McAlester teacher nominated as Oklahoma Novice Teacher 20 Under 2

Katie Burgess

TULSA — The Teaching & Leading Initiative of Oklahoma (TLI) has honored 20 of the top novice teachers in the state in the first annual 20 Under 2 list, a list of promising new Oklahoma teachers. Katie Burgess, a teacher at McAlester Public Schools and graduate of the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith was named an honoree.

This list celebrates emerging teacher leaders, high performers, and novice educators who make Oklahoma’s future look bright.

Across the state, principals, veteran teachers, and district leaders submitted their top novice teachers for consideration. Each nomination from principals and colleagues was reviewed and scored by a panel of education professionals. The list below celebrates the top twenty nominees for outstanding classroom culture, academic results, and contributions to Oklahoma’s public schools.

Katie Burgess teaches 10th grade English at McAlester High School (McAlester Public Schools) where she fosters deep relationships with students. “It is my biggest priority to build rapport and strong relationships within my classroom walls,” Burgess said.

“It is a rare thing to see a brand new teacher embracing their power with such eagerness, confidence and maturity,” said Principal Stephanie Holt. “Katie Burgess has a heart for young people and a desire to inspire and challenge them to be mindful, smart, capable, and responsible for the talents and potential inside them all. She uses innovative practices in her classroom and builds strong relationships with students that empower and elevate them to know more, be more, do more.

Burgess’s students say that her biggest strength is being relatable; she consistently communicates well and works to establish relationships with students.

Burgess is deeply grateful to her supportive colleagues and administration for guiding her through her first year in the classroom. She is a graduate of the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith.

Find the full list of nominees here:

Jeremy Britt—Tulsa Public Schools (McClure Elementary)

Katie Burgess—McAlester Public Schools (McAlester High School)

Christina Cook—Santa Fe South (Pathways Middle College)

Brooke Copeland—Fort Gibson Public Schools (Fort Gibson Intermediate Elementary)

Katherin (Kat) Evans—Deer Creek Public Schools (Grove Valley Elementary)

Hannah Folks—Stilwell Public Schools (Stilwell High School)

Kyle Foster—Jenks Public Schools (Jenks High School)

Rachel Henderson—Kiefer Public Schools (Kiefer Upper Elementary)

Kelsey Hicks—Broken Arrow Public Schools (Timber Ridge Elementary)

Benjamin Imlay—Tulsa Public Schools (Collegiate Hall)

BJ Jiles—Edmond Public Schools (Central Middle School)

Lindsay Judd—Mid-Del Public Schools (Pleasant Hill Elementary)

Kimberly Morgan—Pryor Public Schools (Lincoln Elementary)

Sarah Muzny—Muskogee Public Schools (Muskogee High School)

Sara Mote—Springer Public Schools (Springer Elementary)

Audra Peterson—Anadarko Public Schools (Mission Elementary School)

Olivia Wehmuller—Jennings Public Schools (Jennings Elementary)

Jennifer Winchester—Bridge Creek Public Schools (Bridge Creek Middle School)

Garrett Weir—Glenpool Public Schools (Glenpool High School)

Austin Wood—Paoli Public Schools (Paoli Elementary School)

“It’s essential to celebrate outstanding novice teachers especially in the midst of Oklahoma’s worrisome teacher shortage,” said TLI Executive Director Jo Lein. “It’s exciting to honor some of the bright, accomplished novice teachers in our state. We want to encourage excellent novice teachers to stay in the profession and brighten the future for Oklahoma children.”

This year alone, there are 3,032 emergency certifications in Oklahoma. In Oklahoma, one out of every five new teachers leaves after their first year. After five years, only about half remain in the classroom.

Please reach out to Jennifer Burris ( for individual teacher photos, principal quotes, interview scheduling, or additional information.


About Teaching & Leading Initiative of Oklahoma

Headquartered in Tulsa, OK, the Teaching and Leading Initiative of Oklahoma (TLI) is a nonprofit organization that partners with school districts to address human capital needs including novice teacher training, and leadership development.

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