Category: 2015 Participants

OSM grant encourages teacher interactions

By Derrick Miller and Haley Wilson

Oklahoma Scholastic Media brought together 18 Oklahoma teachers for advanced training in journalism media.

Teachers received special focus on videography, photography and editing. The teachers engaged in hands-on activities that can be taken back to use in their classrooms.

The training began with a weekend in September and ended with a weekend in October. The weekend trainings included interactions with the University of Oklahoma student body and the Norman community.

OSM selected teachers for Oklahoma Scholastic Media grants for either startup or improvement. Grants ranged from $1,000 to $7,000 and included the training at Gaylord College. The 2016 grant applications are due April 2016.

For updated information about Oklahoma Scholastic Media, visit the OSM website.

Derrick Miller is a journalism and yearbook teacher at Duncan Middle School in Duncan, Okla. Follow him on Twitter.

Haley Wilson is an English and newspaper teacher at Marlow High School.



by Karen Beavers, Lawton High School, Lawton OK

Jamee Combs attends OSMI 2015 and will receive a grant for an online media publication at her school.
Jamee Combs attends OSMI 2015 and will receive a grant for an online media publication at her school.

Inola, Oklahoma is the home of Ms. Jamee Combs, her husband, her family of 3 boys and the only other female in the home – Zoey, a 9-year-old black lab. Such a busy lifestyle, for an 18-year veteran teacher.

Combs returned to teaching after taking a brief time off to raise 3 boys. This is her 14th year back. She wanted to have boys because she doesn’t do girl hair. She is also not a wordsmith and likes the innovative approach to teaching.

“Students are able to learn the vocabulary, grammar, the video and put together a complete package,” Combs said about her live streaming class activities.

She was told it was easy to let the students do the video work for her digital media classes. Combs felt frustrated and thought to being inept was not fun. It was important for her to get the training to operate Longhorn TV for school.

Not only does she teach computers, accounting, digital media; she also advises the Longhorn TV, is the student council sponsor and is a class sponsor at Inola High School. She is also working on a master’s degree in school counseling and will become a Licensed Professional Counselor. This is her hardest semester because it was changed from six hours to nine hours for her practicum. She has been feeling a little bit overwhelmed.

“Yet it is not so overwhelming when you have had a good night’s sleep,” Combs said.

It is those rare down time moments though that give her satisfaction. When waiting at Dulles airport to pick up a dance team, she was notified their plane was delayed. She drove toward downtown Washington, D.C. parked her car and enjoyed the fireworks, it just happened to be the 4th of July. She enjoyed the fireworks and spent a rare moment of spare time experiencing something most people only dream about.

Changing Dreams

Changing Dreams

Darla Wright works on a video project during OSMI 2015 in one of the iconic red OU phone booths.

By Jenny Mason

Fresh out of Nowata High School in the 1980’s meant a few things for Darla Wright: Big hair, a clean break from her high school sweetheart, and the dream of becoming a high flying American Airline stewardess. Fast forward 28 years to Darla as a mom of three, teaching high school English and journalism at her alma mater, and a calming personality that makes one feel instantly at ease.

At her mother’s insistence, Darla started on her associate’s degree at North Eastern Oklahoma College; however, her real dream was to become a stewardess. After her freshman year at NEO she made the drive to Dallas to tryout for American Airlines. When she arrived at the initial interviews, the first thing they told her was she had to cut her hair and gain five pounds, “Oh no! I can’t do that!” The 80’s were all about big hair, except for American Airlines. After the interview process it was back for her second year at NEO to finish her associates degree. During her last semester, her mother became ill and the dream of spreading her wings was forgotten.

With her associate’s degree in hand, Darla found a job in sales with a printing company. Along with caring for her mom and new career, Darla also married her high school sweetheart and had her son. After the birth of her daughter, she decided to stay home and opened a daycare. For 5 years, “Life was very hectic. The best thing about being able to work from home was the ability to be with my daughter and spending the last two years of my mom’s life at home with her before she passed.” During the time at home Darla remained resilient and then decided on a career path which would ultimately lead her to today.

As a journalism teacher, Darla’s career has come full circle, “All of the background I gained in my job in print sales really transfers over to teaching journalism and creating the yearbook with my students,” she said. While life has led in her a different direction then she originally had planned, there is nowhere else Darla would rather be.


Sherry Mills attended the OSMI workshop this fall
Sherry Mills attended the OSMI workshop this fall with 17 other media teachers from across the state.

by Molly Santos Buckley

Hoping for another opportunity in academia, Sherry Mills enrolled in college for the second time in 2007. A debilitating accident earlier in 2007 involving her dairy cows and in her words “divine intervention,” provided the push necessary to take major steps forward and do “what I feel I was called to do. God had called me.”

