2018 is turning out to be a good year for Carol Lee Hunsperger. 

On Thursday, July 12, Hunsperger was named one of the Top 12 finalists for the Oklahoma State Teacher of the Year competition.

The honor was announced during the EngageOK on the Road, a summer conference of the Oklahoma State Department of Education in Norman.

Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister introduced Hunsperger and the other 11 finalists for the state's Teacher of the Year.

“These 12 teachers represent some of Oklahoma’s finest educators who are making a difference in the lives of our students every day,” said Hofmeister. “We value their hard work, dedication to their craft and the commitment to excellence they demonstrate day in and day out.

"These men and women are doing important work to advance the development of our state through the growth and success of our children.”

Hunsperger and the other finalists were named teachers of the year for their respective districts and were selected after their application packets were reviewed by a panel of educators, legislators and members of business and nonprofit organizations.

The 2019 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year will be named Tuesday, Sept. 18 in a ceremony at State Fair Park in Oklahoma City.

"It's amazing," Hunsperger said of the honor by phone after the morning announcement. "What an amazing and incredible honor, to represent Grove Public Schools and teachers across the state.

"I couldn't be more proud."

A third grade teacher at the lower elementary, Hunsperger, began teaching within the Grove School 22 years ago. She was named district teacher of the year this spring, after being named the Lower Elementary teacher of the year. 

"I'm extremely surprised," Hunsperger said. "When I turned in my portfolio, I never dreamed this."

Hunsperger was escorted across the state during the announcement by former Grove Superintendent Sandy Coaly. 

Superintendent Pat Dodson had a prior commitment, Hunsperger said, and was unable to attend the ceremony.

Being named a finalist means Hunsperger will serve on a teacher's council for Hoffmeister for at least the next year. 

"It's exciting and a great way to help her keep the pulse on what is going on around the state," Hunsperger said. "I'm glad to be representing northeast Oklahoma and be part of [that team]." 

More About Hunsperger

A 1991 graduate of Grove High School, Hunsperger returned to teach in Grove after completing her undergraduate work at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah.

She, along with her husband, Eric - also a teacher within the district - have two boys, Ayden, a freshman, and Cale, a seventh grader.

Hunsperger said from the time she was little, she knew she wanted to be a teacher.

"I attended a small elementary school in Joplin, Missouri, and there was only one section of each grade first thru sixth," she said. "My years there were magical. We had fall carnivals, talent shows and loving teachers that made me adore school.

"I didn't want my school days to end, so everyday when I got home, I would play school using the big green chalkboard my mother bought me one year for Christmas. Those experiences had such an impact of me and still play a vital role in how I teach today."

For Hunsperger, there are a multitude of reasons she continues to teach - including the relationships she creates with her students, as well as the desire to make a difference in their lives.

'[The] daily challenges keep me on my toes," she said, are another factor, along with her ever favorite, and present, school supplies. 

"What teacher doesn't love a new pack of flair pens," she joked. "But kidding aside, when times have been tough in teaching, and I have felt defeated or unappreciated, or question if I really do make a difference, the thought of changing professions is something I can't even begin to imagine.

"Getting up everyday and greeting those little smiling faces at my door gives me such purpose and drives me to continue growing and becoming the best teacher that I can be."