Donna Gradel named state teacher of the year

Oklahoma City’s State Fair Park hosted the annual Oklahoma Teacher of the Year competition on Sept. 19, and taking home the honor of state teacher of the year was Broken Arrow’s own, Donna Gradel. Gradel has been teaching for 29 years, and this is not the first time she has been recognized for her accomplishments in public education. Broken Arrow senior Cooper Ingle has been in Mrs. Gradel’s class for the past two years, and he has seen how her way of teaching has attracted her peers’ attention.

“Mrs. Gradel has a very unique and engaging class structure,” Ingle said. “Her teaching style captures the attention of her students and requires participation in hands-on learning projects.”

After attending the University of West Virginia on a basketball scholarship, Gradel found her passion to teach after spending time in a trailer teaching 19 special needs students. She originally planned on becoming a science teacher straight out of college but discovered her teaching philosophies in that first classroom.

“It was in that trailer where I really developed my teaching style,” Gradel said. “I think one of the key elements is spending time with the students outside of the classroom.”

One of the more unique aspects of Mrs. Gradel’s AP Environmental Science class is the involvement of her students. Gradel encourages her students to use the material from her class in a practical way. Gradel has even taken students to Africa to help set up clean water systems. Senior Cole Gillean was intent on taking Mrs. Gradel’s class for the second straight school year.

“She makes her class so enjoyable, and I look forward to it every day,” Gillean said. “Our involvement outside of the classroom is so awesome. We do so many projects that can help the community and help us develop as good leaders.”

As Oklahoma Teacher of the Year Gradel will now spend the next year traveling the state and sharing her story with educators all across Oklahoma.