always been my passion. I
    began my career in the field of speech-language pathology. After three years, I had the opportunity to move into a selfcontained special education classroom. It was at that moment, I knew where I needed to be! I have been in the
    special education classroom ever since!
  • How long have you been an educator? This is my 19th year of teaching and I have been at my
    current school for three years.
  • Who was/is the most influential person in your career? It’s hard to say just ONE person has shaped me into the educator I am today! There are so many people who have and continue to inspire me throughout my teaching journey.
    My former teachers, administrators, colleagues and students have and continue to influence my career on a daily basis.
  • Who is your favorite Thunder player? I am sad to say I have not EVER been to a Thunder game so I am beyond EXCITED that this is my first experience! I don’t really have a specific “Favorite” player, however my children do… Russell Westbrook all the way!!! Therefore, I would have to say HE is my favorite Thunder player.
  • What word of advice would you give to young Thunder Fans in regards to the importance of education? Staying in school, and getting your education is the most important thing any young Thunder Fan can do. While you are in school, it is important to be kind to others, even if they are different. Taking the time to include students with disabilities and being an appropriate peer model in ALL school settings is critical. Children are so impressionable, therefore it is ALWAYS essential to do the right thing!
  • Sarah McWilliams: Pershing Model School of Technology - Muskogee
    Thunder vs. Lakers
    February 24, 2016

  • Why did you choose to become an educator? I don’t remember the day I chose to be an educator. I have always had a desire to work with children. I feel it is a calling on my life. I continue choosing to be an educator, in spite of the increasing demands, because I truly believe I can make a difference in children’s lives.
  • How long have you been an educator? This is my 19th year as an educator. Eighteen of those years have been for Muskogee Public Schools.
  • Who was/is the most influential person in your career? The most influential person in my career is my husband. He is a constant source of encouragement and a sounding board for the hard days. I couldn’t do it without his support.
  • Who is your favorite Thunder player? Russell Westbrook
  • What word of advice would you give to young Thunder Fans in regards to the importance of education? You are so lucky to live in America, where education is free and opportunities are endless. Take advantage of it and learn all you can!
  • Rachel Morris: McAlester High School - McAlester
    Thunder vs. Pelicans
    February 26, 2016

  • Why did you choose to become an educator? I chose to become an educator because I want to make a difference in the lives of students who struggle. I want to be an example of consistency in their lives.
  • How long have you been an educator? Ten total years of teaching and 6 years at McAlester High School
  • Who was/is the most influential person in your career? My high school history teacher, Roger Thompson.
  • Who is your favorite Thunder player? Steven Adams
  • What word of advice would you give to young Thunder Fans in regards to the importance of education? Education is the great equalizer – no one can ever take your education away from you.
  • Adam Mewhorter: Southmoore High School - Moore
    Thunder vs. Jazz
    February 28, 2016

  • Why did you choose to become an educator? Teaching instrumental music allows me to combine my passion for creating fantastic experiences through music and impacting young people in a positive way. In an age where people clamor for more life skills and marketable talents to be taught in school, I am allowed the joy of teaching an appreciation for the arts, our community, human relations, and a host of other enduring lessons that will impact my students their entire life. I cannot imagine a more fulfilling way to spend a career!
  • How long have you been an educator? I have taught 16 years, 9 years at Southmoore High School
  • Who was/is the most influential person in your career? Marc Mueller, my colleague early in my career. He believed in my abilities and modeled a passion for teaching that was infectious.
  • Who is your favorite Thunder player? Russel Westbrook – he enthusiastically develops the great talent bestowed him. He is willing to put in the necessary time to build upon that talent and develop both as a basketball player and human being. He brings a passion to each game that is unique and he never considers giving less than 100% effort, regardless of who the Thunder are playing or the competitive circumstances. These are lessons I hope to teach my band students – no matter how great you are, if you are not getting better, you are getting worse and there are no excuses to give less than 100%, regardless the circumstances.
  • What word of advice would you give to young Thunder Fans in regards to the importance of education? The emotions you create after acing a test after hours of study, or hitting a crucial 3-pointer after years shooting alone in the gym, or even astutely performing difficult music after hours of practice are truly among the best moments you can experience in your life. You have not truly lived life until you have spent hours developing your craft, talent, or mind, be it in sports, music, or the classroom and see your hard work pay off.
    Always keep in mind, you are ultimately responsible for your education even more so than your parents or your teachers. Demand excellence from your teachers but also from yourself. Be mindful not to fall into the trap of mediocrity by doing just enough to get by, or allowing the adults in your life to keep you from experiencing failures and challenges. Learning to demand excellence and learn through your disappointments are crucial to thriving as an adult.

