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Tracy Bates: 2019 Educator of the Year

Teachers, coaches, counselors, and principals all play a vital role in shaping our youth and the future. They educate and mentor future generations who will go on to do big things. At NSHSS, we’re happy to honor the educators who impact the lives of our students on a daily basis. One such educator is one of our top 10 2019 Educators of the Year, Tracy Bates.

An English teacher at Norman North High School in Oklahoma, Tracy Bates has always felt that her role was more than simply teaching her students English. Sure, there are students who come in and need no motivation or help to pass the class with flying colors, but there are also students who struggle to learn, who need that extra push, who are going through trying circumstances and struggling to keep it together. Tracy believes that she can be the person who helps these students succeed. How? By being there and refusing to give up…even when a particular student already has.

One of Tracy’s students was suspended for 45 days at the beginning of the year, which put him way behind other students when he came back to school. He had already mentally quit, but Tracy refused to do the same. Instead, she focused on doing what she does best (besides teaching English, of course): building a student-teacher connection. She made it clear that she cared and fostered a connection with the student by calling home, emailing his mother, and being a friendly face in the halls. After a while, he gave in and everything changed. He not only attended class, but he actively participated, too. As a result of Tracy’s dedication to her students, he was able to pass the second semester and receive credit for the entire year.

Falling is inevitable, but Tracy believes that how she reacts when a student slips up is what makes all the difference. She likens it to a toddler learning to walk. This trial and error process involves a lot of falls, but instead of telling the toddler that they won’t ever have to walk or harshly criticizing them, we give them a hug and tell them to keep trying. We reassure them, hold their hands, and build their confidence back up to try again until they are on their feet. Tracy applies this same philosophy to her students.

When a student falls, Tracy holds their hands until that student is back on their feet. This could mean calling a student’s home so that student doesn’t miss the bus, seeking help for students who are experiencing mental health issues, or showing that she cares enough to not give up on a student even when they have given up on themselves. As a teacher, she recognizes that these students don’t need to be scolded, but rather, a support system while they figure out how to get back on their feet.

For students who start off motivated and ready to go, Tracy takes a different approach. She gives them hurdles to overcome as a way to get them to reflect and to slow down. Why? Because, by allowing students to slow down, she teaches them how to get up and try again when they fall. She holds their hands, too, to push them to achieve at the highest level.

There’s no doubt of the impact Tracy Bates has had on her students. She goes above and beyond to show them that she’s there, she cares and that, even when they want to give up, she won’t give up on them. Her passion for her students and dedication to their success is truly what makes Tracy an Educator of Distinction and one of our top 10 Educators of the Year.