Cassandra Stauder

School: Dewey High School - Dewey
Grade: 12th
Subject: STEM, AP Biology and Academic Team
Career Length: 13 Years
Game: 10/25/19 vs. Washington Wizards

Why did you choose to become and educator?
I feel most accomplished when I'm challenging kids and giving them opportunities that they wouldn't normally have. So that, along with my deep love of science and heart for helping people made education a natural fit.

Who is/was the most influential person in your career?
I've had many influential teachers and role models in my life but I chose to follow in the footsteps of my high school science teacher Mr. Rodebaugh. I remember that it was in his class that I discovered my love of science. He also cared deeply about each of his students and always made sure that we knew he was there for us. It is that example that I strive to emulate in my own classroom now.

What words of advice would you give to young Thunder fans regarding the importance of education?
Albert Einstein once said, "Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." So be yourself. Worry less about what others think about you now and more about building yourself into the person you want to be in the future. Education will open doors of possibility to you. Seize them and don't be afraid to "DO HARD THINGS."

Rhonda Harrison

School: Northwest Heights Elementary - Durant
Grade: 2nd and 3rd
Subject: Special Ed
Game: 10/27/19 vs. Golden State

Jena Nelson

School: Deer Creek Middle School - Edmond
Grade: 8th
Subject: Composition and Academic Enhancement
Career Length: 15 Years
Game: 10/30/19 vs. Portland Trail Blazers

Why did you choose to become and educator?
I became an educator to give back what was given to me ... a chance. Growing up it was my teachers who provided stability and structure in my life. They believed in me when no one else did. They provided the discipline and encouragement for me to reach my goals and helped me become the person I am today.

Who is/was the most influential person in your career?
My high school drama teacher Mr. Stephen Smallwood was the pivotal force in my life. He helped me find my calling and provided an outlet for me in the theatre. It was because of him that I became the first person to go to college in my family. Without him I do not know where my life would have taken me, and because of him I have been successful.

What words of advice would you give to young Thunder fans regarding the importance of education?
Education creates every occupation and it is the most important tool to create your future. Work hard and don’t let your circumstances determine your level of success. Challenge yourself in school and don’t sell yourself short. Everyone is capable of learning and succeeding.

Terri Guthridge

School: Grove High School - Grove
Grade: 10th and 11th
Subject: English, AP Language and Composition
Game: 11/2/19 vs. New Orleans Pelicans

Jennifer McKnight

School: Tecumseh High School - Tecumseh
Grade: 11th
Subject: US History, Leadership
Career Length: 18 Years
Game: 11/5/19 vs. Orlando Magic

Why did you choose to become and educator?
My parents raised me to love God and do my best. I knew that I wanted to give back. I knew I wanted to work with teenagers. I knew that I wanted to be like the individuals who had helped me to have a positive educational experience. I want to help young people become positive, contributing members of society!

Who is/was the most influential person in your career?
One of the most influential people in my career was my high school English teacher, Judy Duprez. She was passionate about helping students learn. She was always prepared and challenged each student to grow emotionally, as well as intellectually. She inspired me to reach my full potential!

What words of advice would you give to young Thunder fans regarding the importance of education?
Little things matter. Little things become bigger things. It is wonderful to do great things in a great way. However, great things started as little things. Take care of the little things first!

Rachel Beck

School: Woodward Middle School North - Woodward
Grade: 5th
Subject: English Language Arts
Game: 11/9/19 vs. Golden State Warriors

Debbie Carlisle

School: Clinton High School - Clinton
Grade: 9th
Subject: 9th English and an Internship class
Career Length: 34 Years
Game: 11/10/19 vs. Milwaukee Bucks

Why did you choose to become and educator?
At 8 years old, when my single-parent mom took me to college classes, I saw how those educators worked with her and helped give her hope for her future. I decided I wanted to help others find that hope.

Who is/was the most influential person in your career?
The most influential person in my career is my former mentor, Linda Thomas. She always pushed me beyond what I thought I could accomplish and always reminded me that having relationships with students and other teachers is most important in education.

What words of advice would you give to young Thunder fans regarding the importance of education?
Never give up! You are going to run into things at school that are hard, but just keep trying different solutions until you find something that works. There is always a solution to every problem; sometimes we just have to work hard to find it.

