Outstanding Miami teachers selected from each of the district's schools were awarded and appreciated with candy and gift baskets from local businesses.

MIAMI - An important recognition for qualities of excellence in teaching was awarded to seven outstanding Miami teachers last week.

During a time of challenges for Oklahoma educators, the Miami Public Schools District stopped to reward selected exceptional 'Teachers of the Year' for each site and one district 'Teacher of the Year' Cris Norton – Miami High School and Miami Public Schools District Teacher of the Year, Heather Flannigan - Rockdale Teacher of the Year, Courtney Billings - Nichols Teacher of the Year, Lucinda Phipps - Roosevelt Teacher of the Year, Tina Windle - Wilson Teacher of the Year, Holly Dodge - Washington Teacher of the Year, and Michelle Townsley - Will Rogers Middle School Teacher of the year.

Teachers were awarded and appreciated with candy and gift baskets from local businesses including Chapters, First National Bank, Security Bank and Trust, Welch State Bank, Integris Miami, Buffalo Run Casino, Pizza Hut, Miami Walmart Supercenter, Metal Fab, Stables Casino and Tulsa Teachers Credit Union.


Cris Norton is a three-year MHS mathematics teacher who has taught for 15 years, 9 years for MPS. She serves as Varsity Cheerleading Coach, Student Council Advisor, New Teacher Mentor, Gee Scholar Mentor and MACT Building Representative and Safe and Healthy Schools Team Member for MHS.

She is the widow of Sgt. Jason Norton and the mother of Rebecca and Dalton Norton, both MHS Honors graduates.

“Chris believes a key factor to being a successful teacher is to build positive relationships with students,” MHS Principal Lisa Munson said, “She firmly believes that education is the key to changing your current situation no matter what your circumstances and is dedicated to encouraging and helping MHS students change their lives and move in a positive direction.”

Superintendent Hogan presented Norton with the MPS District Teacher of the Year after recognizing the sacrifice of teacher and staff’s families. Norton received a standing ovation and hearty round of applause in congratulations from teachers and staff.


Heather Flannigan has taught third grade at Rockdale Elementary for the past three years.

“During her three years at Rockdale, Mrs. Flannigan's colleagues have voted her teacher of the year two times, which says a lot, and there is a reason for this. Mrs. Flannigan is devoted to her students. She has a calm and endearing way of making every child feel important and she does an excellent job differentiating to meet the specific needs of her students. Not only is she loved by her students, she is also loved by their parents. Mrs. Flannigan' forms strong partnerships with her parents and I always receive many compliments regarding the positive and nurturing environment she has created for their children. She is also highly respected by the staff,” Rockdale Principal Andrea Berry said.

Flannigan and her husband Jason have two children, DeLaney and Emory.


Courtney Billings is a nine-year MPS teacher and is graduate of Northeastern State University and she will graduate in May with a Masters in School Leadership from Southwestern State University.

She serves as the director of 21st Century After Schools Goals Program.

“She has been a great leader,” Nichols Upper Elementary School Principal Keni Iverson said. “She gives great insight to her science department.”

A Picher native, Billings is married to husband Patrick and the couple have a three-year-old son, Liam.


Lucinda Phipps is Kansas native and Pittsburg State University graduate who has taught at Roosevelt Elementary for five years. She serves as PLC Leader.

“She is a quiet but fierce leader, and she and Roosevelt staff are doing an exceptional job of building early literacy skills with our students. This has resulted in Roosevelt Elementary's test scores being some of the highest in Ottawa County over the past several years, and we also earned a Title I academic achievement award because of the work that she and our teachers do,” Roosevelt Elementary School Principal Melissa Bekemeier said. “Thank you Mrs. Phipps for your significant contribution to Miami Schools and our students.”

Phipps is married to husband Ryan.


Tina Windle is a graduate of Welch High School and NEO A&M College and Northeastern State University, and she served as speech/language therapist at all Miami school sites for 18 years.

“She thought she was going to retire but graciously came back to teach Pre-K at Wilson Elementary and has been with us for two years,” Wilson Elementary School Principal Courtney Murphy said. “ The family of Wilson elementary is very proud of our Teacher of the Year, Mrs. Windle.'

She is married to Tim Windle, and they have two daughters Elizabeth and Emily, and two grandchildren, Adam and Avery.


Holly Dodge is a Pittsburg State University graduate who teaches third grade at Washington Elementary.

“Holly is very committed to teaching and her students love her. She's creative and always implements hands-on learning activities and movement. Holly is a leader amongst her peers and a mentor to our staff. She is a team player and a positive influence to our students, staff, and parents,” Washington Elementary School Principal Melissa Turner said.

Turner added, “Just a little quote that kind of describes Holly, 'If you want to test your memory, try to recall what you were worried about one year ago today.’”


Michelle Townsley is technology education teacher who has taught for four and a half years for Miami. She has two Associates Degrees from NEO and Bachelors in Environmental Chemistry and Biology from PSU and a Masters in Science Education from Northeastern State University.

“Part of her teaching philosophy is one part knowledge and one part respect, a dash of humor and as much love and empathy as you can give,” Will Rogers Middle School Principal Justin Chase said.

Melinda Stotts is the associate editor of the Miami News-Record. She can be emailed at mstotts@miaminewsrecord.com or followed on Twitter @MelindaStotts1.