Winner of the Oklahoma Medal for Excellence in Elementary Teaching
Lori Zimmerman, winner of the Oklahoma Medal for Excellence in Elementary Teaching, is a 24-year teaching veteran who began a new post in 2021 as reading teacher at Shattuck Middle School. Zimmerman’s goal each day is to provide original learning opportunities and exciting, magical experiences for her students. She utilizes project-based learning, technology and drama to help students “fall in love with reading.”
At least once each year, Zimmerman transforms her classroom library into Mrs. Z’s Literary Café, where each learner is presented with a buffet of books through a menu of book “tastings.” Instead of creating old-school book reports, her students make “Book Talk” videos reviewing their books and linking them to a QR code, which is placed in the books for future readers to scan and view online.
After reading biographies, Zimmerman’s students have created a “Wax Museum,” dressing up and portraying historical figures who come to life and share their stories when visitors push a button. When her students read historical fiction about the Holocaust, Zimmerman brought a Holocaust survivor to class to share his story of endurance and invited the community members to visit a student-made Holocaust Museum. “Lori has the ability to seamlessly weave all subjects into her lessons and allow her students to make those all-important learning connections,” said Linda Harrison, former Woodward School Board president.
Parent Sonya Covalt praised Zimmerman for helping her self-proclaimed “non-reader” son become hooked on books. “No other teacher has impacted my son’s desire to read as she did,” Covalt said.
Zimmerman, who has a passion for theater, is also known for dressing up and portraying literary characters – a practice that kept her students especially engaged when the pandemic forced classes to meet online. She recently launched the first drama class at Shattuck Middle School in hopes of instilling an appreciation for theater in her rural community.
Zimmerman is the recipient of numerous teaching honors, including selection as a State Teacher of the Year finalist. Former student Adrianna Tibbetts credits Zimmerman for inspiring her to become a teacher herself. “The examples she gave me, both as a caring person and as an effective educator, have had a huge impact on my life story. I go to work every day and think, ‘How can I be like Lori Zimmerman today?’”