Editor's Note: This is the second of three stories, which highlight the five teachers of the year for the Grove Public School System. Today's stories highlight the two elementary teachers.

Grove Early Childhood Center - De Manning

A graduate of Barnsdall High School and Missouri Southern State University, De Manning has taught 26 years within the Grove Public School system.

A kindergarten teacher at the early childhood center, also holds a master's degree in school counseling from John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas.

Manning and her husband, David Manning, have three children: Kayla, Jeremy and Karissa.

Kayla is married to Chuck Capps and they have three children: Sarah, Julie, and Luci. Jeremy is married to Baoyue and they have one baby boy: Jordan. Karissa is married to John Taylor.

More about Manning

Manning first learned of her love of teaching while teaching Sunday school and junior church.

"Teaching early-childhood-age children is the best," Manning said. "I look forward to going to work and being with them. Kids this age are very affectionate. I love their hugs! They are so funny, too!

"As they develop, they realize they can learn, get excited about learning, and feel proud of themselves, - those are the moments that pump me up about teaching."

Manning credits her principal, Julie Bloss, and her fellow teachers and the staff at the ECC for helping create a "great working environment."

"[They] are all kind, hardworking and dedicated to making sure every child succeeds," Manning said. "That kind of atmosphere makes for a great working environment."

Manning said she hopes her students not only gain the academic skills needed to move on to first grade, but she also hopes that they remember how much she loves them.

"I want them to have learned how to consider others’ feelings and have empathy," Manning said. "I will be so happy if they have learned to think for themselves when problems arise, make a plan and work out problems with others until both parties are happy with the compromise."

Manning said she is honored to be picked as the the ECC's teacher of the year. This actually her third time to be nominated by her peers. She also represented the campus during the 2016-17 school year.

"Each time I feel very humbled, that I don’t deserve it," Manning said. "It ignites strong motivation to become worthy of the title.

"I also know that every teacher at the ECC deserves to be a teacher of the year. As I work with them, I notice their long hours and determination to make sure each child succeeds.

"Each teacher deeply cares about the students, is willing to spend their own money on the classroom, and seems open to new ways of helping students progress as far as they can."

Grove Upper Elementary - Miranda Ward

Miranda Ward serves as the librarian for fourth to sixth graders and teaches fifth grade reading at the upper elementary school.

A teacher for the past 12 years, she has worked in Grove for the past six years.

A 2001 graduate of Jay High School, Ward has also taught in the Colcord, Miami and Wyandotte school systems.

She has a bachelor's degree in education from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, and a master's of science in library media and information technology from NSU-Broken Arrow.

Ward and her husband, John Henry Ward II - who is also a teacher and coach within the district - have two daughters, Gweneth, 8, and Locklyn, 6.

More about Ward

Ward said she became a teacher because she's been blessed with an assortment of "great teachers" within her life.

"I think all the teachers I have had have impacted my life in one way or another," Ward said. "Teachers have the opportunity to impact students’ lives in such a positive way and I am blessed that I have had great teachers in my life."

Ward said some of her inspiration comes from Mrs. Shackleford, who taught her to hug and smile at her students every day, because of they are special; Mrs. Coble, who made learning fun by playing games and getting everyone in the class involved; Mr. Starts, who taught her to "think outside the box and look beyond" her world; Coach Barnwell, who encouraged her to have high expectations for herself, and her students; and Dr. Baker, who encouraged her to explore books and share a love of reading with her students.

"I knew I wanted to be a librarian because I loved to read, but I also loved to see students’ reactions to books as well," Ward said. "When a student comes to me and wants to 'talk books' it creates relationships that can last a lifetime.

"Especially, if we have read the same book and we have two totally different perspectives on the book, it is pretty awesome to form those connections with students."

Ward said she loves helping students find the perfect book.

"For example, when you have that one student that just ahem…. (insert gasp) hates to read, it is my goal to help them find a book that they enjoy," Ward said. "After we search and search for that perfect book, they fall in love with reading.

"I love that quote from J.K Rowling, 'If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book.'

"I enjoy getting to know the students that come into the library to 'talk books' or just letting them know that I am so glad they came to the library. I want everyone to feel welcome in the library because for some students, the school library is the only library they get to see. The library is more than just a place to check out books, it is the learning hub of the school."

Ward said the walkout taught her a lot about her fellow teachers' hearts for their students.

"I have learned that teachers will do whatever it takes for their students and their profession," Ward said. "For me personally, I have two daughters in the public school system, and as a mommy, I want the best for my daughters, as well as my students.

"I am so proud to be from such a wonderful, supportive community like Grove. It has been such a humbling experience to see our community and parents rally right next to us."

Ward said she hopes her students remember her as kind, and that they also leave her library feeling special.

"I [also] hope to instill in them a love for reading that will last a lifetime," Ward said.

Being nominated as the upper elementary teacher of the year, Ward said, is special because her peers voted for her.

"It is quite an honor to be recognized by the people you work with every day," Ward said. "I love my job and when I see my fellow peers working hard for their students, it encourages me to work harder as well. I have been very fortunate to work with great administration, that support our teachers."

Ward, who was named 2017 NSU graduate student of the year, said she hopes members of the Grove community know that Grove teachers "want the best" for their students.

"We will do whatever we can to make sure they have the best education possible," Ward said. "We want our students to not only succeed in the classroom, but in life as well."