Fifty-four Putnam City students have been named Oklahoma Academic Scholars by the Oklahoma State Department of Education.
To achieve recognition as Academic Scholars, students must have a minimum (non-weighted) grade point average of 3.7 on a 4.0 scale accumulated over grades 9, 10, 11 and the first semester of grade 12 or be in the top 10 percent of their class. They must complete the curriculum requirements for a standard high school diploma and achieve either a minimum composite score of 27 on the ACT college-entrance exam or a combined reading and math score of 1,220 on the SAT I.
The Oklahoma Academic Scholar recognition includes a gold seal affixed to the high school diploma, the honor recorded on their official transcript and a certificate of recognition from the State Board of Education and their high school.
Putnam City has the fifth-highest number of Oklahoma Academic Scholars in the history of the award. District students recognized this year:
Putnam City Schools is offering a benefit that saves its teachers an estimated $4,000 a year and as an additional bonus brings them peace of mind. And even though the benefit is significant, it’s one that few other Oklahoma school districts provide: district-operated child care.
Putnam City’s child development center first opened many years ago as a place to provide care for the young children of teen parents who are also district students. In time the center also began to serve children of adults who take literacy classes in the same building. Three years ago district officials realized they had room to expand the center to provide needed care for the children of district teachers.
“What we saw at the district level was that we have many young teachers in our district with at least one child and sometimes two in childcare. In the past, a teacher in Oklahoma could not afford childcare for two on the salary they earned. Even now with the recent teacher raise it’s not easy. This is a way we could really help our teachers. It saves a ton of money for them and yet that there is little to no cost to the district,” says Patty Balenseifen, the district’s chief of Human Capital.
Teachers pay for child care in Putnam City just as they would at any child care facility, but they pay much less. For one thing, the district isn’t trying to make a profit on the child care – it’s simply trying to break even. More importantly, the child development center is open and closed on a schedule that matches the district schedule. That means teachers who will have their children at home during Christmas break, spring break and other days school is not in session don’t have to pay a child care center to keep their spot. Even more importantly, teachers don’t have to pay for summer child care they won’t use just to make sure they have child care in the fall when they need it.
Kelly Suchy, the director of several Putnam City programs for children birth to age 4, says one father of a child cared for in the center told her he “felt like they hit the childcare jackpot.”
Other parents agree. Sara Ligon, a teacher at Putnam City High School, has a young daughter in the district’s child development center. She says she and her husband love it.
“It’s close, convenient, extremely affordable and has small classes. The teachers genuinely love our daughter as if she was their own, and we love the diversity our little girl is part of every day,” Ligon says.
This year the district added additional child development center space at a district elementary school farther north. The school has an infant room that is used to provide care for as many as eight infants and a room for 1-year-olds that can hold up to 12. Plans call for adding care for 2-year-olds in the 2019-2020, and then for 3-year-olds in the 2020-2021 school year.
“That’s for continuity both for children and parents. A child could start there as an infant and stay until they move on to pre-k there, and perhaps even beyond,’” Suchy says.
Balenseifen says the reasons for the district to provide low-cost care for children of teachers are many. It raises teacher morale, improves attendance and lowers turnover rates. In addition, she says, research shows that employee productivity increases when parents are not worried about their child’s safety.
“We realize that our employees are our greatest asset and that child care benefits are a huge factor for many working parents when deciding where to work. It only makes sense. When parents have good care for their children, care that they trust and care that is affordable, their lives are easier,” Balenseifen says.
Anyone 18 or younger in the Putnam City area can get free breakfast or lunch in June at two schools as part of the district’s summer food service program.
Meals will be served at Putnam City West High School, 8500 N.W. 23rd, and Wiley Post Elementary School, 6920 W. Britton Rd. Breakfast will be served from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. Lunch will be served from 10:30 a.m. to noon. Meal will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis at the two schools on weekdays from Monday, June 3, through Thursday, June 27.
Children who wish to take advantage of the free meals may simply show up either of the schools during the designated times. They do not need to be enrolled in the school, nor is there an application required to receive the free meals. The meals provided will be the same for all children regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability.
Tulakes Elementary 1st-grade teacher Shadonna Watkins was named Putnam City Schools’ “Teacher of the Year” during the district’s annual celebration of teaching excellence Tuesday night.
Watkins remarks upon receiving the award were heartfelt.
