Bristow Middle School teacher Lauren Vandever has been nominated as Oklahoma’s Teacher of the Year for the 2022 school year, among eleven other teachers in the state’s education system.
Vandever, born and raised in Bristow, says that teaching is in her blood. “I grew up in a family of educators,” she told Sapulpa Times during an interview this week. She was bitten by the family bug at a very early age. “As a 1-year-old, I attended my grandmother’s college graduation when she finally accomplished her lifelong dream of becoming a teacher. Teaching was a natural fit for me, and I have never wanted to be anything else,” she says.
Judging by the career path most of her family took, it’s not hard to see how she ended up in the classroom. “My grandparents, Ron and Ashley Vandever were very active members of the community,” she says. “My grandfather was superintendent at Central Tech in Drumright, and my grandmother worked for Dr. Frank Chapman in Bristow. My father, Jeff Vandever, works as a welding instructor at Central Tech in Sapulpa.”
Though she’s taught exclusively at Bristow Public Schools for the last nine years, she says the experience of growing up in the same community in which she now teaches helped turn her into the person she is today. “Creek County is truly my home,” she says. “Through my family, I have made connections with members of several Creek County communities that have supported me along in my teaching career.”
She calls the possibility of becoming a Teacher of the Year “mind-blowing,” and the fact that she was selected as a finalist is almost overwhelming. “To be in this position now feels like a dream, and I plan to enjoy every minute of it,” she said.
Vandever began her career teaching writing standards, before adding reading to her subjects. She says for the last two years she has exclusively taught writing.
In the State Board of Education’s announcement of the Teacher of the Year finalists, Vandever was quoted as saying “teaching is like climbing a mountain” and that teachers have to “care for the mountain on our way to the top to create a rewarding experience for those who come next.”
Vandever elaborated by saying that “teaching is a team sport,” and she admits that “even though we are all teaching in our own individual classrooms, the best part of my day is talking and creating with the other people in the hallways.”
She says that one of her passions is teacher education. “Oklahoma is having a teacher crisis right now, and we need to keep as many teachers in the classroom as we can,” she said. “Teachers who have been in the profession for a while can help the next generation by reaching out and checking on the other teachers.”
Vandever says this can be as simple as offering a listening ear, helping develop lesson plans, or assisting in a parent meeting. “Celebrating small successes is just one of the ways that teachers can help each other journey up the mountain to success.”
The 2022 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year will be named in March.