Elementary teaching: Cheryl Tate, Woodland Hills Elementary School, Lawton

Tate, winner of the Oklahoma Medal for Excellence in Elementary Education, teaches third grade at Woodland Hills Elementary School in Lawton.

A 35-year teaching veteran, Tate recalls a defining childhood memory when her parents built a school house in the garage so she could practice being a teacher.

"My passion for this career developed in the garage of my chlidhood home and is still evident today," she said.

Tate who earned a master's degree in reading education, is dedicated to lifelong learning and has been especially influenced by three professional development programs: Great Expectations, which establishes high expectations and celebrates student achievement; Literacy First, a research-based process for improving reading skills; and the Leader In Me, a model for student success inspired by Stephen Covey's "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People."

Parent Christa Bear said Tate's school day is packed with innovative ideas and teachable moments.

"She teaches through hands-on activities whether children are learning fractions by breaking up Hershey bars, singing about 'never giving up,' diagramming skeletons or collaborating with classmates to create something original."

Tate is eager to celebrate student success, awarding "fuzzies" for good behavior or celebrating math achievements by designating students as "Multiplication Kings and Queens."

Tate makes commumty service an integral part of her curriculum, annually hosting a Singing Valentines fundraiser and letting students research and choose a worthy charity.