High school sweethearts for three years Sherry and Larry married just after her high school graduation in 1980 at the age of 18. Thirty five years later, three adult children and two grandchildren, the Mills make their home in the eastern part of the state of Oklahoma just near the Arkansas border in the tiny farming/ranching community of Locust Grove.

“We celebrated our anniversary with a trip to Hawaii,” Mills said.

In previous years, some of the land was owned by Larry’s parents but was willed to Larry upon their deaths. Two of their daughters are teachers and their son is a welder. Sherry’s parents live down the road and Sunday meals are at Sherry and Larry’s home. All of them lived on the Copperhead Ranch in their respective homes.

“Yes, there are a lot of copperheads around here,” she said.

The farm was once the home to a huge dairy cows operation but now they raise beef cows, chickens, eggs and haul hay.

“Larry and I realized our ages were catching up with us and we needed to explore different options. I stopped milking cows which was the hardest jobs of my live and Larry just needed a change,” Mills said.

In the spring of 2007 Mills rode up on her four wheeler to check on one of her dairy cows who had lost a calf the previous year and Mills noticed her new calf seemed a little distressed. She got off her vehicle for a closer inspection and was confronted by a very agitated and angry momma protecting her calf. The animal violently attacked her causing severe damage to one of her hips and nerve damage to much of her body but thankfully nothing was broken. Considering the size of the animal and Mills size, things could have been a lot worse. She felt God’s presence was there and saved her life.

“I remember loud mooing, pulling myself up on the four wheeler and heading back to the house,” Mills said.

She was in the hospital for four nights recovering from her injures. With her husband’s encouragement it was during this time Mills decided to give college a second chance.

“I had things to do, gifts to give. The light was on and God was leading me,” she said.

College this time around was not as scary or daunting as it was the first time in 1999.

“Classes and learning came easy,” she said.

Although not holding a degree in journalism, Mills had computer experience and took courses in mass media, web design and group dynamics which she felt prepared her to take on the task of school publications. She holds a degree English education.

Graduated May of 2011 and commencing work the very next month, Mills currently teaches classes in newspaper, yearbook, drama and alternative education classes to low performing students.

“Working with students is like milking the dairy cows,” Mills said. “The very best part of the milk is the cream which rises to the top and is sweet. In working with students, I find the very best students are the ones that always step up and produce for me.”

Always Up for Adventure


“I was always being told I would make a good teacher,” stated Karen Beavers.

Previous to her teaching career Karen worked for DHS, at a hospice and for an assisted living center. Over the years she was told she would make a good teacher and when the opportunity presented itself, she made the move into the education field and thousands of students are thankful.

Karen Beavers has been a fixture at Lawton High School since 2001. Her influence in the district is wide due to the many hats she has worn over the years. Currently her teaching schedule includes yearbook, newspaper and journalism classes. She is in charge of the yearbook publication, the Tatler Vibes online news site, photography classes, technology co-coordinator and the department chair for the Fine Arts department.

Karen has a forty-two year old son and five grandchildren and has been married for twenty-four years to her husband. She arrived in Lawton when her father was stationed at Ft. Sill. Her parents were from Pennsylvania and California and Oklahoma was a welcoming new home for the family. The military moved them around over the years, but Karen eventually came back to Lawton, because it felt like home and decided to raise her own family here.

The opportunity to travel is high on Karen’s list of favorite activities. She has traveled to nine countries, yet her favorite destination is the Washington D.C. to New York City corridor. Karen likes to visit off the beaten path locations and is always looking for experiences giving her unique insights into them. Immediately before 9-11, from a viewpoint in Staten Island looking over the harbor, Karen took a picture of the Twin Towers. A month later and from the same location, she took a picture of the New York skyline with smoke still rising over where the towers had stood. Karen typically travels alone, but this does not mean she is lonely during her adventures. Friends often host her and act as tour guides showing her the cities they love and sharing their perspectives.

Karen is looking forward to retirement. It could happen as soon as next year, but she has not pinned down a time yet. After retiring, she hopes to move outside of Lawton into the country and slow down her pace. Visiting all fifty states is on Karen’s bucket list and she only has 15 states left, so retirement will contain traveling. When the time comes, Lawton High School will miss her, but her impact on the school and students will be felt for a long time.

Amber Harp Brings New Tradition to Little Axe

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Amber Harp learns about videography among other media skills at the OSMI 2015 training.

by Debbie Frankenberg

Which one of these does not fit? Computer, smart phone, SD card, DLSR, Twitter, video, Instagram, photoshop, Facebook, InDesign, newspaper. You might say “newspaper” because of the image of ink on your fingers and shuffling large sheets of news and black and white photos.

