America’s top teacher calls Oklahoma home

As National Teacher of the Year, Rebecka Peterson is making waves for Oklahoma schoolkids.

As an Oklahoma educator and the 2023 National Teacher of the Year, Rebecka Peterson knows first hand the importance of education for our state’s young learners. She joins Live in Oklahoma to tell the story of her career and why she’s staying put to raise her son and champion Oklahoma’s next generation.

My name is Rebecca Peterson. I’m a wife, mom, woman of faith, teacher, and I’m the 2022 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year and 2023 National Teacher of the Year

I am an immigrant to the United States. We moved here when I was young. My parents are medical missionaries, so by the time I was 16, I lived in four different countries. 

Some of my earliest memories are of my dad giving me math problems as a kid. Now, I feel like I have the best job in the world because I get paid to do what my dad did for me, which is help students fall in love with the ubiquity of mathematics.

I get to teach in the culturally rich district of Tulsa at Union High School, where we have 62 languages represented. I get to teach kids like me who are maybe new to the country or first-generation Americans, and I feel just so very, very blessed.
As the 2022 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year, I worked on a passion project called Teachers of Oklahoma. I traveled about 24,000 miles all across our state watching teachers in their classrooms, learning their stories, and getting to highlight their good and important work. Our state is full of people who work tirelessly on behalf of our learners. These people are exactly who you want to be teaching your children.

Particularly here in Oklahoma, there is such a partnership between parents and educators, and I feel fortunate to be in a state where parents and educators work together every day, every year to support our youngest learners. My son, Jonas, goes to an incredible school, and he gets to be part of chess club and STEM in the Kitchen. He gets to do a running club and coding club, and there’s just such ample opportunity for him to dive into whatever passions he may be interested in as a seven-year-old.

One of the beautiful things about working in Oklahoma is that there’s a real culture of family first here. I have never had to sacrifice being a mom for my job, and I think that that is a true gift. It honestly helps me grow in my profession just as much as being a wife and a mom.

Jonas, my husband Brett, and I love to go watch football games and watch the big kids go do their thing. We love going to two musicals together, but we also just love being out in nature.

One of our favorite places to be together is the Gathering Place, which opened about five years ago. It is just the greatest gift to the city of Tulsa. Some of our best memories, I would say, as a family are because of that place. Neither Brett’s parents nor my parents live here in the state, but we have chosen to remain here because we know that the people here have our backs and they are our chosen family.

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