The Edmond Sun

September 17, 2013

2014 State Teacher of the Year is Edmond music teacher

North’s Peter Markes to be Oklahoma’s Ambassador of Teaching

Patty Miller
The Edmond Sun

OKLA. CITY — Peter L. Markes, an eighth- through 12th-grade string orchestra and advanced placement music theory teacher from Edmond North High School was named the 2014 Teacher of the Year by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi during Tuesday’s ceremony at the Oklahoma State Fair.

Markes has 12 years of teaching experience, 11 in his current position and one year of service with Enid Public Schools. He has a bachelor’s degree of music in Education, with an emphasis on instrumental music from Oklahoma City University. He was chosen from a field of 12 finalist educators to represent the teachers of Oklahoma as the 2014 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year.

He will serve as Oklahoma’s “Ambassador of Teaching” presenting to teachers and civic groups throughout the state for one year.

“Mr. Markes’ passion for teaching and instilling confidence in his students as well as his ability to interweave the more rigorous Oklahoma Academic Standards into his classroom work epitomizes what we strive for in every effective teacher,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi.

“Choosing between 12 qualified and excellent teachers is almost impossible. Each of our finalists represents the best in Oklahoma education. They instill hope that our children will indeed graduate from their schools ready for college, career, citizenship and anything life may bring their way.”

Committees comprised of teachers, parents and community members selected the 12 finalists two from each of the six regions in the state. A state committee comprised of education business and civic leaders chose the winner. The state-level competition included individual and group interviews, a written portfolio and personal videos showcasing each finalist’s teaching strategies.

“The irony of receiving this award,” Markes said in an emotion-filled voice, “is that I have to leave the students I love working with for a whole year.”

Edmond Superintendent David Goin said he is elated that Peter’s outstanding qualities have been validated at the state level.

“While his absence from the classroom at Edmond North will be difficult, we are pleased to support his important role as the state’s most honored educator,” Goin said. “Peter’s professionalism and tremendous communication abilities will advance respect and appreciation for the cause of public education in our state and beyond.”

Markes’ principal, Jason Pittenger, said, “In more than 20 years of education, Peter represents the best I have worked with. His passion, caring commitment and love of music is infectious. His leadership, sensitivity, professionalism and work ethic are admirable. He epitomizes the relentless pursuit of excellence.

“It is a double-edged sword for me as principal; I am thrilled he has the chance to convey to others what teaching in Oklahoma is all about while at the same time, sad to know his students and I will miss him. Our profession deserves an ambassador that is gifted, articulate, authentic and passionate.”

Markes told members of the audience, “I teach CPR, community, passion, and relevance” in my classroom. CPR is in order to revive what is so good about education in Oklahoma. Our community, especially our parents, must be engaged for the reinforcing support necessary to educate a child. We must instill in the students the same passion for learning that we have as teachers, with hopes that the students will go home and ignite that same passion in their parents. Finally, we must help the students understand that what they are learning is relevant to both their current world and the world that we are planning for in our future.”

Markes grew up in Waukomis and had a master teacher who taught his sixth-grade physical science class, 10th-grade biology class, 11th-grade anatomy and physiology class and 12th-grade teacher cadet program.

“Regardless of the class, the drill was always the same: ‘Think,’” Markes said. “His lessons were more like conversations. He talked to us; we talked to him; we all talked with each other. We wrote, he read our essays, and then we talked some more. We thought together. Sometimes I felt like the thinking would never end — and often it didn’t — because every day after school, it was this same teacher, my dad, driving me home.”

Markes quoted Japanese educator and founder of the talent education school, Shinichi Suzuki, who said: “Teaching music is not my main purpose. I want to make good citizens. If children hear fine music from the day of their birth and learn to play it, they develop sensitivity, discipline and endurance. They get a beautiful heart.”

Through engaging, energetic lessons and interesting, rewarding travel and performance experiences, students are learning to share their gifts; they are developing beautiful hearts, Markes said.

When Markes was 19 he wrote a song based on a poem written by Ralph Waldo Emerson titled “Success.”

The words of the song tell the listener to leave the earth a better place. Laugh often and much and earn the affection of children. Strive to know even one life has breathed easier because of you.

Markes told the teachers they must be invigorated and lead their students with passion as they teach. He added there is much to do this coming year in and out of the classroom, and he urged teachers in the audience to show their passion for educating to their students and to show their students how much they care.

Markes will represent Oklahoma in the national Teacher of the Year competition in the spring of 2014. The national competition is sponsored by the Council of State School Officers and the ING Foundation.

Event sponsors gave gifts valued at about $50,000 in cash and prizes including $5,000 from the Masonic Charity Foundation of Oklahoma, the use of a Buick Encore for a year from Byford Buick and GMC of Chickasha, software and professional development from SMART Technologies, a laptop computer from Oklahoma Schools Insurance group, a $2,500 tuition credit, a $500 credit toward a classroom makeover, and a Greg Burns print from American Fidelity Assurance Company. Numerous scholarships and tuition waivers from many of the state’s universities were among many other gifts.

Each finalist received prizes including a $1,000 award from Masonic Charity Foundation of Oklahoma, two courtside tickets and in-game recognition at an Oklahoma City Thunder game, a $100 gift card and other gifts from American Fidelity Assurance Company, software and professional development from SMART Technologies as well as gifts from the Oklahoma State Fair, the Oklahoma Education Association and Professional Oklahoma Educators.

The Teacher of the Year ceremony is presented by the state Department of Education, its long-time partners the State Fair of Oklahoma and Masonic Charity Foundation of Oklahoma, American Fidelity Assurance Company as well as a long list of contributors.