It is typically unusual for an educator in their early years of teaching to be awarded a school district’s top teacher award.
But administrators at Springer Public Schools looked past the number of years in the classroom and zoned in on dedication to students when the district named science teacher Lucy Knight the 2013-14 Teacher of the Year, says Russell Noland, high school principal.
“She is an extraordinary hard worker,” Noland said of Knight, who just completed her second year in the classroom. “She is the first to get here in the morning and the last one to leave. She is very dedicated to her job.
“She works hard to become a better teacher and goes above and beyond what is required.” Knight, who began her teaching career at Springer during the 2012-13 school year, teaches all the science courses for students in the middle and high school. It was during the end of the school year in early May that she was first told she was selected for the teacher of the year award. Superintendent Cynthia Hunter and Noland entered her classroom during a lesson to present her with the award.
Monday night, she was formally honored at the Springer Board of Education meeting.
Knight says teaching science at Springer was an "unique opportunity" when she was hired. The position requires being versed in a variety of science subjects.
"On a day-to-day basis, I will start with zoology first hour and then slip into biology second hour. Then third hour is chemistry and it just continues," Knight said. "I have to be able to change my teaching style each hour because seventh graders are very different from seniors in high school. I teach a different subject every hour and I never repeat a lesson." Knight says she enjoys teaching science because it allows her to introduce hands-on science activities. She believes in making lessons meaningful and fun to help students learn. During the school year, Knight gets creative when introducing lessons. She turns to teacher blogs and science teacher websites to find lab assignments that fit the curriculum she is teaching and take students beyond reading from a text book.
A favorite from this past year was called pumpkin CSI and took place before Halloween, Knight says.
"It was where we created a pumpkin crime scene," remembers Knight. "I had some of my classes go outside and smash all the pumpkins. The seventh graders, eighth graders and freshman went out there and conducted an investigation to deter mine what weapon or tool smashed each pumpkin." Knight says she is not afraid to reach out to other teachers, across southern Oklahoma and the state, to find out about different and successful ways to teach a lesson.
Noland adds Knight is a teacher known for writing grants to help fund science experiments or purchase materials for her classroom.
"She is always looking for ways to raise the bar as far as the expectations of her students goes," Noland said.
Knight says she enjoys working at Springer because of the supportive administration and the district's commitment to academics. She also appreciates the unique opportunity given to teachers at the school district which is home to just over 200 students enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade.
"I really like that unique opportunity to teach seventh grade through seniors," Knight said. "I really don't think there is any other district around here where a teacher can say they taught a seventh grader and stay with that student until they graduated." Knight says she may only be entering her third year of teaching this August, but she already has tips for those entering the field.
"It all starts with the relationships that you build." Knight says. "You have to have a solid correlation with your students. If they are bought in, then they will go above and beyond."