The Eighth Lane

August 22, 2021

Oklahoma City Public Schools 2021 District Teacher of the Year McKenzie Hodge was honored again last week as Teacher of the Month, through a joint program of the City of OKC, Rotary Club 29 and The Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools. She was recognized by Mayor Holt and City Council members at their meeting and then again at the Rotary luncheon meeting. (It’s important to note that masks and social distancing was happening.)

McKenzie is everything you’d want in a 5th grade science teacher. She is bright, warm and personable. She brings learning to life for her students, whether it is transforming her classroom into outer space and dressing like an astronaut or becoming Ms. Frizzle from the Magic School bus. She also coaches cheer at Wheeler Middle School, which fits her persona perfectly. There is also something more in McKenzie that presents itself in all the best teachers. She believes in teaching the whole child and meeting students where they are. She understands that not all children have the same background or an encouraging support system, but all deserve equitable opportunities for a robust education. She understands that getting through the barriers that some kids bring to school takes energy, creativity and effort. But, she’s seen firsthand how that effort pays off as trust is built and a love of learning is developed.

In her Teacher of the Year portfolio McKenzie likens students to a being in a track race – not everyone starts in the same lane. Some start in lanes one or two and have families that read with them, encourage them and support them in every way. Many students start in the dreaded eighth lane behind the rest and without family encouragement or help from outside the classroom. McKenzie has also learned firsthand that teachers alone cannot solve all the societal issues that so many students face. It takes a team approach from the school and school district and community to fill in the gaps. It takes a team approach from state leaders to invest what is necessary.

Of course we need more of them, but teachers like McKenzie Hodge are more prevalent than public perception may have us believe. They want to be held to high standards and they have them for themselves. They practice a profession that is not always seen as a profession and is too often thankless. Our teachers can’t do it alone. Our schools can’t do it alone. They need our help with the students in the eighth lane. Let’s help them win the race.