Courtney Gagan

School: Madison Middle School - Bartlesville
Grade: 7th
Subject: English Language Arts
Career Length: 10 Years
Game: 11/15/19 vs. Philadelphia 76ers

Why did you choose to become and educator?
I want to make a difference in the lives of children. My motto has always been to "Do something bigger than yourself" and what better way than to be involved in public education. We have so many bright minds in the state of Oklahoma and I love getting to play a role in turning out productive, caring and well-rounded citizens.

Who is/was the most influential person in your career?
I have so many awesome people who have played a role in my career as an educator. I think I need to go all the way back to high school and thank Mrs. Alfred, my English teacher. She was and is an amazing educator. She didn't give average effort and she didn't accept it either.

What words of advice would you give to young Thunder fans regarding the importance of education?
Listen to your teachers. They went to school to invest in you. Be a sponge. Soak up everything you possibly can. Education is freedom.

Michelle Rahn

School: Will Rogers Junior High - Claremore
Grade: 6th
Subject: STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics
Career Length: 12 Years
Game: 11/22/19 vs. Los Angeles Lakers

Why did you choose to become and educator?
I chose to become an educator to have a positive impact on a child and to help them discover their own curiosity in learning! I want my students to ask questions about the world around them and to wonder! I became a teacher to give students the best possible learning experience so they will realize their potential and know that they are very important. My students matter! They will be leading this world in a few short years and they are important!!!

Who is/was the most influential person in your career?
Tiffany Neil with the OK State Dept. of Education has been a huge influence in my career. Even before she started working for the state department, she was a teacher and a presenter at various workshops. She mentored me in becoming a better science and math teacher in a year long professional development where she had a vision of making classroom teachers leaders in education! This training also gave me confidence to pursue my Master's Degree and become a leader in my district. I love this woman! She has made a difference in many teachers' careers!!!

What words of advice would you give to young Thunder fans regarding the importance of education?
Education isn't just about going to school and doing homework, it's about following your dreams and learning more about something you're interested in or passionate about. Education is about learning how the world works around you and how you see yourself in it. Education is something that is a life-long endeavor and not something that stops once you leave the school.

Jennifer Lewis

School: Will Rogers Elementary - McAlester
Grade: 3rd
Subject: STE(A)M
Career Length: 13 Years
Game: 11/29/19 vs. New Orleans Pelicans

Why did you choose to become and educator?
I became an educator because of the influence of my own teachers. One in particular helped me see the abilities I held inside. He gave me permission to soar. He pushed me far beyond what I believed I was capable of and opened doors I never knew existed. My desire is to provide that for someone else. Being an educator is the greatest adventure I have ever been on. I am so thankful to Coach Pickard for seeing something in me I didn't see in myself, and giving me the inspiration I needed to encourage and motivate my own students.

Who is/was the most influential person in your career?
My co-workers are the most influential people in my career. They are a wealth of knowledge and strive daily to become better at their craft. They not only push their students to achieve their potential, but also push me to be my very best. My fellow teachers are always available for bouncing ideas around and to encourage me when days are tough. No one else truly understands the intricacies and challenges that are involved in education like they do-they are absolute rock stars! Without them, I wouldn't be the teacher I am today.

What words of advice would you give to young Thunder fans regarding the importance of education?
I once heard a quote that said, "If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined, no one can stop you." I want students to know that no matter their circumstances, they are the key to their own success! Teachers and other adults are there to show you the way—let them guide you to a better future! Attitude plus effort equals success—never rest until your better becomes your best!

Matthew Graves

School: Noble High School - Noble
Grade: 9th through 12th
Subject: Vocal Music
Game: 12/4/19 vs. Indiana Pacers

Evelyn Kwanza

School: Owasso 6th Grade Center - Owasso
Grade: 6th through 12th
Subject: Choral Music
Game: 12/6/19 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

Elizabeth Hoggatt

School: Norman High School - Norman
Grade: 12th
Subject: Ap English Literature, English II, AP Research
Career Length: 11 Years
Game: 12/16/19 vs. Chicago Bulls

Why did you choose to become and educator?
I come from a long line of educators and have always wanted to make a difference in the lives of young people. I strongly believe that literature has the ability to allow students to empathize with people who have vastly different life experiences. I enjoy helping students find texts they enjoy and characters through which they can see themselves. I also think it's extremely important for students to learn how to communicate effectively. I became an educator to accomplish these goals with students. Ultimately, my career is such a gift and I learn so much from my students every day.

