Norman Public Schools learning coach Jessica Eschbach is the 2021 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year.
Oklahoma State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister announced the award Thursday in a virtual ceremony.
In a video, Eschbach recognized her fellow teachers for their hard work over the past year and reminded them there’s much more ahead.
"This pandemic and this year has shown us that there are some inequities that we can face head-on and make sure that every student in the state of Oklahoma is getting access to the best educational opportunities that we have to offer. Our students are going to be our future," Eschbach said.
Eschbach will serve as the state’s next teacher ambassador starting July 1. She will take over for 2020 teacher of the year Jena Nelson of Deer Creek Public Schools.
Nelson, who has publicly expressed her opposition to policies that could take funding away from public education or hurt rural schools, said her advocacy work will continue, especially as educators keep helping kids through the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It is imperative that we remember a critical fact: Educators changed the world one student and one positive encounter at a time, freeing students to move through this trauma to a successful future that they may have never imagined for themselves," Nelson said.
Teacher of the Year comes with $10,000 in cash and prizes, including use of a vehicle for a year to tour the state.
The state teacher of the year takes on speaking engagements and represents the state in the National Teacher of the Year competition. The last teacher of the year from Green Country was Broken Arrow’s Donna Gradel in 2018.