Freedom Elementary teacher Caren Codding wins OU’s “Teacher of the Game”

Caren Codding was moved to tears as she sat in a Zoom meeting on Tuesday morning, where it was announced that she had been chosen as the OU “Teacher of the Game,” a coveted prize that includes recognition and a check.

“You know, as a joke on Facebook I kind of threw my name in there for Teacher of the Year or Teacher of the Game. This year, I just won!” she said, laughing. She calls the announcement of her win “the experience of a lifetime.”

Caren Codding stands near an OU sign that was made for her by a student.

She revealed to Sapulpa Times that she actually knew it was coming, and that she’d found out completely by accident.

“I was at the front desk answering the phone—we all take turns doing that—and my second phone call, literally, the second phone call I got, someone said ‘Hi, we’d like to talk to the principal, someone at this school has been selected as OU’s Teacher of the Week,’” she said. “And I asked, ‘Can I ask who it is?’ and they said ‘Caren Codding,’ and I was just in shock. I ran to get the principal,” she said. 

Caren Coddington smiles through tears as she finds out she’s been awarded OU’s Teacher of the Game.

Codding’s win includes two tickets to this weekend’s OU game against West Virginia, where she will be recognized as “Teacher of the Game” in front of 85,000 fans at the stadium and more on TV. She’ll also receive a $1,000 check, which Codding says will help because teaching in Special Education means she and her husband spend a lot of their own money to help run the classes. “Amazon is my best friend,” she laughs. “We are very good friends with the delivery drivers.” Still, she promised, “I will use some of it on myself.”

Codding has been teaching for thirteen years at Freedom Elementary in Sapulpa and spent the first ten in General Education before moving over to Special Education three years ago. She says the principles remain the same.

“My theory has always been that if you have a connection with the families, then you have a connection with the student,” she said. “And if you have a connection with a student, and they feel loved, then they’re going to learn. I’ve always strived to be the teacher that is also the momma. I get called ‘mom’ a lot in class.”

It’s easy to tell by looking around her classroom that Codding is an OU fan. Her daughter attends OU Pharmaceutical School, but she admits it’s a family thing. “We love OU more than most people should,” she said. “Every year that we go to the games, we always cheer—I’m always the first to give a standing ovation and cheer on that Teacher of the Game. But today, I’m a little overwhelmed; 85,000 people just terrifies me a little.”

Nevertheless, she’s sure they’ll have a good time. “It’s going to be fabulous. We’re going to have the best time. We may just stay all weekend.”

Codding was nominated by someone in the community and says she’s grateful to those that submitted her for Teacher of the Game, as well as her family. “Thank you so much for loving me and supporting me and submitting me for this amazing award. I just feel very blessed.”