“This is the direct result of when your passions and talents meet and you figure out what you want to do for the rest of your life. I truly enjoy every single day that I spend in my classroom with those kids,” Watkins said, fighting back tears. “I am just so honored to represent Putnam City as teacher of the year. I love this district and the children and teachers in it,” Watkins said.
Watkins is only in her third year of teaching, but her abilities are those of an outstanding veteran teacher, says Danyelle Speight, Tulakes Elementary School principal.
“Shadonna Watkins is an amazing teacher. She has her kids assessed and figures out what they need by the second week of school. She gives her all, she works hard, she’s wonderfully committed and she’s 100 percent about her students,” Speight says.
Watkins’ career path began following a formative experience one summer as she studied abroad in Africa. An excursion to a primary school left her amazed that children who had so little in terms of material goods were so focused on learning and appreciative of the opportunity to go to school.
“I witnessed young boys and girls who walked outside barefoot because their families couldn’t afford shoes, and I wanted to give back. When I flew back home, it was without everything I had brought with me. I gave away everything to children I passed on the street. I think this was the catalyst that made me want to help children in any way that I could,” Watkins recalls.
Watkins went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in child development from Langston University and a master’s degree in family and child studies from the University of Central Oklahoma. She began working in child development centers, serving as a master teacher in preschool classrooms and also undertaking stints as director of the Langston University Early Childhood Laboratory and the Rose State College Child Development Laboratory. She was a member of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the Southern Early Childhood Association and the Early Childhood Association of Oklahoma.
In 2014 Watkins began teaching child development and early childhood education courses full-time at Langston University. When she found she missed working with young children, she took her sterling credentials and wealth of expertise to Tulakes as an alternatively certified teacher. While teaching full time at Tulakes she also continues to teach at least one child development or early childhood education course every semester on an adjunct basis at Langston.
“Teaching in an elementary school gives me a unique perspective. I can give students real-life situations that correspond with information in their textbooks. I can paint the picture and show them how theories reveal themselves in daily experiences in the classroom,” she says.
Teaching at Tulakes has given Watkins a chance to test out her philosophy of teaching – using data and individualized instruction to meet students’ needs.
“Students enter our doors with a wide range of abilities. Teaching them is similar to putting together a large puzzle. I use assessments to determine informational gaps and then determine which researched-based intervention will benefit them. For students to be successful, instruction must be tailored to meet their individual needs,” Watkins says.
Watkins’ passion for children and for helping those less fortunate keeps her busy outside of school as takes on projects such as helping collect coats for homeless families, helping in painting and renovation of schools and teaching young children weekly at church.
Teaching is a calling and career that feeds Watkins’ soul.
“I wake up every morning excited about the adventures that will unfold that day. I take advantage of every hour, every minute and every second that students are with me. We learn in the hallway, the cafeteria and the classroom. I pour my heart out in my classroom every day because I love teaching,” Watkins says.
Five teachers have been selected as finalists for Putnam City’s Teacher of the Year. The finalists are:
• Allison Becker, James L. Dennis Elementary
• Tiffany Biggs, Kenneth Cooper Middle School
• Edward L. Hudson, Jr., Putnam City West High School
• Brittani Phillips, Putnam City North High School
• Shadonna Watkins, Tulakes Elementary
A committee of district educators selected the five finalists from a list of 27 teachers of the year from district schools. The finalists will be interviewed by a panel of local business leaders in a process to determine the district teacher of the year.
The finalists, along with teachers of the year from other district schools, will be honored at the district’s annual Teacher of the Year program beginning on Tuesday, March 5, at Victory Church, 4300 N MacArthur Blvd. The event’s reception begins at 6:30 p.m.; the program begins at 7. The event, sponsored by the Putnam City Public Schools Foundation and the Independent Insurance Agents of Central Oklahoma, is free and open to the public.
During the program, all five finalists will be announced as Putnam City Schools Foundation Excellent Educators before one of the five is named as the district’s teacher of the year. Four out of the last five years the district teacher of the year has been named one of 12 finalists for Oklahoma teacher of the year.
Putnam City North High School’s student council was recently notified that is one of just two in Oklahoma and 28 across the nation to be named by the National Association of Student Councils (NASC) as a National Council of Excellence for 10 consecutive years.
“It is an honor to be recognized by the NASC as one of its longstanding Councils of Excellence. I know we appreciate the recognition of our hard work and are also humbled by the honor of serving a council with such a rich history of leadership and service,” says Shane Wilson, president of Students United at North (SUN), the student council at Putnam City North.
