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Ponca City Public School District Announces and Honors 2021 Teacher of the Year Nominees


The Ponca City Public School District is proud to announce and honor the 2021 Teacher of the Year (TOY) nominees. The District Teacher of the Year will be announced in a virtual celebration on Thursday, August 13 at the Concert Hall. It will be LIVE STREAMED on the district’s Facebook page.

The theme this year was “TEAM PCPS – WILDCAT WAY, and principals were asked to explain how their TOY candidate contributes to and/or exhibits the Wildcat Way (Work Ethic, Improve, Leadership, Discipline, Compete, Attitude, Teamwork).


The Three Finalists – Keri Bartley, Britany Lawrence, Melinda LittleCook are the three finalists for the district.  Each elementary site has one nominee with the secondary schools having more than one to allow a more proportional representation from each site. After the nominees are announced, the TOY Committee has the difficult task of selecting three finalists for the esteemed District Teacher of the Year honor. Each site TOY nominee is listed below along with information about each of them in keeping with this year’s theme. 


Finalist Keri Bartley – Fourth Grade Teacher at Roosevelt Elementary 

Roosevelt Principal Ronda Merrifield said, “The minute you walk into Mrs. Bartley’s class you recognize her leadership exemplifies the Wildcat Way. By way of her tutelage, the Dauntless Scouts are buzzing with discussion, working hard to improve or come to consensus on the theme of the latest read-a-loud. The climate and culture of her classroom lets every child know they are loved, while catching fire on the learning adventure.”

Finalist Britany Lawrence – Title I Mathematics Teacher at East Middle School 

“Britany is an amazing example of what every teacher should endeavor to be,” said East Principal Denton Long. “She is a selfless person that gives way beyond what is expected. She is a great teammate that continually strives to improve herself and the school. The kindness, honesty, expertise, and commitment that she displays serves as an exemplar to EMS and to the entire district. Ms. Lawrence will literally show up at school in the middle of the night, with all the plastic sheeting she can find, to support her teammates and protect her school from a downpour. She is an excellent model of THE WILDCAT WAY.”

Melinda LittleCook – Art Teacher at Ponca City High School 

Mrs. LittleCook is the consummate professional,” said former Po-Hi Principal Thad Dilbeck. “She makes everyone around her better. Her genuine care and concern for students is evident daily. From her first day at Po-Hi she has had a positive impact in the Art department. She has the unique ability to make all students enjoy art. Mrs. LittleCook is an important part of #Team PCPS.  Daily she exemplifies the characteristics of the Wildcat Way!”

Jordan Biester, Third Grade Teacher at Garfield Elementary  

Garfield Principal Katy Thomason said, “Jordan Biester is a great example of the Wildcat Way. She has a strong work ethic and it shows through her relationships with her students. She works hard to get to know each of her students on a more personal level to help them enjoy learning and work hard for her in return. Jordan works hard at her lessons to make sure she is helping the students and meeting them where they are at. She also exhibits the Wildcat Way by her attitude. She always greets her students at her door with a smile and asks them about their day.  She is happy to lend a helping hand to her coworkers and help by mentoring teachers new to our school. Jordan is a team player. She works hard to build her classroom community but also to be an important part of our school community. She is a deserving teacher of the Teacher of the Year for Garfield Elementary, we are so proud of her!”

Hallie LaRue – Third Grade Teacher at Liberty Elementary 

“Hallie LaRue exhibits the WILDCAT WAY in every measure,” said Liberty Principal Lori Cox. “However, two of the most admirable traits she exhibits daily are Discipline and Improve. Hallie always gives her best no matter the difficulty and is always striving to be a better teacher than she was the day, week, or year before. She is an outstanding example of the WILDCAT WAY and we are very proud to have her representing Liberty Elementary as our teacher of the year.”

Kristi Gazaway – First Grade Teacher at Lincoln Elementary 

Lincoln Principal Liz Hargraves said, “Kristi Gazaway has the Wildcat spirit. Her little First Grade Wildcats receive an abundance of positive experiences because of Kristi’s attitude towards student learning. She teaches her kids to want to be self-motivated. Through the use of Kagan structures built into most of her lessons, her Wildcats learn to be leaders and work together. They yearn to help and teach each other. This is the Wildcat Way!”

Monica Pratt – First Grade Teacher at Trout Elementary 

“Monica Pratt models all the elements of the Wildcat Way,” said Principal Carla Fry. “Her ‘superpower’ is modeling and monitoring improvement for her students. She expects and supports growth from each student. Students leave Ms. Pratt’s room strong in academics and common sense. She is a true WILDCAT!”

Debbie Snelding – Kindergarten Teacher at Union Elementary 

Union Principal Jennifer Dye explained, “Debbie Snelding is the epitome of the Wildcat Way! She leads by example with her positive attitude and excellent work ethic. Deb strives to improve her practice to get the best from her young students. Deb is a wonderful person, teacher, and collaborative member of #TEAM PCPS!”