Who is/was the most influential person in your career?
The most influential person in my career is my mentor, Gayle St. John. She was my high school senior English teacher; I was her student teacher; and I later worked with her. From the time I was 18 and in her class, she was a constant force of love and light in my life. She challenged me as a student to read literature that was foreign to me and showed me unique voices that I would not have otherwise been exposed to. As a young writer, she encouraged me to examine my work critically while offering me praise along the way. When I student taught in her classroom, we worked closely with our students to encourage them to do their very best. As her colleague, she was always a listening ear when I needed advice or any sort of help. She easily became my work mom. When I'm making difficult decisions, I hear her voice in the back of my head.

What words of advice would you give to young Thunder fans regarding the importance of education?
Education has the ability to be a great equalizer. No matter your race, gender, or class, within education is the possibility of more. You can achieve things you never thought possible through a positive education. Your teachers want you to be successful and are willing to work with you to ensure that happens. If you are struggling, reach out to them. I would venture that you would be received positively and supported in whatever you need help with.

Cara Bowerman

School: Edmond North High School - Edmond
Grade: 12th
Subject: Art (Drawing and Design, Painting)
Career Length: 7 Years
Game: 12/18/19 vs. Memphis Grizzlies

Why did you choose to become and educator?
In high school, I was a competitive cross country and track athlete and I also loved art. I always felt the pressure to choose between one or the other. In college, my running scholarship paid for my art degree. I chose to be a teacher and coach so that I could continue to pursue both of my interests and never have to choose. Now it's important for me to give my students safe places to just be themselves. I want to be a role model for my students and show them that you don't have to choose one thing or the other. If you love what you do, life will find a way.

Who is/was the most influential person in your career?
When I was in high school English class, I had an amazing young teacher that was one of my greatest influences in deciding to become a teacher. Her name is Amy Bowles. Her class was always engaging and challenged me to think critically. Because of the environment she created, I felt safe talking and writing about my ideas and we developed a close bond from our shared beliefs. One day while she was handing graded homework back out, she put my work face down and there was a little message written at the bottom. It read, “Light up the Darkness.” I continued to look around the room and my eyes met my teacher’s, she smiled at me and in that moment I knew she saw something special in me. The amazing part of being a teacher is that in that one look from her, I felt like I had a purpose and could make a difference in the world. That is how powerful a teacher is in the lives of their students. In one look, she inspired me. In four hidden little words, she changed my life. I carried that slip of paper everywhere with me and to this day use that phrase to guide me through each day.

What words of advice would you give to young Thunder fans regarding the importance of education?
My best advice for young Thunder fans is to view your school as your biggest tool in achieving your dreams. You have a whole building full of teachers, principals, and staff members that are there to help you succeed. There is no greater resource than a school. Education is your path to ANYTHING and it does not choose you, you choose it. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by investing yourself in gaining knowledge. Nobody can ever take it away from you. No matter what your circumstances are, education is a ship that can send you sailing to any destination. I know it sounds cheesy, but it is so absolutely true, just trust me!

Kari Rhoden

School: Oologah Lower Elementary - Oologah
Grade: Pre-K
Subject: All
Career Length: 24 Years
Game: 12/20/19 vs. Phoenix Suns

Why did you choose to become and educator?
I am a teacher because I wanted to be like the many inspiring, dedicated teachers who instilled in me a passion for learning and drive for excellence. I chose to enter the teaching profession because I knew that I would be able to make a difference and impact students' lives.

Who is/was the most influential person in your career?
I am so amazingly blessed to have numerous influential people throughout my life and teaching career. Instead of choosing just one, I want them ALL to know that I value them and their significance in my 24 year teaching career! From elementary through graduate school, I had many teachers that believed in me and set great examples. During my career, I have continued to learn from amazing colleagues, administrators, and other educators across Oklahoma. Thank you ALL for investing in me with your advice, encouragement, training, expertise, and friendship!

What words of advice would you give to young Thunder fans regarding the importance of education?
I would tell young Thunder fans that education is the key to success and that education has the power to enhance or change a life. Education will help you become our future leaders...let it guide you to become productive, responsible, and caring members of our state and our society.

