Every week, EPIC Superintendent Bart Banfield explores topics related to education, learning, leadership and more. Be sure to check back each week for the latest.

And the Winner is…

Every now and then, one of those perfect days comes along, one where you are able to stand back for a moment and reflect on all that is great and good around you. Monday, December 16th was one of those days for me.

Approximately 1,400 teachers, principals and administrators gathered in Norman this week for the annual EPIC Employee Recognition and Awards ceremony, and it was a sight to see. Not only were there some 500 more employees than last year’s ceremony, everyone present was able to commune with their colleagues and celebrate the excellence of our instructional and administrative staff.

As I, along with EPIC Co-Founders Ben Harris and David Chaney, stood looking out at the sea of people in attendance Monday, my heart was filled with gratitude for the choice each one of them made to join the EPIC family. The people in the room that day are, quite simply, the lifeblood of our organization and the beating heart of an idea that began with a simple premise: that school can be different.

Appreciation is a basic human need. Recognition for a job well done is essential to creating an outstanding work environment. When people feel valued, it shows in their work, fuels their passion and makes a lasting impression on the all-important work we do of educating the students we are so lucky to serve. 

I had the privilege to confer honors upon hundreds of EPIC “rock star” teachers who met the highest standards of student achievement, participation, attendance and retention. Further, I was able to present awards to our highest instructional performers of the year, including Edmond’s Rachel Teasley, EPIC’s 2018-2019 Teacher of the Year. Also the year’s highest performing teacher, Rachel has only been with EPIC for two years and already snagged the top teaching award. I couldn’t be more proud of her.

Adam Wilhelm of Edmond was named EPIC’s Principal of the Year. One of the original handful of teachers that helped found EPIC nine years ago, he became a principal in 2018, hit the ground running and hasn’t looked back since. He has inspired so many with is passion and shown a countless number of his colleagues how to succeed.

Ponca City’s Stephanie Blum was named EPIC Special Education Principal of the Year. She’s in her fifth year at EPIC. She became a principal in 2017 after serving as a special education teacher and director of teacher development. Her experience, developing teachers and now leading them is evident in everything she does.

The Special Education Teacher of the Year is Bixby’s Terry Spencer, an eight-year EPIC veteran. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from the University of Oklahoma in 1992 and has been blazing a trail of quality instructional care ever since. We are so glad to be able to honor her work and commitment to children with special needs.

EPIC’s Rookie Teacher of the Year is Robin Cescon. She’s been with EPIC now for two years. There’s a bit of a learning curve for new EPIC teachers, and Robin serves as an example of someone who jumped in with both feet and learned the ropes quickly while still providing the highest level of instructional excellence to her students.

We were also able to award Nicole Ellison with the honor of Administrator of the Year. In her second year with EPIC, she serves as the director of college and career readiness, helping keep our students on the path of learning before and even after they graduate. Her passion and dedication is infectious and she certainly deserves recognition at this level.

Rewarding excellence is something we take very seriously here at EPIC. We want all of our educators and staff to know the important role they play in bringing both instructional excellence and administrative support to the 30,000 Oklahoma families we serve.

This will be my last blog posting for the year. I am so happy that I was able to round out 2019 by sharing the good news of our award winners. Have a happy holiday season and I’ll see you all again in 2020.

Dare Greatly,

Bart