Diana McElroy, Horizon Intermediate’s 2017-2018 Teacher of the Year, was supposed to be an architect. She loved math and entered projects in any kind of engineering fair in school. By the time she graduated from Mustang High School, she had a full-ride scholarship to any school in Oklahoma to pursue engineering. After getting through one year of basic courses, she chose UCO’s architecture program. She was doing well - from five hour calculus classes to physics classes with labs - but a service project requirement changed everything.
“During one of my service projects, I had to volunteer at a school. I ended up volunteering at Mustang Elementary for their reading program. I enjoyed working with those students, helping them to read and reach their potential,” she said. “I always taught Sunday School and children’s church and was going to do that on the side.”
She decided volunteering as a teacher wasn’t good enough. She switched her major.
“I felt led to teach,” she said. “I think I always knew I was supposed to be a teacher in my heart, but in my mind, I knew I could make it as an engineer. It took a lot of convincing mentally.”
After graduation, she came back to
“My first teaching job was at Mustang Elementary in second grade. I was asked to loop up to third grade with my same kids and I loved the third grade curriculum. Third graders were more independent, more creative and weren’t afraid to show emotion or explore new things.”
Her lessons were infused with hands-on
activities. She took her third graders outside for spelling relays. They would
do product hunts for multiplication units where, for example, a student given
the number 56 and had to find 7x8 on a piece of paper outside.
“We did so many physical things where they were up and moving and learning and they were engaged. I loved seeing they could move and learn and not fall asleep while they did it,” she said.
In college, McElroy loved the kinesiology
classes and took more than were required. When Horizon Intermediate opened and
a PE position was available, McElroy applied.
She’s in her fifth year of teaching fifth and sixth graders PE.
“We have two gyms. We have an amazing staff,” she said. “The kids, the families, the curriculum, the activities we offer outside of school are incredible.”
It’s rare, but she occasionally comes across a student who does not love PE.
“It breaks my heart. But in my class, it’s not about how athletic you are or how talented you are. It’s just participation. Are you trying? Are you doing the best that you can? I like to see the kids who say, ‘I can’t.’ I love it when they discover, ‘I really can do this.’ That makes them less hesitant later to try new things.”
McElroy works with the students outside the school with Jumpforce, a jump rope club, the archery team, the running club and she coaches club volleyball. She also coaches Horizon’s academic team.
She enjoys the variety, both in the
activity and the kids.
“The conversations on the way to academic meets are so different than the conversations on the way to volleyball games,” she said. “The academic team likes to talk about science and math and their social experiences. I get to be around all types kids and I love experiencing that.”
McElroy is one of 14 site Teachers of
the Year for Mustang Public Schools.
“I appreciate that I was recognized,” she said. “It is overwhelming. I am among some pretty awesome teachers here. It is truly an honor.”