Jessica Roberts

School: Donald P. Sloat Junior High - Coweta
Grade: 8th
Subject: English, Pre-AP English, Yearbook
Game: 12/22/19 vs. L.A. Clippers

Lesa Hefner

School: Duncan High School - Duncan
Grade: 12th
Subject: Career Readiness/Internships
Career Length: 9 Years
Game: 12/26/19 vs. Memphis Grizzlies

Why did you choose to become and educator?
I became an educator because I truly want to make a difference. I want to make a positive impact on the lives of my students and assist them by giving them tools to use as they face life after high school. My goal is simply helping my students see their strengths and their value and supporting them as they set out to reach their goals!

Who is/was the most influential person in your career?
I am not a traditional teacher. I didn't become a certified teacher until I was 45 years old. I thank God for opening doors and giving me the opportunity to be in the classroom. Many teachers have positively impacted my life, teachers from my childhood in Wilson, OK and teacher colleagues and friends in Elk City, Sayre, Duncan, and now all across Oklahoma. All of these have a part in the love and learning I am able to share each day.

What words of advice would you give to young Thunder fans regarding the importance of education?
Education is important because opportunities for your future are very limited without a minimum of a high school education. Education is the key that opens doors to possibilities. We all need to be eager to learn and grow, no matter how old we are. Benjamin Franklin said, "An investment in knowledge pays the best interest."

Denise Kimbrough

School: Bethany High School - Bethany
Grade: 9th through 12th
Subject: Personal Financial Literacy, Google Apps
Game: 12/31/19 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

Patricia Lightfoot

School: Weatherford Middle School - Weatherford
Age: 6th
Subject: Reading
Career Length: 38 Years
Game: 1/9/20 vs. Houston Rockets

Why did you choose to become and educator?
I have always loved learning. Becoming an educator allowed that opportunity to be expanded and shared with my students. I learn from my students daily!

Who is/was the most influential person in your career?
My late husband Bo Lightfoot was a teacher whose philosophy, “Capture the heart, and the mind will follow” truly taught me the value of kindness, particularly for students who may not have the smoothest path.

What words of advice would you give to young Thunder fans regarding the importance of education?
Education is a golden ticket that allows access to your dreams.

Samantha Meredith

School: Eastside - Sallisaw
Age: 5th
Subject: ELAR Math, Science, Social Studies
Game: 1/11/20 vs. Los Angeles Lakers

Scott Helton

School: Westmoore High School - Moore
Age: 12th
Subject: English, Leadership
Career Length: 12 Years
Game: 1/15/20 vs. Toronto Raptors

Why did you choose to become and educator?
I chose to become an educator because I had many wonderful teachers in my life who always pushed me to do better and believed in me. I always wanted to be that person for young people as well. I can’t imagine doing anything else!

Who is/was the most influential person in your career?
My parents gave me a love of learning that I’ve always carried with me. My high school English teacher, Mrs. Stephens, is the person who inspired me to become a teacher. I don’t know that I’d have pursued it as a career if I hadn’t taken her class.

What words of advice would you give to young Thunder fans regarding the importance of education?
Education can take you anywhere you want to go! If you work hard and believe in yourself, education will help you become whoever you want to become.

Ashley Hunnicutt

School: Glenwood Elementary School - Enid
Age: Pre-K through 5th and Special Ed
Subject: Music, Honor Choir
Game: 1/17/20 vs. Miami Heat

Emily Potts

School: Woodall Elementary - Woodall
Age: 3rd
Subject: Math, Science and Social Studies
Career Length: 4 Years
Game: 1/18/20 vs. Portland Trail Blazers

Why did you choose to become and educator?
I chose to become an educator so I could make a difference. So many kids need someone who will care for them and push them to their fullest potential. I love working with kids and I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

Who is/was the most influential person in your career?
My principal Ginger Knight has been the most influential person in my career. She took a chance on a new teacher and has supported me every step of the way. She encourages me daily and supports me in all the things I want to try for my kids! My career would not be what it is today without her taking that chance.

What words of advice would you give to young Thunder fans regarding the importance of education?
Education can take you anywhere you want it to, with a good education anything is possible! Your career possibilities are endless, it could take you to college or tech school. Either way having an education gives you power and that power gives you many choices!

Amie Redding

School: Sapulpa Middle School - Sapulpa
Age: 6th and 7th
Subject: Media Specialist
Game: 1/24/20 vs. Atlanta Hawks

Whitney Bruton

School: Independence Elementary School - Yukon
Age: 4th
Subject: All
Career Length: 8 Years
Game: 1/27/20 vs. Dallas Mavericks

Why did you choose to become and educator?
I wanted to serve my community, build meaningful relationships, and be a positive and loving influence in the lives of young people.

