Rachael Van Horn
Woodward, Okla. —
When Chelsea Roberts's students flop down in their desks in her 8th grade American History class and talk about what they saw on the news last night, or discuss the presidential election, that is when she knows she's doing something right.
After an announcement Wednesday in Oklahoma City during the State Department of Education's Vision 2020 Conference, there should be no question that Roberts is doing something right.
The Woodward Middle School teacher and Woodward Teacher of the Year qualified as one of 12 finalists for Oklahoma Teacher of the Year for 2014.
"This was the hardest secret I have ever had to keep," 26-year-old Roberts said. "I have only been teaching for two years and so I am humbled and honored and still learning."
Roberts noted she had gotten the call from State Superintendent Janet Barresi days before the conference and she couldn't say anything to anyone.
The Woodward native will compete with 11 other Oklahoma teachers for the title of Oklahoma Teacher of the Year. It is the second year in a row a Woodward teacher has qualified in the top 12. Last year, Lee Ann Stone, 2012 Woodward Teacher of the Year was a finalist as well.
All 12 educators have sent portfolios with their teaching accomplishments and other information for judging by a committee at the State Department of Education.
The tiny twist of irony here is Roberts, who attended the University of Oklahoma, never planned on being a teacher.
"I thought I would be a radiologist or do something with science until I took a college chemistry course and then that all went out the window," Roberts said. "I then, sort of fell back on my passion for politics and history, so I decided to get a degree in political science.
It was thanks to one of her college professors, who asked her to be an undergraduate teaching assistant that led Roberts to discover her true hidden passion.
"And then it all just fell into place," she said.
After that, Roberts completed a masters in education with a specialty in history at Northwestern Oklahoma University-Woodward.
Of the high and lows related to teaching, Roberts is circumspect and authentic.
"When students tell me they hated history till they took my class, I know I must be doing something right," she said.
But there are lows too, she said.
"There are students who I could clearly see their potential and yet there are just some students who are very hard to reach," she said. "I had to understand that I cannot reach them all and so I tell myself 'You have to keep trying,'."
Roberts wishes to thank her parents, Barbara and Bran Roberts for their support. Indeed, it was Roberts mother who drove her home from the 2020 Conference Tuesday as she sat i shock still trying to absorb it all.
"And I also want to give a shout out to my boyfriend, Trevor Cruse," she said. "He has had to put up with me working long hours and talking all the time about my students and so he deserves a lot of credit."