'Meeting my students in the margins': SPS Teacher of the Year shares her journey

May 1—Today is National Teacher Day — and Stillwater Public Schools is celebrating one teacher and one support employee in particular.

Stillwater Middle School english language arts teacher Chloe Andrews was selected as the Teacher of the Year and Skyline Elementary paraprofessional Tim Rostad was named Support Employee of the Year.

SPS honored all school site teachers and support employees during a district-wide virtual ceremony on April 18.

Andrews always knew she wanted to be a teacher. She pretended to teach her stuffed animals when she was a little girl.

"There was really no other option for me," Andrews said. "I enjoy being in front of a group of people."

She graduated from Cleveland High School and attended Oklahoma State University, where she studied family and consumer science.

During her sophomore year at OSU, she worked with a student at Lincoln Academy on a writing initiative for one of her classes.

The project included publishing a book of the student's work. Something about the unique editing experience opened her eyes to other possibilities.

"That's what prompted me to go from Family and Consumer Science to English, because I enjoyed that one-on-one time with him and getting to know him through his writing," Andrews said. "As an English teacher, I get to meet my students through the margins of their papers."

Andrews pursued her teaching certificate and has taught at SMS since 2018.

Her career hasn't come without challenges. She interviewed for her job during a teacher walkout. Her first year was the typical first-year teaching experience. She also had a new baby (and later, had another child).

The next year, COVID-19 hit. SPS adjusted to a different schedule. Her fourth year was almost back to normal, and now she's starting to hit her stride.

"I feel like I finally got a chance to get my bearings and figure out who I am as an educator throughout all of that strife," Andrews said.

But she wasn't deterred by the unexpected challenges.

"Life doesn't stop at the door and I have to take that into consideration with each kid," Andrews said. "Nobody taught me this, but during my first year, I learned that there are so many that don't get to hear that they're loved every single day. One of my biggest things is I don't want students to leave my classroom without them hearing me say, 'Love you, bye.'"

Andrews said compassion has to stay at the forefront, and she constantly meets students where they're at. She said working with her students in their writing has broken barriers.

"Writing is so powerful," Andrews said. "I have that time in class to sit down with thoughts and go over them. I learn from them just as much as they learn from me."

SMS Principal Ryan Blake said Andrews doesn't see obstacles, only potential. She doesn't make excuses when a student is struggling but works tirelessly for answers.

"Without fail, Mrs. Andrews is kind, positive and the ultimate professional," Blake said. "There are not enough superlatives to describe the positive impact (Andrews) has had at SMS. She builds meaningful and long-lasting relationships with each of her students."

As part of her application for Teacher of the Year, Andrews wrote several essays. In her second essay, she spoke about the need for parents to get more involved in their children's education.

"Since COVID-19, we've all been on our own little islands and I think it's imperative for education in Oklahoma to get parents more invested in their kids' education," Andrews said. "It's time to get back to having more partnership moving forward in order to see success in our state."

"It takes a village," she added.

Andrews will compete with teachers from across the state for the title of Oklahoma Teacher of the Year.

Support Employee of the Year

Tim Rostad has been a paraprofessional at Skyline Elementary since August 2021.

Rostad is a retired sheriff with an associate degree in criminal justice. He previously served as an officer with the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program.

Rostad also worked at Highland Park Elementary School for two years. He retires from SPS this month.

"I have been in public service for 43 years," Rostad said. "I have never been so humbled and honored as I have been by my Skyline family."

Skyline Elementary Principal Natalie Fluty was thrilled to learn that Rostad was voted as Support Employee of the Year.

"Mr. Tim has truly changed the lives of so many students," Fluty said. "He teaches students different ways to handle the challenges they face. He coaches students and never gives up on them."

Other Recognitions

Retiring Teachers and Staff

—Dee Atkins — ADM

—Debbie Schroeder — ADM

—Nora Fields — Facilities/Richmond

—Salema Grant — Facilities

—Denise Roberts — Highland Park Elementary

—Karen Mitchell — Skyline

—Tim Rostad — Skyline Elementary

—Dana Ayers — Stillwater High School

—Eric Forney — Stillwater Junior High School

—Lynn Franzmann — Stillwater Middle School

—Jerry Clement — Transportation

—Bruce Farmer — Transportation

—Jackie Iob — Will Rogers Elementary

—Maureen Lawson — Westwood Elementary

—Jill Secrest — Westwood Elementary

Other Support Employees of the Year

—Desiree Burnsed — ADM/IT

—Kyla Wehr — FAC/SNS

—Rita Williams — Highland Park Elementary

—Nora Fields — Richmond Elementary

—Mike McEntee — Sangre Ridge Elementary

—Carla Nelson — SHS/LA/VA

—Ashley Garner — Stillwater Junior High School

—Trevor Scott — Stillwater Middle School

—James McDaniel — Transportation

—Shelli Myers — Westwood Elementary School

—Onalee Santos — Will Rogers Elementary School

Other Site Teachers of the Year

—Abby Varnum — Highland Park Elementary

—Mechelle Helmberger ~ Richmond Elementary

—Carla Harnly — Lincoln Alternative Academy

—Rachel Wilson — Sangre Ridge Elementary

—Jacob Culpepper — Skyline Elementary

—Larry Hesler — Stillwater High School

—Aleshia Graham — Stillwater Junior High School

—Clarence Holley — Stillwater Pioneer Virtual Academy

—Marie Sanders — Westwood Elementary

—Rayna Zimmerman ~ Will Rogers Elementary