Ann Marie Neilson – Fifth Grade Teacher at Woodlands Elementary 

Woodlands Principal Tim Williams said, “Ann Marie Neilson is a woman of the Wildcat Way. Two characteristics really rise to the surface. She displays TEAMWORK in the way she unselfishly helps new teachers learn the ropes of teaching and works with the Woodlands Gifted and Talented team to plan engaging higher level thinking lessons for our more advanced students. Mrs. Neilson constantly seeks to IMPROVE. She recently began a master’s degree in educational leadership. She stays on the lookout for creative ways to become a better teacher and to inspire her students to achieve far more than they believe they can. Her ideas to me often begin with, “Hey, Boss Man…” For Ann Marie, teaching is not what she does; it is who she is.”

Megan Arnold – PreKindergarten Teacher at Washington Prekindergarten Center 

“Mrs. Arnold demonstrates the Wildcat Way every day at Washington PreK,” said Principal Tina Fisher. “Her Work Ethic is strong, she stays late several evenings a week to prepare the most innovative and creative centers for her students. She strives to improve her practice by reflecting on what works and how to make it even better. Mrs. Arnold is viewed as a Leader by her colleagues, she is always willing to share ideas and mentor other teachers. She demonstrates Discipline with her attendance and timeliness; it is very rare for her to be absent. Mrs. Arnold is known for her Competitive spirit; she competes with herself most of all. Attitude is so important in our profession, and this is one of my favorite things about Megan. She is the same relaxed, go-with-the-flow person every day of the week. Lastly, Teamwork is the trait that really makes Mrs. Arnold shine. She is flexible, helpful, and supports all students – even those not in her class. I am honored to have Megan Arnold as Washington’s teacher of the year.”


Amanda Meadows – Sixth Grade Social Studies Teacher at West Middle School 

West Principal Stacey Sattre shared, “Amanda Meadows represents the Wildcat Way every day. I would say Mrs. Meadows’ greatest attributes for representing the Wildcat Way would be her level of teamwork and attitude. Mrs. Meadows is always smiling and faces adversities with an attitude that ensures a positive outcome. She is a person you would want on your team because she will always have your back. She works hard to make relationships with her students. She has the ability to make all of her students feel cared about and that shows in how hard they work for her in the classroom. She has established a positive classroom culture in all of her classes and goes above and beyond for her students. I am proud to have Mrs. Meadows on the West team and have her represent West as our Sixth Grade Teacher of the Year.”

Cody Zornes – Seventh Grade Language Arts Teacher at West Middle School 

“Mr. Z (as his students call him) has an infectious smile and personality that spills over into his classroom,” explained Principal Stacey Sattre. “He is passionate about his love of teaching and of his students’ learning. Mr. Z best represents the Wildcat Way through his ability to continue to improve his craft. He has a growth mindset that is so important in education. As educators we are continually improving and Mr. Z welcomes ideas so he can grow as an educator. His ability to make relationships with his students is stellar. His students know he cares about them and he makes learning fun for them. West is proud to call Mr. Z their Seventh Grade Teacher of the Year.”

Molly Carter – Spanish Teacher at Ponca City High School 

Former Po-Hi Principal Thad Dilbeck said, “Mrs. Carter brings great compassion and enthusiasm to work every day. Her positive attitude combined with her genuine care for students makes her classroom a special place. She builds quality relationships with students in the foreign language department and through her work with Po-Hi’s student council. Mrs. Carter is an important part of #Team PCPS. Daily she exemplifies the characteristics of the Wildcat Way!”

Ryan Shelton – Language Arts Teacher at Ponca City High School 

Mr. Shelton is an exceptional teacher,” said former Principal Thad Dilbeck. “He is caring, rigorous, energetic, demanding, fun-loving, focused, and professional. He consistently enables students to achieve more than they thought was achievable. Mr. Shelton leads by example. He works hard while accepting no less than hard work from his students. Mr. Shelton is an important part of #Team PCPS. Daily he exemplifies the characteristics of the Wildcat Way!”

Steve Harris – Science Teacher at Wildcat Academy 

Wildcat Academy Principal Karla Streeter shared, “Mr. Harris is a prime example of the Wildcat Way. His work ethic is beyond reproach. Mr. Harris is one of the first people to school every day and the last to leave. He goes above and beyond in his assigned duties. Mr. Harris is always looking to improve. He has learned how to use technology and has helped others in the building to learn how to use our programs. Mr. Harris is a true and proven leader. The younger teachers are learning from the master. He willingly takes on leadership roles and serves as a mentor to both students and faculty. Mr. Harris works with his students to meet their goal of graduating high school. He challenges students to do their best and to not give up. Mr. Harris always, every day, comes to school with a great attitude. He brings fun and laughter to the building.”


Pictured top L-R: Keri Bartley, Britany Lawrence, Melinda LittleCook

Pictured Middle L-R: Jordan Biester, Hallie LaRue, Kristi Gazaway, Monica Pratt, Debbie Snelding, Ann Marie Neilson

Pictured Bottom L-R: Megan Arnold, Amanda Meadows, Cody Zornes, Molly Carter, Ryan Shelton, Steve Harris