The Missouri Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (MACTE) recognized six Southeast Missouri State University alumni with an Outstanding Beginning Teacher Award March 29 at the spring MACTE conference in Columbia, Missouri.
Recipients of the award were Andrea Cox of Florissant, Missouri; Belle Delacruz and Jacob James, both of Cape Girardeau, Missouri; Stacy O’Keefe of Plainfield, Illinois; Paige Stewart of St. Charles, Missouri; and Alana Weiland of Sullivan, Missouri.
Every two years, MACTE accepts nominations for Missouri Outstanding Beginning Teacher Awards. Recipients must have earned their college degree within the past two years.
Dr. Diana Rogers-Adkinson, dean of the Southeast College of Education and MACTE president, presented the awards. She congratulated the Southeast graduates on the early success they have found in their new careers as educators.
“They are so deserving,” she said. “We are so honored that we have such great young educators. The principals and districts are so proud of their beginning teachers, and it is wonderful they think so highly of these young professionals.”
Cox graduated from Southeast in 2016 with a Bachelor of Science in Education, elementary education, with a specialization in music, and teaches at Jefferson Elementary School in Cape Girardeau.
Delacruz graduated from Southeast with a Bachelor of Science in Education, English education, in 2014 and teaches freshmen and junior English at Cape Central High School in Cape Girardeau.
James graduated from Southeast in 2016 with a Bachelor of Science in Education, elementary education, language and literature specialization, and teaches at North Elementary School in Jackson, Missouri.
O’Keefe graduated from Southeast in 2015 with a Bachelor of Science in Education, elementary education, with a minor in Spanish, and teaches third grade bilingual students at Centennial School in the Plano Community Unit School District #88 in Plano, Illinois.
Stewart graduated from Southeast in 2015 with a Bachelor of Science in Education, secondary education, with minors in social studies, Spanish and Latin American studies, and a Bachelor of Arts with a major in global cultures and languages, global studies option, and a minor in history. She is teaching at Wright City High School in Wright City, Missouri.
Weiland graduated from Southeast in 2014 with a Bachelor of Science in Education, elementary education, and teaches third grade math at Sullivan Elementary School in Sullivan, Missouri. She is currently taking online classes from Southeast in pursuit of a master’s degree in elementary education.
Delacruz said she was honored to receive the Outstanding Beginning Teacher Award.
“I feel that any beginning teacher would be wildly surprised to receive such an award,” she said. “This award tells me that I deserve the title of ‘teacher.’”
She said teaching English has been a life-long dream because she loves stories.
“I love experiencing life from perspectives I couldn’t have ever imagined on my own,” Delacruz said. “I get to share my love of literature with the students.
“When I am teaching, and a lesson that I just planned the night before comes together, it’s magic,” she said. “It really lights my fire.”
O’Keefe added, “Words cannot begin to express the gratitude and excitement I am currently feeling from being honored as an Outstanding Beginning Teacher. I have worked hard with my students these past two years. While I enjoy my career very much, I would have never dreamed that all my hard work would have paid off with something this great. I am very thankful not only for the educational experience Southeast has provided me with but this honorable recognition as well. It is truly amazing!”
She says every child she has worked with has “touched a little piece of my heart. Not only do I enjoy being with my kids each day at school, but I also get to connect with them as people, and teach them as little learners.
“I basically get paid every day to go do what I love, and this is pretty cool to me,” said O’Keefe, who also was honored last year with the Early Career Educator of the Year award from the state of Illinois.
She says she helps her students achieve goals together and when they leave her classroom in May, they leave as a family.
“To me, that is a feeling that sets my heart on fire with joy, and I know I have made difference.”
Weiland said, “It is rewarding to know the long hours I put in then, and continue to do so now, are paying off.”
She said she has a passion for helping children.
“I first decided I wanted to become a teacher after having the most wonderful first and second grade teacher, Mrs. Mallory. She was so genuine and caring to her students,” Weiland said. “As I got older, I grew to develop a passion for helping children of all ages. I love learning with them. When entering a career in education, I knew I would love being that role model for my students. I never expected them to be role models to me as well. They have taught me to never settle for anything other than your best. They deserve educators who are always willing to be the best version of themselves through their teaching.”
Photo Caption: Pictured from left are Stacy O’Keefe; Dr. Diana Rogers-Adkinson, dean of the College of Education and MACTE president; Jacob James; Andrea Cox; and Paige Stewart.