(Mustang, Oklahoma – April 12, 2021) – For the second year in a row, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the announcement of the Mustang Public Schools’ Teacher of the Year (TOTY). In the past, the District scheduled an annual TOTY Banquet in the high school commons, where all site teachers were recognized and the announcement of the District Teacher of the Year was made. However, last year, due to the pandemic, the District announced via social media their selection for the 2019-2020 Teacher of the Year, Kevin Koch from Canyon Ridge Intermediate School. For and for the 2020-21 school year, the announcement was made in the Mustang High School classroom of Mrs. Lauren Thacker followed by recognition at tonight’s meeting of the Board of Education.
Following the announcement at the Board meeting, the District took to social media to celebrate all site teachers of the year, with special recognition of Mrs. Thacker as District Teacher of the Year. “Lauren created a model co-taught classroom in her first few years at MHS and flawlessly transitioned to a full schedule of English IV classes full of students of all learning styles and needs,” according to Valerie Hammer, MHS English Department Chair. Another colleague, Ashley Spears concurred by stating that “[Lauren’s] passion, innovation, and impact are thoroughly noticed by her colleagues and students, both past and present. She is an intelligent, passionate woman with a genuine love for teaching and knowledge. She continually pushes her students to achieve high academic standards, while also creating lasting relationships and rapport within the classroom. Lauren strives to make her classroom a space where students feel comfortable, welcomed, and engaged.”
“We had seventeen amazing candidates for our District Teacher of the Year,” Superintendent Charles Bradley said. “The [Teacher of the Year] committee had their work cut out for them, but in the end, Mrs. Thacker was their nominee, and we could not be more proud.” Mustang High School Principal Dr. Kathy Knowles expounded on that point by saying that “Lauren’s true calling is most definitely in education. She works daily to challenge and mold those around her, not only professionally, but as individuals. She reminds us all to laugh, enjoy ourselves, and create lasting relationships with those around us.”
Lauren Thacker graduated in 2005 from The John Cooper School (The Woodlands, TX) before venturing to Oklahoma State University where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in English Literature in 2009 before pursuing her Masters of Business Administration which she completed in 2011. She began her teaching career in 2011 as a substitute teacher for Union Public Schools in Tulsa, OK before being hired in 2012 at Mustang High School.
“My first thought upon winning was, ‘Really? THIS year?’, said Lauren. “Of the years I’ve been teaching, this is the one in which I feel the least effective. I think all teachers are in the same boat right now, riding the tumultuous waves of self-doubt, lack-of-sleep, and genuine confusion about what’s best for our students in this unprecedented time. However, receiving this award is an incredible reminder that your toughest critic is yourself. I work with the best people around! When I walk down the hallways, there’s always a smiling face or a kind word from my colleagues. There are teachers in every department who encourage and challenge me, and I steal brilliant ideas from them all the time.”
One of her former students, in writing a letter of recommendation for Mrs. Thacker, reported that “You could come to her about anything and she would never judge, she would simply listen and help out however she could.” She continued in the letter by saying that “one dream I always had was being taken to fictional worlds by reading books, but I just never had the courage to create worlds like those myself. I had always been too nervous or afraid to try, because I didn’t want to fail. When I got to Mrs. Thacker’s [Creative Writing] class, I didn’t just learn how to properly write stories, I also managed to find the voice I had been searching for. I had gone from being a girl that was too shy to talk to people, to a person that wasn’t afraid to create entire worlds.
Without Mrs. Thacker, I wouldn’t have had the courage to even try.” In response to those words, Lauren just smiles. “My overall goal as a teacher is to create a classroom environment in which students associate learning with positivity and enjoyment. When my seniors graduate, they no longer have an entity ensuring their attendance and participation in school (and ultimately, learning). My hope is to instill in them a sense of excitement and eagerness in connection with reading and communication, one that they can carry with them into adulthood.”
“We are very proud of all of our seventeen candidates, and are fortunate to have them as representatives of Mustang Public Schools,” Superintendent Bradley said. “The excellence that they exhibit each day, their caring for our students, and their willingness to go above and beyond are the epitome of what it means to be a Mustang Bronco.”
About Mustang Public Schools
The Mustang Public School District covers over 72 square miles in Oklahoma and Canadian counties with the City of Mustang at its center. The district is the largest employer in Canadian County, with more than 1,000 certified and support employees. Voted one of Oklahoma’s Top Workplaces for the past two years, the school district offers a comprehensive compensation package for full-time employees, in addition to a satisfying working environment. There are eight elementary schools (grades PreK-4), three intermediate centers (grades 5-6), three middle schools (grades 7-8), one high school (grades 9-12), and an educational center which houses pre-kindergarten and alternative education.
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