Who is/was the most influential person in your career?
The most influential person on my career has been my daughter. As a single mom working her way through college, I was motivated to be a better person each and every day for my daughter. I wanted to show her how to work hard, serve others, and give outrageous love.

What words of advice would you give to young Thunder fans regarding the importance of education?
Do not underestimate yourself. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Everyone needs extra help at some point in their lives. You my friend, are capable of great things!

Jessica Howlsey

School: Newcastle Middle School - Newcastle
Age: 7th
Subject: Math
Career Length: 10 Years
Game: 2/5/20 vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

Why did you choose to become and educator?
School was my safe place as a child. I wanted to provide that same safe place where all students see their potential to succeed, no matter their background.

Who is/was the most influential person in your career?
A shy person by nature, I met my friend and co-worker, Cindy Shaw, my first year of teaching. She showed me how to have expectations for my students while still opening up and making the learning enjoyable. She helped bring out a more outgoing side of myself that shyness typically covered up. She also has offered advice through the years that have helped me grow into the educator I continue to improve upon today. Thank you, Cindy!

What words of advice would you give to young Thunder fans regarding the importance of education?
When we are young, we never truly know where life will lead us. All aspects of our education help prepare us in some way for what we will be when we grow up. Make this your time to shine!

Michelle Churchwell

School: Eisenhower High School - Lawton
Age: 11th
Subject: English and Peer Mentorship
Career Length: 12 Years
Game: 2/7/20 vs. Detroit Pistons

Why did you choose to become and educator?
I could never picture myself being anything but a teacher. I had teachers who truly changed the trajectory of my life, and their influence was so powerful that I feel obligated to pass that same devotion on to my students.

Who is/was the most influential person in your career?
My family, no doubt. My mother taught me to read and taught me compassion and empathy. My father taught me the value of holding people to high standards and coaching them along until they exceed those standards. My husband and children are limitlessly supportive of me and my students.

What words of advice would you give to young Thunder fans regarding the importance of education?
Do not take the privilege of public education for granted. There are children who would and have sacrificed everything to be granted the opportunities for learning what we have in this country. Use the gifts you've been given through your education to make your community and your world a more equitable and peaceful place.

Jacquie Hill

School: Muskogee Early Childhood Center - Muskogee
Age: Pre-K
Subject: All
Career Length: 20 Years
Game: 2/9/20 vs. Boston Celtics

Why did you choose to become and educator?
I became an educator to give back what was given to me...a chance. Growing up it was my teachers who provided stability and structure in my life. They believed in me when no one else did. They provided the discipline and encouragement for me to reach my goals and helped me become the person I am today.

Who is/was the most influential person in your career?
There are many people who have influenced my career. I truly believe it takes a village to raise a child. I have an amazing village but if I had to pick the person who had the biggest influence on me it would be Janice Scott. She was my teaching assistant for fifteen years. She truly made be a better teacher. She was so supportive throughout my career! We collaborated together to provide a classroom where children felt loved, safe and were excited to learn!

What words of advice would you give to young Thunder fans regarding the importance of education?
I would tell young Thunder Fans to Dream BIG, focus on your education, work hard and anything is possible! Also, character matters..everyone will leave a legacy behind...make yours a positive one!

Christina Kirk

School: Star Spencer Mid-High School - Spencer
Age: Pre-K
Subject: English Language Arts and AVID
Career Length: 4 Years
Game: 2/11/20 vs. San Antonio Spurs

Why did you choose to become and educator?
I became an educator because I had a teacher believe in me before I knew how to believe in myself. Her love and dedication set me on an educational path to make my dreams reality. I want to be that beacon for my students. There is nothing that brings me more joy than my students knowing I care and support them.

Who is/was the most influential person in your career?
My 6th grade teacher has been the most influential person in my career. When I decided to leave law and teach, most people thought I was crazy. She totally understood and encouraged me as she always has. She gave me tips and sage advice. I still call her and receive her encouragement.

What words of advice would you give to young Thunder fans regarding the importance of education?
Education equals choices. Choose wisely. The more education you have, the more choices in life you have available to you. Education is the one thing no one can take away from you.