When Little Axe high school teacher Amber Harp graduated from Norman North High School, newspapers were large and unwieldy and printed up to be delivered to readers daily on their front yard.

Amber was really ready to get out of high school in 1998. Jump forward 17 years and she is back in high school. As the Career Tech teacher, Amber teaches L.A. Indians how to do the news 2015 style. Although she has a masters degree in Psychology with a focus in Educational Leadership, meaning she could find a job in school administration, she loves being in class with her students. She’s teaching students the skills they will need  when they graduate and go to college.

A member of the first graduation class of Norman North High School, Amber was not sure of her career goals. She certainly never envisioned a teaching career. After earning an Associates Degree in Liberal Studies from Rose State College, she worked for a mortgage company. Then came the economic effects of  911 and she needed to change her job. As financial secretary at Irving Middle School in her home town of Norman, she fell in love with the world of education. Married, working full-time, and raising two young children, Amber earned her degree in business management online through Ashford University.

While at Irving, she attended many professional development trainings which solidified her vision of becoming a teacher. University of the Rockies, also online, granted her her master’s degree. She is certified to teach math in both middle school and high school and all business classes. Recently, this girl who was really, really ready to get out of high school has achieved Career Tech certification.

All of this post secondary education has brought Amber back to high school.  Highly motivated to learn more about the way the news is shared today, she won a grant from the Oklahoma Scholastic Media Initiative to further develop her desktop publishing class. The newspaper at Little Axe High School will not be inky nor printed on large pieces paper now. This modern teacher is looking to the future for the news of Little Axe. “I want to establish this online newspaper so it can be a tradition for the high school and the community.”  Axe News combines digital media, all kinds of technology, and social media to inform students, parents, and fans of Little Axe Indians.

Disney Dreamer

Christine Murrain (right), a former student who follows Jenny on Twitter, saw Jenny was at the OSMI workshop on the OU campus and made a point to come see her. Even though it was a quick visit, there was a lot of admiration on both sides.

by Darla Wright, Nowata High School Adviser

Jenny Mason has been teaching yearbook, creative writing and senior English since 2009 in Lawton, Okla. at Eisenhower High School, the reining 5A state basketball champs. Mason said she loves her job and her students.

Married for nine years, Mason was raised by strict, but loving parents. Her dad was the parent who would call her friend’s house at midnight, where she might be staying, just to verify she was there. Like the good-girl she was, Jenny would talk to her father and reassure him she was exactly where she was supposed to be. On one occasion, her friend snuck out, but Jenny was in her friend’s bed when her father called. The friend’s mother never knew her daughter was not next to Jenny!

Jenny loves to plan events; anything from baby and bridal showers, to activity director of PTA events where she can get involved to help build relationships with students and her community. She loves being the adviser of the yearbook class because she can plan and be involved to see the project to the end.

All things Disney is Mason’s love. Her favorite character is Belle, from Beauty and the Beast and she has been to Disney twice with her husband and 8-year old daughter, Jaycee. She also enjoys watching her daughter play soccer and cheer.

Jenny said her dream job would be a child custody advocate lawyer.

“I want to protect children and their rights and keep them safe,” she said.


Retired? Not so much

Irene Runnels attended the 2015 OSMI Workshop to learn more about starting an online media publication at her school. She will receive a grant of $7,000 to do so.

by Ashley Gibson Nowata Middle School Adviser

Retired? Not so much.

In the small town of Cache, Oklahoma lives a very active retired teacher, Irene Runnels.

Runnels was born in Cache, Oklahoma on a farm south of town where her parents lived. Not long after marrying her high school sweetheart of almost 50 years now, Runnals’ husband was drafted to the United States Army during the Vietnam War.

After moving around a bit and her husband’s short term in the Army, they found themselves in Kansas where they received their formal education. Runnels received a degree in Elementary Education and minor in Art from Kansas State. She also has a Masters in Education with strength in Special Ed. Runnels said she “knew special education would be mainstreamed.”

After teaching for her fair share of years, she decided to retire in September 2010. Last December, Runnels was asked to come back to work at Indiahoma High School as a full-time substitute and then this year was asked to teach full-time again. She is now teaching half English and half marketing for 9th through 12th grade.

She and her husband have two children. Their oldest is a daughter who teaches 5th grade reading and then a son who teaches high school science after serving a term in the United States Air force. Between their two children they have a total of seven grandchildren

Runnels has been a traveler of the world going to places like Paris, England, and Scotland. She seems to be perfectly content now in her so-called “retirement” in Indiahoma.