Each year the award recognizes exemplary records of leadership, service and activities by student councils across the country. Winning student councils have strong year-round programs and work to improve their schools and communities.
Brittani Parker, the faculty sponsor for SUN, says the organization’s history of strong leadership is behind the recognition.
“I am so fortunate to advise such a fantastic group of student leaders. North has long been a model of excellent student leadership and it is an honor to help continue the tradition. I admire all of the SUN sponsors who have come before me and the bar that has been set,” Parker says.
Zhamarius Harmon, a junior at Putnam City High School and a cadet in the school’s Air Force Junior ROTC, has received a scholarship to attend an accredited aviation university participating in a private pilot license training program in the summer of 2019.
Harmon is one of 150 Air Force Junior ROTC cadets around the world, and three in Oklahoma, to receive the scholarship from Headquarters Air Force Junior ROTC, Maxwell Air Force Base, Montgomery, Alabama.
The number of Putnam City High cadets chosen for the scholarship may increase. Caleb King, a junior at Putnam City High, was chosen as an alternate for the scholarship and could be called at any time to replace one of the 150 recipients who is unable to attend the training.
More than 1,560 cadets applied for one of the 150 scholarships. There are more than 120,000 high school students enrolled in Air Force Junior ROTC at almost 900 high schools in the U.S and overseas. The scholarship covers transportation, room and board, academics and flight hours required to potentially earn a private pilot license. The scholarship is valued at approximately $20,000.
The Flight Academy Scholarship Program is Air Force-level initiative in collaboration with the commercial aviation industry to address the national civilian and military pilot shortage. Those who participate in the program do not incur a military commitment to the Air Force or any other branch of service, nor does completing the program guarantee acceptance into one of the military’s commissioning programs.
“I am truly honored to be able to accept this opportunity, to start my journey toward my dream of being a pilot. I want to thank Putnam City JROTC for giving me the chance to do what I love. I hope to turn this opportunity into a fighter pilot career in the U.S Air Force,” Harmon says.
King has similar hopes and dreams.
“I hope to have the chance to turn this scholarship into a career, whether it’s in the Air Force or with airlines. I want to be a pilot,” King says.
It’s the second year in a row that a cadet in Putnam City Air Force Junior ROTC has earned the scholarship. Last year Tiffany Swallow, then a just-graduated Putnam City High student, attended the pilot training at Kansas State University.
The mission of Air Force Junior ROTC is to develop citizens of character dedicated to serving their nation and community, while instilling values of citizenship, service to the United States, personal responsibility and sense of accomplishment.
Teachers of the year for 2018-2019 at each of Putnam City’s schools have been selected and will be honored at the district’s annual Teacher of the Year event on Tuesday, March 5, at Victory Church, 4300 N MacArthur Blvd. The event’s reception begins at 6:30 p.m.; the program begins at 7.
Each school’s “Teacher of the Year” is chosen by the school’s teaching staff. The 2018-2019 Putnam City teachers of the year are:
Moriah Holmes, Apollo Elementary
Jayme Knox, Arbor Grove Elementary
Chandler Farris, Central Elementary
Amber Epperson, Coronado Heights Elementary School
Allison Becker, James L. Dennis Elementary
Debbie Oakes, Ralph Downs Elementary
Holly Pollock, Harvest Hills Elementary
Michele Fields, Hilldale Elementary
Nate Phillips, Kirkland Elementary
Jennifer Newman, Lake Park Elementary
Laura Brothers, Northridge Elementary
Marilyn Peters, Overholser Elementary
LaSharie Hagens, Rollingwood Elementary
Shadonna Watkins, Tulakes Elementary
Jerilyn Cushing, Western Oaks Elementary
Rhianne Hohendorf, Wiley Post Elementary
Darlene Moehnke, Will Rogers Elementary
Lyndsay Sprecher, Windsor Hills Elementary
Laura Ogles, Capps Middle School
Tiffany Biggs, Kenneth Cooper Middle School
Carmen Pence, Hefner Middle School
Laura Harris, Mayfield Middle School
Annessa Parker, Western Oaks Middle School
Michelle Miller, Putnam City Academy
Benton Shriver, Putnam City High School
Brittani Phillips, Putnam City North High School
Edward L. Hudson, Jr., Putnam City West High School