  • Lisa Pitts: Jones Elementary - Jones
    Thunder vs. Trail Blazers
    March 7, 2016

  • Why did you choose to become an educator? I enjoyed working with children from a young age. I’m inspired by my students with their creative ways to solve problems and unique perspectives.
  • How long have you been an educator? 17 years at Jones Public Schools and this is my 23rd year in education.
  • Who was/is the most influential person in your career? I have had many teachers over the years who were invested in their students and took time to create engaging lessons or projects. They inspired my teaching style and love of education.
  • Who is your favorite Thunder player? My favorite player has always been Russell Westbrook.
  • What word of advice would you give to young Thunder Fans in regards to the importance of education? It’s important to do your best and attend school every day. Right now you are building a foundation for higher learning, and it’s up to you to build a strong one. Learn more about things that interest you.
  • Kelly Story: Tuttle Elementary - Tuttle
    Thunder vs. Spurs
    March 9, 2016

  • Why did you choose to become an educator? I became a Special Education Educator, to inspire and build up the self-esteem of a child who struggles daily to even do the simplest things that others take for granted and instill in them that they can be something in this world.
  • How long have you been an educator? 13 years, I have been at Tuttle Elementary for 4 years.
  • Who was/is the most influential person in your career? Debbie Ware – She is a trainer for Easter Seals in Little Rock Arkansas for students with Autism. She was a great mentor and trainer and I learned a lot from her.
  • Who is your favorite Thunder player? Nick Collison – he may not play all the time, but when he does, he plays extremely hard!
  • What word of advice would you give to young Thunder Fans in regards to the importance of education? Never stop learning! There is nothing you can’t achieve.
  • Kay Morris: Verdigris Lower Elementary - Claremore
    Thunder vs. Jazz
    March 11, 2016

  • Why did you choose to become an educator? I've always wanted to teach. I discovered at an early age that I loved helping children take a difficult skill and develop a strategy to tackle it. Seeing the pride and elation on their faces, after witnessing their previous fears and trepidation, fill me with such joy and satisfaction. Teaching has always been my calling.
  • How long have you been an educator? I have been a teacher for 33 years. I have taught 28 years at Verdigris Lower Elementary.
  • Who was/is the most influential person in your career? My parents, Fred and Teressa Wilson, were my first teachers and terrific role models. They always supported and believed in me.
  • Who is your favorite Thunder player?
    While I truly believe all players are important to the team's success, my husband and I most enjoy watching Russell Westbrook in action on the court.
  • What word of advice would you give to young Thunder Fans in regards to the importance of education? "Dreams don't work unless you do." It's great to have a goal, but you must continue to strive for it. It IS in you to succeed!
  • Brandy Reaves: Sallisaw Middle School - Sallisaw
    Thunder vs. Kings
    March 18, 2016

  • Kara Waiters: Guthrie Upper Elementary Shool - Guthrie
    Thunder vs. Warriors
    March 20, 2016

