Marc Moore, the superintendent of Stillwater Public Schools, was participating in a live-streamed videoconference to award the district teacher of the year, from his car.
He was the only one doing that. He was waiting to surprise someone. And the reveal slowly began to materialize as the camera went mobile, showing Moore getting out of his car in a driveway, getting balloons and a banner. The house and driveway began to look more and more familiar to Ginger Billman. She was genuinely surprised when it came time to answer the door.
Billman, a Richmond first-grade teacher, was named a site teacher of the year in January, then joined Jenny Pratt and Suzanne Tackett as finalist for District Teacher of the Year.
“All three of these teachers are outstanding examples of the quality teaching that occurs across the district day in and day out,” Superintendent Marc Moore said. “I believe all three are well deserving of this honor.”
Billman was introduced by Richmond Principal Kendra Rider as someone who ‘builds’ students.
“Mrs. Billman is a pure student builder. She builds their knowledge. She builds their confidence. She builds their character. She is a master at building our kids up personally at academically,” Rider said. “She pledges to actively pursue excellence for her students and herself. She believes in each child. She grows them and they flourish under her care.
“My son Graham was fortunate to be one of Mrs. Billman’s first-graders this year. During April Fool’s a joke was circulating that because of COVID-19 all students would be retaining next school year. I happened to read this headline aloud to my husband and Graham overheard and was thrilled at the idea of having Mrs. Billman again. He was more than willing to repeat first grade if it meant more time with his beloved teacher. I think that speaks volumes about the special teacher Mrs. Billman is. She has touched the lives of so many students and is a teacher they will always cherish. Richmond is so proud to have you represent us as our teacher of the year.”
Site Teachers of the Year were Billman, Pratt, Tackett, Joanna Mitchell at Highland Park, Karen Diaz at Skyline, Heather Brown at Will Rogers, Tommie Grant at Stillwater Middle School, Kathleen Stepp at Stillwater Junior High, Tanner Nipper at Stillwater High School and Kris Fowler at Lincoln Academy. Billman will now compete with other district winners for Oklahoma teacher of the year.
“I’m shocked,” Billman said after opening her door and joining Moore on camera. “First of all, Suzanne and Jenny, it’s been a tremendous journey to be with both of you, so glad I got to know you better during this journey.”
She thanked God for getting her through the hard days, and the trials of distance learning, she thanked her family and she said how much she missed her other family.
“To my Richmond Family, you guys are just like a second family. Thank you for making Richmond a phenomenal place for kids to learn and to grow. You not only encourage them every day, but you push me and encourage me to get out of my comfort zone and do things that I never thought I would be able to accomplish,” Billman said. “I miss you guys. I miss the laughter and the hugs and the smiles from the kids at school. I miss the crowded teacher’s lounge. I miss the end of the day dismissals. I miss all of it. I miss you, and I can’t wait until we’re all together again.”