Lisa Shotts

School: Ellen Ochoa Elementary - Tulsa
Age: 4th
Subject: Elementary Ed
Game: 2/21/20 vs. Denver Nuggets

Jeanie Moore

School: Broken Arrow High School - Broken Arrow
Age: 10th
Subject: English
Career Length: 15 Years
Game: 2/23/20 vs. San Antonio Spurs

Why did you choose to become and educator?
I became a teacher to mentor young people. I wanted to use my position and influence to help teenagers become fully functioning positive members of society, to give them a safe place to test the waters and boundaries of a world full of opportunities and challenges. I may not be able to save all my students, but I can give students every opportunity to learn and save themselves.

Who is/was the most influential person in your career?
In my academic journey, a few teachers inspired me, but the most influential was Ms. Parsons, my sophomore English teacher. As an introvert, I sat mesmerized by her captivating and engaging energy and confidence. I wanted to be HER as a person! I wanted people to hang on my every word and action. I desired to empower others to want to be their best selves, to find joy and goodness in pouring into others. In my eyes, Ms. Parsons made every student feel significant, especially this shy awkward sophomore. As an educator, my mentor teacher, Janis Cramer taught me more about the reality of teaching teenagers than I ever learned in college. She filled me with practical tools to understand students beyond their academic abilities, teaching me how to find the good qualities in all students and how to redirect what might seem like the less desirable qualities and use those in constructive ways.

What words of advice would you give to young Thunder fans regarding the importance of education?
Education is not always about what you are learning, but how you learn to manage the challenge of learning. The facts and figures and skills are important, but the life lessons of learning will impact you forever in whatever you decide to do in your future whether that be college or technical training or in your career and other life choices. Being in school teaches self-discipline, time management, social skills, and becoming a life-long learner.

Katie Thompson

School: Shawnee Early Childhood Center - Shawnee
Age: Kindergarten
Subject: Elementary Ed
Career Length: 7 Years
Game: 2/27/20 vs. Sacramento Kings

Why did you choose to become and educator?
I could see that many kids around me were dealt a very unfair hand in life. I felt like there was only one thing I could do to make life a little more equitable for these kids. I knew I had the gift of teaching, so I answered my calling and have been in the classroom ever since.

Who is/was the most influential person in your career?
My students who have a tremendous amount of strength, courage, and resiliency are the most inspiring people I know. Many of my students have been through some very dark times. Their resiliency is inspiring and motivates me to keep teaching for them.

What words of advice would you give to young Thunder fans regarding the importance of education?
Whatever you have been through and no matter your story, please know that NOTHING is more important than knowing you’re loved. And you are.

Kelly Fry

School: Del Crest Middle School - Del City
Age: 8th
Subject: Pre-Engineering
Career Length: 34 Years
Game: 3/3/20 vs. LA Clippers

Why did you choose to become and educator?
I came from a long line of educators. My great-aunt started her teaching career in a one room schoolhouse in southwestern Oklahoma. My grandmother taught for several years in a two room school outside of Thomas, Ok. I have an uncle that was a professor at Bradley University and another that was a professor at Florida University. And finally, my dad taught math for 17 years before moving into another career. It wasn't expected of me to enter teaching, but it is what I grew up with and knew.

Who is/was the most influential person in your career?
Outside of my dad, who had a tremendous work ethic and put everything he had into his classroom, I would say my high school Industrial Arts teacher had the most impact on me. He introduced me to woodworking, drafting, and architecture that have become the very staples of interests and hobbies that I have today.

What words of advice would you give to young Thunder fans regarding the importance of education?
Learn something new everyday. Make it a point to consciously recognize something new everyday. The day to day grind in school can seem like it will never end. But, all too soon, it is over and you are out in the world making a life for yourself. You can only be successful if you never let yourself get into a stagnant rut. Continue to study. Continue to learn.

Summer Boismier

School: Piedmont High School - Piedmont
Age: 9th
Subject: English I and Pre-AP English
Career Length: 20 Years
Game: 3/11/20 vs. Utah Jazz

Why did you choose to become and educator?
School has always been a safe space for me, a place where I've felt seen and validated as an individual. I want school to serve a similar function for my students. I want to empower them to find their voices, be themselves, and chase their dreams.

Who is/was the most influential person in your career?
Aside from my mom who taught me everything I know about compassion, exertion, and sheer stubbornness, one of the most influential people in my career is actually a fictional character, Minerva McGonagall--professor and eventual headmistress of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the Harry Potter series. Throughout the series, McGonagall is unflinching in her efforts to help students see the value both in who they are and who they can become. She provides students with the space and choice to make their own decisions, always keeping in mind that doing what is right is often difficult but never wrong. Her students understand that she will support them when they fight the good fight, be there for them when they fail, and show them how mistakes generate new opportunities to learn. As such, McGonagall was an important mentor for me growing up and remains a model for me both as a teacher and as a leader today.

