OFE Announces Recipients of 2024 Medal for Excellence Awards

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence is honoring five outstanding Oklahoma public school educators as recipients of its 2024 Medal for Excellence Awards.

The 2024 Medal for Excellence honorees are:

  • Elementary Teaching: Jennifer Goldner, fifth grade science teacher at Jay Upper Elementary School
  • Secondary Teaching: Jill Andrews, English language arts teacher at Claremore High School
  • Administration: Kevin Hime, superintendent of Lawton Public Schools
  • Regional University & Community College Teaching: Sapna Das-Bradoo, professor of biology and interim chair of the Department of Natural Sciences at Northeastern State University Broken Arrow
  • Research University Teaching: Greg Burge, economics professor and department chair at the University of Oklahoma in Norman

“Each of these public school educators has made an indelible impact on their students, school and community,” said Elizabeth Inbody, OFE executive director. “We are honored to make them the recipients of the Medal for Excellence, one of the state’s most prestigious teaching awards. We hope that their passion and innovation will inspire and encourage others in their support of public education.”

The recipients will be honored at OFE’s 38th annual Academic Awards Celebration on Saturday, May 4, at the Embassy Suites Hotel & Conference Center in Norman. Each educator will receive a $5,000 cash prize and an etched glass “Roots and Wings” sculpture.

The celebration is open to the public and will also honor 100 Oklahoma public high school seniors as Academic All-Staters and three Oklahoma public school foundations with Outstanding Program Awards. Admission costs $65 and includes dinner. To learn more about the event or register to attend, visit OFE.org.

Through its flagship Academic Awards Program, the foundation presents $175,000 annually to honor outstanding public school students and educators.

More information about the 2024 Medal for Excellence recipients

Jennifer Goldner, Jay Public Schools

Jennifer Goldner, recipient of the Medal for Excellence in Elementary Teaching, teaches fifth grade science at Jay Upper Elementary School.

Goldner grew up in the Jay area and has taught at the school since 1998, but she’s traveled many miles to learn and share her knowledge. She’s attended the Honeywell Educators at Space Academy and Advanced Space Academy, and she studied aboard the Oregon II as a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Teacher at Sea.

From 2014-17, she gave presentations across the country as the United States Honeywell Space Academy Ambassador. She’s now a consultant for the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation in support of the Teacher at Sea Program. Goldner has trained teachers in Ecuador and Belize, and she’s instructed educators in the Great Expectations professional development program for more than 20 years.

In her classroom, Goldner focuses on meeting each student’s learning style.

“In my teaching career I have had all these things in my classroom in an effort to help different students learn to the best of their abilities: a treadmill, a stationary bicycle, balance boards, bouncy balls, fidgets, shades over the lights and a microphone system,” Goldner said. “I am willing and excited to try anything if it will help a student learn.”

She attributes much of her success to the power of a question.

“So how do I get to know each and every one of my students?” Goldner said. “The answer is simple: I ask them questions and lots of them. This year I have 111 students, so the challenge is daunting for me, but I take it seriously.”

Former student Gavin Raye Tate says Goldner sparked her interest in pursuing a career in science after she graduates.

“In Ms. Goldner’s class, I found my love for science,” Tate said. “It was her passion that inspired me to dig deeper into the fundamental questions of why things happen the way they do, which is, in my opinion, science. I love participating in lab experiments and collecting data, and it was Ms. Goldner who taught me how to do those things.”

Jill Andrews, Claremore Public Schools

Jill Andrews, English language arts teacher at Claremore High School, is the recipient of the Medal for Excellence in Secondary Teaching.

Andrews says she wants her students to “see, hear, feel, taste, and smell the literature.”

It isn’t unusual to find Andrews’ high school students building dioramas with Play-Doh, drinking nonalcoholic mead as they study “Beowulf,” or presenting self-designed coats of arms while dressed as a “Canterbury Tales” character.

“British literature has become my passion; I spend many hours outside the school day researching the literature, language, culture, music, and history of life in Great Britain because it is important to me to present a well-rounded glimpse into the British literature world for my students,” Andrews said.