  • Why did you choose to become an educator? I grew up during the early 80’s and 90’s in what seemed at the time a small town, Bixby, Oklahoma. During my early childhood, my mother recalls that I always made friends with children I would see whether at the neighborhood playground or the local grocery store. It has been said that I have never met a stranger in my life. It doesn’t matter a person’s race, color or disABILITY, I always greet those I meet with an open and friendly attitude. My junior year of high school I enrolled in a brand new class called “Exceptional Child Studies”. This class was designed by the Special Education Director of Bixby Schools for students like me that had a strong interest in working with the Special Needs population. There were about 10 students that took this class. It was the special bond that 6 of us students had formed that greatly changed my life forever. Three boys and three girls (myself included) were the best of friends and nearly inseparable. It just so happened that we had 3 boys and 3 girls with special needs in our grade as well. When springtime came and prom season was upon us, we decided to take the 6 special needs students to the prom with us. We spent the entire day getting ready for the big event. The girls had manicures, pedicures and makeup done all together. The boys picked out tuxedos and spent the day doing whatever boys do before prom. That night we all ate dinner together and spent the evening at what can only be described as one of the most spectacular and memorable nights of my entire life. My involvement with helping to make another student be “a part of” when so often they were left out was an incredible experience that I have cherished for years. I knew without reservation when I graduated high school that I was going to pursue my academic studies to become a special education teacher and that dream has never changed.
  • How long have you been an educator? I have taught a total of 7 years. I have been in my current school, Guthrie Upper Elementary School, for 3 years.
  • Who was/is the most influential person in your career? My very first year of teaching, a student that taught me that you never know what goes on at home and how it can affect the student at school. This young lady struggled every morning to get ready with no breakfast, caring for siblings because mom was at work and dealing with very difficult situations every day in her home life. She had no interest in school other than it was a distraction from her day to day life at home. Once I was able to earn her respect and trust, I learned that we had to start most everyday dealing with her frustrations, disappointments, fears and anxiety before we could ever begin a daily lesson in the classroom. In the course of several months her whole attitude towards life and school changed and she went on to not only finish 7th grade but graduate from high school. I met that young lady 15 years ago and I still see her today and she always greets me with a fond memory from her 7th grade year!
  • Who is your favorite Thunder player? It would be a toss-up between Westbrook and Collison.
  • What word of advice would you give to young Thunder Fans in regards to the importance of education? I truly live by the quote “Education is the strongest weapon you can use to change the world.” Every student needs to learn that this should be the weapon of choice to arm them for their future.
  • Jordan Wisniewski: Bethany Middle School - Bethany
    Thunder vs. Sixers
    March 22, 2016

  • Why did you choose to become an educator? I chose to be an educator because I wanted to be able to make a difference in the lives of children. Children are the future and I hope that my students not only leave my classroom with a gained knowledge in my subject area, but also with lessons that will stick with them for a lifetime.
  • How long have you been an educator?
    This is my 8th year as an educator, my 5th year at Bethany Middle School.
  • Who was/is the most influential person in your career? I grew up in a family of teachers. My grandparents and great grandparents were educators. It was easy to see the impact they made in the lives of their students and I wanted to make that same positive impact. Also, I would say that my students influence me on a daily basis. They are the reason that I do what I do.
  • Who is your favorite Thunder player? RUSSELL WESTBROOK!!!
  • What word of advice would you give to young Thunder Fans in regards to the importance of education? Michael Jordan said, “I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.” When school seems too hard, DON’T GIVE UP! Mistakes are a part of the learning process. Keep working hard and giving your best effort, and you will see the pay off in the end. Getting a good education, along with hard work and perseverance, will help to pave the way for a successful future.
  • Mona Schmitz: Highland Park Elementary - Woodward
    Thunder vs. Spurs
    March 31, 2016

  • Why did you choose to become an educator?
    What I feel sparked my lifetime interest in impacting children’s lives is during my teenage years when I began teaching public and private swimming lessons and then added years of lifeguarding. I can still feel the joy and pride as I remember watching an inexperienced child move from fear to confidence after learning to swim. I envisioned someday helping students learn who struggled and seeing the excitement in a student’s eyes when they finally understood the content being taught, whatever it may be. Now, in reality, butterflies still swarm my stomach when a child shows growth on benchmark scores, and I smile with excitement when I have the honor of telling the child, “You did it!”
    Teaching is as much about my growth as a teacher as it is about participating in the academic and social growth of a child’s. When one is truly passionate about something, it is understood that the passion is never perfected. This passion drives me to constantly seek out information educational opportunities which will help me become a stronger teacher. The greatest personal accomplishment that one can make is to never stop striving for improvement. When teaching becomes a true passion, one cannot help being humbled by the accomplishments made in the life of a child or in the life of a teacher.

