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TOY Spotlight: Lisa Harper, Jefferson

Originally posted February 13, 2018

Reading specialist Lisa Harper has been named the 2017-2018 Jefferson Elementary School Teacher of the Year.

When did Harper decide to become a teacher and why?

Easy question, not so easy answer.

“When considering the reason why I decided to become a educator, I believe it wasn’t due to any one event or moment,” Harper said. “I contribute my decision to a number of factors that influenced me greatly through my formative years and ultimately resulted in my decision to choose teaching as my educational focus and lifelong profession.

“Some of those influential factors include my parents who greatly value education. From an early age, I was always told that I would go to college. Therefore, pursuing a degree after graduation from high school was in my plan from the very beginning. Along the way, I have found inspiration from the many talented and dedicated teachers during my early elementary years at Westwood Elementary in Los Angeles and my middle school and high school years at Oologah-Talala Public Schools. At the impressionable age of 12, I learned about the preciousness of life, as I walked away as the sole survivor of a car accident caused by a drunk driver.  Five people lost their lives in this accident, including a family of four who I was traveling with and shared a close bond. The loss of close friends was devastating, but I believe it was from this loss, that I ultimately realized I wanted a life of significance. With my desire to give back to others, to work with children, to make a difference, I chose to become a teacher.”

Students come to teachers as individuals with different social, emotional, economic, and academic needs, Harper said.

“In order to meet these varied needs, students must be met where they are and provided with the tools, resources, strategies, and critical thinking skills that will help them become successful in our every changing world,” Harper said. “In my classroom, I provide students with additional support with reading in a small group setting.  Lessons are designed with each students needs, goals, and interests in mind to offer the best possible support to help them grow as readers and as learners.”

Recently, a student stated that she wanted to be in her class because, “Mrs. Harper gets me.”

“I hope students who have attended my class, will remember feeling wanted and accepted for who they are, and know their feelings, thoughts, and opinions are understood, respected, and valued. Also, I hope students will remember me by my laugh, which I have been told, is very distinctive,” she said.

The desire to teach at Union first began when her family built their home near Anderson Elementary. “Even before being blessed with children, my husband, Terry, and I knew, from the excellent reputation of Union Schools, this was the district where we wanted to raise our family,” Harper said.

“After teaching for 12 years in a neighboring district, and then staying home with my two boys for a period of seven years, I returned to my career in education and started teaching at Union Public Schools in 2004,” Harper said. “In the fall of 2007, I had the opportunity to be a part of the teaching staff that opened Jefferson Elementary, and this is where I have taught until the present time. My family still lives in the house we had built 26 years ago.  Both my boys are Union “lifers” having attended Union Public Schools from kindergarten until graduating from Union High School. Braden graduated with the Class of 2014 and Garrett with the Class of 2017.  This is my 13th year teaching for Union Public Schools and my 25th year as an educator.”

In five years, Harper sees herself continuing to educate and encourage children in the area of reading, as well as developing motivating curriculum that can be utilized by our Community Schools after-school program.

“At Jefferson, I have taught after-school classes such as “Read and Recycle”, “Trash to Treasure”, “Gardening Club”, and “Reading Gives You Wings.” In these classes, I combine reading and writing along with important environmental issues such as conservation of resources, the importance of providing habitats for migrating Monarch butterflies, and learning about plant growth and development. These experiences allow students hand-on activities, problem solving opportunities, and the ability to make a difference at our school and in our community.”

Education Background

Northeastern State University (NSU) – Tahlequah, Oklahoma
Master of Education in Reading, M. Ed.
Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education, B.S.  

Northeastern Oklahoma A & M College (NEO A&M) – Miami, Oklahoma
Associate in Liberal Arts

Oologah-Talala Public Schools – (OHS) Oologah, Oklahoma
High School Diploma


  • School Psychometry (PK-12)
  • Reading Specialist (PK-12)
  • Early Childhood Education (PK-K)
  • Language Arts (6-8)
  • Science (6-8)
  • Social Studies (6-8)