Finding Her Way Home

By Sherry Mills

“Follow the yellow brick road!” became the constant instruction Dorothy heard as she followed her quest to find the Wizard of Oz. She wound throughout the countryside, making friends and learning lessons as she went, and all the while she had one purpose to find.

Molly Buckley, educator for McArthur-Lawton High School, has found her way “home” to her heart’s desire and likes what she has discovered.

Being the second oldest sibling prepared Molly for greater responsibilities. Her father passed away when she was four, leaving her mother to raise her family alone. Molly remembers her mother working hard, a quality that was obviously instilled into Molly and her siblings.

“All four of my siblings and I have college degrees,” Burkley said. “Mom worked two jobs to make ends meet. She also believed in no sob stories or complaints, and so, there wasn’t any.”

Later on, after college graduation, Molly found herself at loose ends. She felt like life had come to a crossroads. Tentatively, the decision to take a job in Houston had been made when a new twist in life presented itself. She met Gary, her future husband-to-be, at a friend’s beach party.

“ I had to make a decision. Go or not to go to Houston?” Burkley said. “I thankfully decided to stay and further the relationship with Gary. He has been the love of my life for 31 years, and he has all of my heart.”

Married life cured Molly’s uncertainty about her future. She and Gary, a college professor, had two daughters, and they are both college graduates, too. One is married, but no grand babies have come to the Buckley’s as yet.

“I told them I was ready whenever they are for babies,” Molly said. “They have told me that after I retire will be the magic time for all of those things to happen.”

After her children were away from the home, Molly became alternatively certified to teach Spanish. She also has yearbook and now newspaper to fulfill her time. She finds the transitions between her Spanish classes and journalism to beat quite hectic.

Molly Buckley takes a break from OSMI training to smile for the camera. Her teaching duties have expanded to include newspaper, yearbook and Spanish.
Molly Buckley takes a break from OSMI training to smile for the camera. Her teaching duties have expanded to include newspaper, yearbook and Spanish.

“ My Spanish classes are always being interrupted because of yearbook. It’s like they are Dorothy’s house in the middle of the tornado, and yearbook throws the chaos around and around,” Burkley said.

However, Molly’s love of family overcomes the downsides of her crazy schedule, and she said that her school children are her children too.

Thus, that brings her road to her present commitment to attend the OSMI workshop to better her school newspaper. She knows that online is the way to go, and her heart is that things be done with excellence at her school. However, she is quick to add that her family will always be her first love.

“Family is my real focus. I am so in love with them and always will be and even my dog Barney will attest to that!” Burkley said.

Life takes a dramatic turn for Jaime Weston

Life takes a dramatic turn for Jaime Weston

by Deborah McGhee, Waurika High School

One early morning trip to the bathroom and 60 seconds later, a girl’s life can change forever.

Such was the case for Jaime Harness, a college senior who knew what she wanted to do with her life, become a foreign war correspondent after graduation–not a mother.

Little did she know, three months later at the age of 21, she would be Mrs. Tanner Weston, happily married, and eagerly awaiting the birth of her first child.

Like most young couples, the Westons struggled financially, so a pregnant Jamie Weston decided to find a job to fulfill a lifelong dream of having an exciting career.

“I found a job as an advertising executive with a cablevision company owned by the Washington Post,” Jaime Weston said. “The company changed the personnel policy so I could be hired since I was pregnant.”

At yearly conferences, the employees mingled with the networks stars.

“I have flown in Dr. Phil’s jet, ridden in the Cash Cab and met Chop of “King of Cars,”  Jamie Weston said.

At times the job was enjoyable, but the longer she worked for the company, the more she felt like she was going through the motions.

“I always felt like something was missing,” Weston said.

When she was pregnant with her second child, her husband became the manager of an inspection and recertification company, which allowed her to be a stay-at-home mom.

To raise money for family vacations, Jamie Weston began to use her Bachelor’s Degrees in English and Mass Communications and her Master’s in Human Resources Management to become an adjunct professor at Murray State College teaching Comp I and II.

After doing this for five years, she became frustrated because her college students couldn’t put sentences together and decided to teach high school students.

“I always liked writing,” Jaime Weston said. “In fact, I wrote a movie for my senior project in college. I also have about 10 books which are about half way finished.”

Since her passion is reading and writing, teaching them makes sense for her.

“Pregnancy changed everything in my life, but I am so glad it did,” Jaime Weston said.

Weston has been married for 12 years and has two sons, Walker, who is 6, and Dalton, who is 11. She lives with her family in Sulphur, Okla. The boys attend school in Davis, Okla. and are active in football and baseball. Weston teaches AP Language and Composition, English 3, Journalism I and II and is the adviser of the online student newspaper, Cougar Call at Ada High School in Ada, Okla.