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August 29, 2007
by: DAVID SCHULTE World Staff Writer
(Reprinted with Permission. This is not an endorsement.)
One teaches second graders, while the other works with gifted and talented children, but they share a distinction: Susan Petreikis and Debbie Snider are two of the top teachers in the state.
Petreikis, a second-grade teacher at Jenks Southeast Elementary School, and Snider, a gifted and talented educator at Rosa Parks Elementary School, are among 12 finalists for the Oklahoma 2007-2008 Teacher of the Year Award.
They were selected from about 500 teachers and are the only two from the Tulsa area.
The state teacher of the year will be named during a ceremony at the Oklahoma State Fair in September.
(Following is the Tulsa World profile on Debbie Snider)
Debbie Snider (center), a gifted and talented teacher at Rosa Parks Elementary School, helps Gerardo Flores (right) and Jalen Adams with an enrichment activity that teaches students how to use analogies.
Snider teaches some of the brightest young students at Union Public Schools, but she said the key to her success is in building a personal relationship with her students.
"I have children in my room, and they are the most important thing -- not the subject I teach, or what the curriculum says, or what the state guidelines say," Snider said.
"If they know that they mean something to you, they are going to work for you."
Working with gifted and talented students is what Snider does best, largely because she understands children -- not just those who stand out in the classroom.
Perhaps a teacher's best use of time is to ask troubled children how they are doing once the day begins, she said.
Before joining Snider at Rosa Parks, 13702 E. 46th Place, Becky Barrett, a Title 1 language arts specialist at the school, team taught with Snider for three years at McAuliffe Elementary School, 6515 S. Garnett Road in Broken Arrow.
Barrett said Snider's gift as a teacher is tied to her ability to understand the needs of her students.
"She's very good at assessing students' strengths and weaknesses because she gets to know them on a personal level," Barrett said.
Karen Vance, principal at Rosa Parks, described Snider as a great motivator.
"She has a knack for building enthusiasm for learning in children," Vance said.
Snider said people have many misconceptions about gifted and talented children.
"A lot of people think if you are gifted and talented, you are also well-rounded, that you excel, that you get great grades, but a lot of these kids have problems in the classroom," Snider said.
"A lot of them are not motivated. They don't want to be at school. They don't want to learn. They are only interested in one thing, so if you are not doing that one thing, then they are not going to participate."
Snider has about 45 students in the gifted and talented program at Rosa Parks, but she also gives enrichment lessons in regular education classrooms that require students to think critically, reason logically, and use creativity in finding solutions to problems.
"I try to enrich the curriculum that is already in place and spend more time to go into depth," Snider said.
As much as she enjoys taking students deep into a subject, she said it is important for teachers to remember that their curriculum is secondary to the most important subject in their classroom
"I feel before a teacher can teach science or social studies or English, they need to teach kids," Snider said.
By the numbers
12 Teachers selected as finalists for Oklahoma 2007-2008 Teacher of the Year Award
2 Tulsa-area teachers chosen as finalists
24 Years Petreikis and Snider have spent teaching at their current schools
$50,000 Total amount of cash and prizes awarded to the winner of the Oklahoma 2007-2008 Teacher of the Year Award