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High School Teacher of the Year

High School

High School

Steven Moran, Science
Cathy O’Dell, Math
Rebecka Peterson, Math

Math teachers Cathy O’Dell and Rebecka Peterson and science teacher Steven Moran have all been named the 2020-2021 Teacher of the Year for the High School.

Cathy O’Dell was a sophomore in college when she got the teaching bug.
“I started helping a group of students with college geometry,” O’Dell said. “It was so cool to see them ‘get it.’  Their eyes changed, smiles appeared and they started believing in themselves.  That was the point when I decided to follow in my parent’s footsteps and become a teacher.”

She has been teaching at Union since 2005.

O’Dell surmised, “Teaching is different this year because the range of student needs has magnified.  Students are face to face, virtual, quarantined, absent, have Covid or called out because of Covid.  It has been a challenge to get everyone into a routine where they meet the learning goals with success.”

O’Dell has a Masters in Educational Leadership degree from Oklahoma State University, and a Bachelor in Math degree from Northeastern State University.

Just next door is another Teacher of the Year, Rebecka Peterson, who also teaches math.

Peterson said, “I became a teacher to add value and dignity to students — sometimes for the first time in a long time, sometimes just when they need it most.  That said, when I started teaching 11 years ago, I had no idea how much value my students would bring to me.  I love teaching because I love who I am when I’m with my kids.”

Teaching is different this year, however.

“There’s a somberness to this year.  As adults, we feel the mental exhaustion of not knowing when this is going to end; teenagers are no different.  While the mask wearing and the distancing are absolutely necessary to ensure everyone’s safety, the classroom lacks the normal vibrato it typically carries. That said, I am so grateful to have had this face-to-face time with my students, and — whether they’ll admit it or not — I think they are, too.”

Peterson holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Oklahoma Wesleyan University and a master’s degree in mathematics from the University of South Dakota.  

Science teacher Steven Moran is the third teacher to represent the High School as a Teacher of the Year.

Moran’s “35-year amazing journey teaching at Union Public Schools began in 1983.”

“I can remember sitting in my high school physiology class being fascinated and enlightened by how the brain and heart worked,” Moran recalled. “I found myself reading outside of class for personal enrichment and wanting to know more about how the human body worked.

Teaching allows me to share my passion for learning and my love for studying about the human body with others.”

This year is truly all about “triumph over adversity,” Moran said. “COVID 19 being the adversity.”

 “We wear masks from the moment we enter the High School and do not remove them with few exceptions until we leave the building after school. The skeletons in my Advanced Physiology classroom have masks covering their mandibles to their nasal bones as a subtle reminder to my students to wear mask that covers their nose and mouth. We stay six feet apart from each other. We wash our hands early and often. Contact tracing. Quarantine students who then become our distance learners. We do more activities on Canvas. We communicate more through Canvas. Finding new and different ways to connect with my students. Through all the challenges, I am committed to finding a way to provide the safest and best learning experience I can for my students.”

Moran has a Doctorate of Jurisprudence from the University of Oklahoma along with a Bachelor of Science degree from Oklahoma State University.


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