The eSchool Media K-12 Hero Awards, sponsored by Trox, highlights inspiring examples of education during the COVID-19 pandemic

Learn how this state school admin prioritized mental health and physical safety for all students

The eSchool Media K-12 Hero Awards, sponsored by Trox, highlights inspiring examples of education during the COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over, and that means educators across the globe are still finding inventive and innovative ways to support and teach students in classrooms, during hybrid instruction, and in virtual settings.

The eSchool Media K-12 Hero Awards program, sponsored by Trox, recognizes the determined and dedicated efforts of educators throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Never before have educators been challenged and tested as they were, beginning in March 2020 and up until today, and never before has their resilience been more apparent. Administrators, technology leaders, classroom teachers, and educators in all roles have persevered as they taught each and every one of their students during a global pandemic.

Here, eSchool News highlights Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister–one of its K-12 Hero Awards finalists. Keep reading to discover how this Hofmeister keeps learning going in the middle of a global pandemic.

Nominee: Joy Hofmeister, Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction

Nominated by: Rave Mobile Safety

What makes this nominee a hero?

As COVID-19 swept across the nation, many schools moved student and staff safety to the top of their priority lists. However, as many schools focused efforts solely on testing and case counts, Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister never stopped thinking about the holistic safety of Oklahoma’s nearly 700,000 students and more than 85,000 teachers and staff.

A proponent of full-time in-person learning, Joy worked tirelessly through the summer of 2020 to ensure Oklahoma public schools were able to reopen in the fall. With safety top of mind, she was constantly evaluating ongoing cases and evolving situations in schools throughout the state, and reminded students, teachers, and other staff of the importance of following best practices like washing hands. At almost every news conference, she was asking the public to do their part so students could get back to learning, promoting safety along the way.

With COVID-19 on the retreat, Joy turned her attention to the long-term mental and physical health of her students. Just recently, the Oklahoma Department of Education announced the use of $35 million in pandemic federal relief dollars to help districts hire more school counselors, licensed school-based mental health professionals, social workers, and recreational therapists. The School Counselor Corps is a program for which Joy has been advocating for years. Oklahoma children suffer from the highest rates of trauma in the nation, and schools have long needed more counselors to support students. Joy saw the pandemic as adding more trauma to student mental health and worked to provide additional resources to address their social-emotional needs and ensure they are on track for academic success.

Joy’s holistic approach to student safety also includes the state’s innovative use of the Rave Panic Button, a school safety app that, with the push of a button, sends important information to 9-1-1 centers, on-site personnel and first responders in the event of an emergency. As schools look forward to a more traditional school year in the fall, Joy wants to ensure schools are safe and connected via the Rave Panic Button, knowing that it can make a huge difference when responding to an emergency. Joy played an integral role in making Rave Panic Button available to all Oklahoma K-12 public schools and 9-1-1 centers to enhance school safety and security at no cost to the schools. Thanks to her dedication in promoting the program across the state education and law enforcement communities via email campaigns, news conferences and school-by-school safety assessments, the Rave Panic Button is implemented in public schools across the state with countless stories of impact.

Joy has always put Oklahomans at the forefront of school safety. With COVID-19, this goal was certainly challenged at times, but Joy never forgot her longer-term mission. Throughout the pandemic, she has had student, teacher, and staff safety top of mind–and she’s ready to tackle any other obstacles that may come.

Laura Ascione

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