Andrews has been voted favorite teacher by six of Claremore’s senior classes and earned District Teacher of the Year honors for 2016-2017. She serves as sponsor for two student support groups and is assistant coach for the academic bowl team. Andrews volunteers in the community as a youth soccer and softball coach, and she has organized a student voter registration drive.

Former student Zachary Noland said Andrews “champions the idea that education is more than learning what is written in textbooks: it is about discovering what makes someone Oklahoman.”

Noland now teaches alongside Andrews.

“Years later, I found my own approach to teaching is an emulation of her techniques,” Noland said. “She actively engages her students through group discussions, such as Socratic seminars; research projects that foster creativity, public speaking skills, and work ethic; and assigns thrilling novels that challenge the essence of our humanity.”

Andrews, a Claremore native and University of Oklahoma graduate, credits the influence of her ninth-grade art teacher, Linda Scudder.

“The inspiration Mrs. Scudder was to me is what I have yearned to be for others,” Andrews said. “She demonstrated acceptance and provided a safe place to create art; she allowed me to express myself both visually and linguistically. Because I knew she cared, I willingly took risks in her class. I willingly stretched my mind beyond what I ever thought I could achieve.

“Just as I took intellectual risks in Mrs. Scudder’s class, my students learn that my class is a safe place to take risks, to stretch their intellectual ability.”

Kevin Hime, Lawton Public Schools

Lawton superintendent Kevin Hime is the recipient of the Medal for Excellence in Elementary/Secondary School Administration.

Since his arrival in December 2019, Hime’s innovative programs have transformed Lawton Public Schools.

“From the moment I met him, I knew amazing things were going to happen for our district, and he would make long-lasting impacts for our community,” said Lynn Cordes, the district’s executive director of communications. “I could not have imagined the leaps and bounds we have made since then!”

Hime and his staff worked with Great Plains Technology Center and Cameron University to open the Life Ready Center. The LRC, which Hime calls a “game-changer,” provides high school students access to programs and concurrent classes previously available at only one of the district’s campuses.

Hime started the Lawton Technical Applications Program, which provides hands-on, career-oriented classes to students in grades 7 through 10. Hime also implemented a 5,000-student virtual school, and he established a partnership in which the Lawton Public School Foundation covers funding for college tuition, books and fees for students while they’re enrolled at LPS.

“To help our students achieve success, we must be willing to think outside of the box and provide opportunities to achieve what I call one of the 3E’s: enrolled, enlisted, or employed,” Hime said. “If these opportunities do not currently exist, we cannot be afraid to step up and create them ourselves.”

He installed Makerspaces on all 18 elementary campuses. In these collaborative spaces, students work with a certified teacher to explore and create using problem-solving strategies and STEM practices.

Hime was the 2022 State Superintendent of the Year and the Oklahoma School Public Relations Association’s 2021-22 Superintendent of the Year.  He currently serves as president for the Oklahoma Association of School Administrators and the United Suburban School Association.

An Idabel native, Hime received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant. He started his career as a U.S. history teacher and coach, making stops at Hugo, Woodward and Idabel. Before arriving in Lawton, he served as superintendent at Woodland and Clinton.

Since 2020, Hime has hosted his “Time with Hime” podcast to communicate with school staff, families and stakeholders more effectively. He also organized and hosted the popular weekly #oklaed chat on Twitter (now known as X).

“To foster a sense of unity, it is vital for me, my staff, families, and stakeholders of our community to work together as a team,” Hime said. “This can only be done with effective and purposeful communication.”

Dr. Sapna Das-Bradoo, Northeastern State University Broken Arrow

Dr. Sapna Das-Bradoo, a biology professor at Northeastern State University Broken Arrow, is the recipient of the Medal for Excellence in Teaching at a Regional University/Community College.

Das-Bradoo has taught at NSU Broken Arrow since 2011 and is serving as interim chair of the Department of Natural Sciences. Das-Bradoo has worked to develop a student-focused, externally funded research program and has obtained more than $1.1 million in funding for the university.

Das-Bradoo credits her research mentor at her alma mater, the University of Delhi in India, for helping her realize her passion for research and giving her the confidence to continue her educational career.