What words of advice would you give to young Thunder fans regarding the importance of education?
Own what you know, and always strive to learn more. Education should be one of your starting five in the game of life!

Zach Murray

School: Ponca City High School - Ponca City
Age: 10th
Subject: Biology
Career Length: 13 Years
Game: 3/13/20 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

Why did you choose to become and educator?
I chose to become an educator to help students learn more about science and biology and to help them discover the wonder of how our world works.

Who is/was the most influential person in your career?
My high school biology teacher, Mrs. Berrong, is probably the biggest influence on my career. She made science exciting. Because of her passion for science, I try to do the same in my classroom.

What words of advice would you give to young Thunder fans regarding the importance of education?
Never stop learning. Education is how we advance ourselves and improve.

Kirbey Dietzel

School: Jenks East Intermediate - Jenks
Age: 5th
Subject: Mathematics
Career Length: 9 Years
Game: 3/20/20 vs. Denver Nuggets

Why did you choose to become and educator?
I originally chose to attend college to become a meteorologist chasing a love of mathematics and science. I felt in my heart that I was destined for more leadership and inspiration so I chose to switch and pursue education. It's one of the best decisions I've ever made.

Who is/was the most influential person in your career?
The most influential person in my career is my first year mentor, Jennifer Toperzer. There's something about her - a spark. From her cheery demeanor to her constant encouragement, it is obvious she loves teaching, but even more special is how she values her colleagues. She is the inspiration behind me choosing to pursue educational leadership - to inspire my colleagues.

What words of advice would you give to young Thunder fans regarding the importance of education?
Your teachers love you. They teach because they want you to succeed this year and every year beyond that. Lean in and give learning all you've got. If you persevere, work hard to master new skills, and be a great team player in the classroom, you'll have success beyond your school years!

Jeff Jordan

School: Guthrie High School - Guthrie
Age: Pre-AP English 1, Pre-AP English 2, Engineering 2, AP Literature, Creative Writing
Subject: 9th through 12th
Career Length: 19 Years
Game: 3/26/20 vs. Charlotte Hornets

Why did you choose to become and educator?
Teaching is my calling; it is a matter of faith. As I sought what God would have me do with my life as a freshman in college, I remembered the impact my teachers had on me. I wanted to impact students just as I had been pushed and challenged.

Who is/was the most influential person in your career?
My high school wrestling coach, Tim Johnson, was and still is the most influential on my career. He showed me how to do it right both as a teacher and a coach. He challenged all of us in the wrestling room not only to be good wrestlers but also to be better men, and he lived it out before us. He was equally effective in the classroom, and I have emulated his character throughout my career.

What words of advice would you give to young Thunder fans regarding the importance of education?
Education is important because it helps develop those qualities necessary to be successful. One such trait is curiosity. When students are curious, they can learn anything no matter how difficult. Another is courage. When students lose their fear of failure, they can accomplish amazing things. Those who are willing to risk reap great reward.

Tara Simon

School: James Griffith Intermediate - Choctaw
Age: 4th
Subject: General Education
Career Length: 15 Years
Game: 4/1/20 vs. Phoenix Suns

Why did you choose to become and educator?
I believe that educators are a huge influence in a child’s life, I know they have been in mine. I remember the teachers who influenced me in a positive way and those who have affected me negatively. As a teacher, I believe the greatest gift I can give my students is to truly be myself and give them the best of me. For many years my personal life and the fear of not being like other teachers, held me back from being a great teacher. It wasn’t until I met my husband who started believing in me for who I truly was, encouraged me to just be me, and to believe in myself was truly when I started to bloom. He truly has helped me become the best version of me, which in turn has rolled over into the classroom where I can be my best for my students. I believe there are many people who can teach students, but for a ‘real’ teacher, teaching is their passion, their love, their calling! I believe it takes someone who can see the ‘whole’ child that makes an outstanding teacher. I believe you cannot treat all students the same as there are no two humans the same. I’m so thankful I had more outstanding teachers than mediocre teachers. The greatest reward of teaching is when you see the success of the students. From the beginning of the year, my co-teacher and I enforce values of respect, kindness, and tolerance. I hope my willingness to accept and love all my students is a strength of mine that will forever impact the students in a positive way for the rest of their lives.