    In my long career full of rewards, I have several scrapbooks filled with photos, cherished notes and drawings from former students. I take pride addressing congratulations cards for senior graduations from their “Proud Third Grade Teacher.” I rest assured knowing I absolutely made the right choice. I became a teacher!

    I want to be remembered as a caring, compassionate, consistent teacher who strives to bring out the very personal best of all around me…both students and adults.

  • How long have you been an educator? I am in my 33rd year of teaching. I have taught 32 of those years for Woodward Public Schools.
  • Who is your favorite Thunder player? Russell Westbrook is a fine mentor and role model to inspire our youth!
  • What word of advice would you give to young Thunder Fans in regards to the importance of education? A quality education helps to improve confidence and independence in yourself. It can help you to set goals, develop interests and hobbies, and reach for your dreams so that you will be proud of yourself and the success you accomplish in your future.
  • Diane Swart: Clyde Boyd Middle - Sand Springs
    Thunder vs. Hornets
    April 2, 2016

  • Why did you choose to become an educator? I had incredible teachers growing up who made a significant
    impact on my life - I wanted to be like them!
  • How long have you been an educator? I am in my 11th year of teaching, all of which have been at Sand Springs.
  • Who was/is the most influential person in your career? A former principal, Louise Pond. She was kind to everyone and cared so deeply for our students and staff. She was a great mentor to me.
  • Who is your favorite Thunder player? Nick Collison
  • What word of advice would you give to young Thunder Fans in regards to the importance of education? Believe in yourself - you are capable of more than you could ever imagine!
  • Libby Wrather: Lakeview Elementary - Yukon
    Thunder vs. Bucks
    April 4, 2016

  • Why did you choose to become an educator? I became an educator because of the amazing role models I had growing up. I also enjoy spending each day with children and being a part of their lives.
  • How long have you been an educator? 11 years and 4 years at Lakeview Elementary.
  • Who was/is the most influential person in your career? My mother has been very influential, because she is a retired teacher.
  • Who is your favorite Thunder player? Russell Westbrook
  • What word of advice would you give to young Thunder Fans in regards to the importance of education? Doing well in school each day is critical to your future. What you do in class today affects each tomorrow. A good education opens so many doors and opportunities. Reading every day is a big part of your education. Find a book you enjoy, and read every day!
  • Carla Young: Putnam City West High School - Oklahoma City
    Thunder vs. Nuggets
    April 12, 2016

  • Why did you choose to become an educator? When I worked in the science lab in college, I saw the light in students’ eyes as they were learning and understanding something for the first time. I knew that I wanted to continue to help kids feel that excitement and love for learning. I haven’t stopped teaching since.
  • How long have you been an educator? I started teaching in January 2004, so I have been teaching for 13 years. I have been at Putnam City West since the very beginning.
  • Who was/is the most influential person in your career? I work with a great faculty at Putnam City West. I can’t pick one person that has had more influence than another. All of the teachers I work with love working with students and have a heart for teaching. And my students inspire me each day to be better and to do better.
  • Who is your favorite Thunder player? Steven Adams
  • What word of advice would you give to young Thunder Fans in regards to the importance of education? Never stop learning! When you stop learning, you stop moving forward. Set goals for yourself and work hard to meet them. That includes education. Sometimes it may seem hard and sometimes you may want to give up. But remember, anything worth having is worth working hard for. Never give up.