“The excitement of unraveling scientific mysteries, troubleshooting, and scientific discussions with my research mentor shaped my future career in research,” Das-Bradoo said. “I have actively engaged in undergraduate research since my first day at NSU and have served as a research mentor for 60 undergraduate and 4 graduate students.”

Students and colleagues speak not just of Das-Bradoo’s gift for illustrating complex ideas and relating science to everyday life but also of how invested she is in students’ success. She’s received several student-nominated awards and was honored as Faculty Mentor of the Year for the 2021-22 school year.

“Dr. Das-Bradoo always made or found time for us as her students,” said former student Bryan Wright, who describes her as one of the most influential figures in his life. “Her office may not have been labeled ‘counselor,’ but she definitely was one.”

Jessica Martin, interim dean for NSU’s Gregg Wadley College of Science and Health Professions, noted that Das-Bradoo often incorporates advances that haven’t yet made it into textbooks, sparking interest with topics like gene editing and sequencing and the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

“Constantly, she looks for ways to engage students, pondering how to challenge students without overwhelming,” former student Michael P. Smith said. “She is often worried about the growth of the entire student body. She is concerned. She cares.”

Das-Bradoo started a science seminar series that highlights cutting-edge research, and she recently launched a career seminar series that allows students to learn from NSU alumni.

“I strongly believe in these words from Vitruvius, a Roman architect and engineer: ‘All the gifts which fortune bestows she can easily take away; but education, when combined with intelligence, never fails, but abides steadily on to the very end of life,’” Das-Bradoo said.

Dr. Greg Burge, University of Oklahoma

Dr. Greg Burge, recipient of the Medal for Excellence in Teaching at a Research University, is an economics professor who chairs the University of Oklahoma’s economics department. The Florida State University alumnus has taught at OU since 2006.

In 2018, Burge received OU’s General Education Teaching Award, which recognizes an educator whose teaching is considered to have contributed most to the university-wide general education program. Burge says he takes great pride in that award because it “connects directly to OU’s goals related to improving student success and retention.”

“Dr. Burge’s personal touch and sustained engagement work miracles,” said colleague Qihong Liu, who noted that rates of student failure — measured by the number of D’s and F’s — fell by more than half during the first year Burge started teaching OU’s Principles of Macroeconomics introductory course.

Former students speak of Burge’s passion for teaching and kindness. Burge worked out a deal with a textbook manufacturer so that he can give students a textbook free if they approach him about a financial hardship.

“While this situation occurs only a handful of times each year, on many occasions I’ve seen tears in students’ eyes after they learn I’ve arranged this deal with the publisher,” Burge said. “My goal is that those students would feel just as supported in their educational journey as other students with access to more resources.”

Burge developed and led the Economics in London program, the economics department’s first study abroad program in many years. Burge worked hard to build a strong program that remained affordable for students. In 2017, OU’s Dodge Family College of Arts & Sciences named Economics in London its program of the year.

Former student Leah A. Pomerantz said Burge went out of his way to make students comfortable with life in a foreign country, planning activities for them and taking them out to dinner.

In 2023, Burge chaired the local organizing committee for the prestigious Chinese Economists Society North American Conference. The event brought more than 100 scholars to campus and provided students with a valuable educational opportunity, Liu said.

Burge counts among his most prized possessions the more than 100 handwritten letters of thanks former students have sent him.

“I believe educators can tap into something very powerful when they truly care about their students’ goals,” Burge said.

Jennifer Goldner, fifth grade teacher at Jay Upper Elementary School
Jennifer Goldner, fifth grade teacher at Jay Upper Elementary School
Jill Andrews, English language arts teacher at Claremore High School
Kevin Hime, Lawton Public Schools superintendent
Dr. Sapna Das-Bradoo, biology professor and interim chair of the Department of Natural Sciences at Northeastern State University Broken Arrow
Dr. Sapna Das-Bradoo, biology professor and interim chair of the Department of Natural Sciences at Northeastern State University Broken Arrow
Dr. Greg Burge, economics professor and department chair at the University of Oklahoma
Dr. Greg Burge, economics professor and department chair at the University of Oklahoma