Who is/was the most influential person in your career?
As a child I grew up going to school each morning at 7:30 with my father who was a principal. Each morning we would read as we checked teachers in as they came through the door. I was surrounded by teachers daily who not only impacted my educational needs, but also impacted my upbringing. I always wanted to be a wife, a mother, and a teacher. There was never another profession for me, I always wanted to grow up and impact children the way I was impacted by so many. My mother went back to school when I was in third grade to become a teacher. Prior to this, she stayed home with my sisters and me. When we were all in school she went to work for the school district as a nurse’s assistant. To say the least, my mother was the most influential person in my life. She was truly the greatest mother in the world. Even as a child I wanted to be as great a mom as she was. As I got older and I wanted to ‘take a break from college’ she would remind me of how hard it was on the entire family when she had to go back to school as an adult, so I persevered. If I had stopped going to school when I wanted to, I probably would not have gone back. Growing up, watching my mother and father work hard is what I believe led me to not only becoming a teacher, but to my sisters and I becoming successful adults with good work ethic. Had they not encouraged me to follow my dreams, I would not be in the position I am today. Their influence led me to be able to accomplish anything I set my mind to.

What words of advice would you give to young Thunder fans regarding the importance of education?
Don't ever stop learning and pursuing your dreams!

Shadonna Watkins

School: Tulakes Elementary School - Oklahoma City
Age: 1st
Subject: Reading, Math, Writing, Science, and Social Studies
Career Length: 4 Years
Game: 4/7/20 vs. Brooklyn Nets

Why did you choose to become and educator?
Spending time with young children has always brought me joy. When I was in elementary school, my mother had a childcare center. I spent a great deal of time helping her with the children after school each day. I enjoyed pretending to be the teacher and helping “my students” learn to write. Reading books and playing in centers with them was a great source of enjoyment. I can vividly recall getting off the bus and running into the building so that I could work with them. I knew then that I wanted to be a teacher. I want my students to be academically prepared to do anything they want to do in life.

Who is/was the most influential person in your career?
My mother, Donna Crane, is the most influential person in my career. I grew up observing her love for learning and passion for educating young children. She has always been an advocate for children and families. She is retired now but continues to encourage children to develop a love for reading and books.

What words of advice would you give to young Thunder fans regarding the importance of education?
My advice to young Thunder fans is to work hard and always do your best! I want them to know that education is the key that opens doors to many different career fields.

Donna Blackmon

School: Jefferson Elementary School - Ardmore
Age: Kindergarten
Subject: Literacy/Reading and Math
Career Length: 27 Years
Game: 4/10/20 vs. New York Knicks

Why did you choose to become and educator?
I love working with children and making a positive difference in their lives. I believe all children can learn. I want to impact and make a difference in the lives of my students. My decision to teach is a direct result of having wonderful teachers opening the door for growth and opportunity in my life. My love of learning and teaching continues to motivate me to become a better teacher and to help nurture the value of life-long learning in others.

Who is/was the most influential person in your career?
I credit my gifted 3rd grade teacher Mrs. Humphrey, my grandmother and my mother for creating a thirst for learning in me. They encouraged my desire to make a difference in my community by making a difference in individual students lives.

What words of advice would you give to young Thunder fans regarding the importance of education?
I believe you can accomplish any dream if you work hard enough. I challenge you to reach your full potential through hard work and perseverance to be your BEST self.

Kyla Johnson

School: Prairie View Elementary - Mustang
Age: Pre-K
Subject: Early Childhood Education
Career Length: 19 Years
Game: 4/13/20 vs. Utah Jazz

Why did you choose to become and educator?
My family. I am the third generation in my family to become an educator. My grandmother Juanita Reed, taught 2nd grade in Davidson OK. My father Jim Reed, was a teacher, coach, principal, and Superintendent for Northside ISD TX. My mother Dorthy Reed taught High School through Elementary at Northside ISD TX. My brother Jim and his wife Tonya are also teachers at Northside ISD. It was truly a family business. My family instilled in me the power and love of education at a very young age.

Who is/was the most influential person in your career?
My grandmother Juanita Reed. She is 98 years young (loves basketball). She taught 2nd grade for over 30 years.

What words of advice would you give to young Thunder fans regarding the importance of education?
Education is the most powerful weapon for changing the world- Nelson Mandela


Why did you choose to become an educator?

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