2018 Celebration of Education in Oklahoma – Sharen Jester Turney

Thank you Dean Garn for your kind words. You are the trailblazer in education for OU, the State of Oklahoma, and its teachers. Your programs are a great example of how to keep healthy and rewarding education, a field in which we in this room are all so passionate about. I’ve been looking forward to tonight to join you in to paying tribute to all of the award recipients and to celebrate the world of education. It is an honor to accept the award of Distinction. It is something that I will always treasure. Our purpose for coming together tonight made me wonder why we don’t celebrate education more, because education is the foundation of our lives. My gratitude for teachers in teaching started decades ago. I have my mom to thank for that and I have OU to thank too. So, I appreciate this opportunity for me to share my story. As a child, I can remember all the cowboy shows, how life’s experiences and the connectivity with others were centered around the church and the school house. Okay, there was the saloon too. But, what a great community foundation for inspiration and learning. As students we get to celebrate teachers from childhood to adulthood with our words and our spirit and now OU is providing more gratitude on the side of equation that has been a challenge and that is financial rewards and how refreshing is that and yes, it is very clear that we should be doing more and we need to do more. We need to celebrate and reward teachers and education as we do other professions, such as technology in a corporate field and insure the classrooms have the right tools at the right time. But what OU has done especially with the debt forgiveness program, well it may just be the catalyst that we needed to entice more people to think about being educators and building a teaching career in this great state of Oklahoma. I believe education is one of the pathways to the American Dream. I have generations of family here in Oklahoma, my mom was a teacher and a nutritionist, a mother of five. My father was a livestock auctioneer and he owned and operated a farm and a feed store and we made teachable moments on the family farm. My two sisters, Debbie and Karen are both here tonight. We learned the importance of hard work, commitment to each other, respect of the animals and crops and the synchronization and rhythm of many necessary tasks. I’m proud tonight on the ground that I grew up on and my father taught me to recognize that. He said no matter where you are and no matter where you come from, everyone has something to offer. It was a passport to share with and learn from others. My mom showed me what community means. She always looked for another opportunity to serve. Not because it was convenient for her but because she could see that people around her needed help. Her students needed her love of teaching and they cherished her for it. Her commitment, her accountability, her compassion, and her connectivity with her students inspired me to major in business education here at OU. Recognizing our roots help us also think about the future. The US was legendary with its educational institutions. It reminds me of how students from all over the world came to get their education in America. They sought out the best so they could be the best, but are we the best in the world today? US News and World Report says, no we’re not. We’re not number one anymore. So we’re ranked two, close to three currently, not bad but not the best. The US is renowned for the great inventions. We were the first to put a man on the moon after all. We need an Elon Musk today as much as we needed Neil Armstrong then, and we invented the cell phone. Many of us in this room probably remember the massive device that was too big for any pocket and now we can’t imagine a live without that small magical device today. We were the developers of the internet. Radical change in the way we communicate and educate and by the year 2005 the internet and cell phones changed our whole lives. It changed everything, our culture, communication, commerce, and technology. We can e-mail, we can text, instant message and so much more. A true transformation of how we receive information, process information and deliver information. When I think about innovation, combining the old knowledge with the new knowledge it reminds me when I grew up and we scoured the pages of the encyclopedia. Now all of that information is so much more, it’s on demand and at our disposal in just a few clicks. It opens up the world to us. Today we’re influenced by virtual reality, augmented reality and artificial intelligence. Remember how IBM’s Watson was the only one who could beat Ken Jennings in Jeopardy, or how the UK now uses Janet as a high speed network for research and the education community bringing a whole new level of collaboration to better our world. We have a lot to celebrate and a lot to look forward to but we cannot do it without education and we cannot educate without teachers. American publisher William Feathers said an education isn’t how much you have committed to memory or even how much you know, it’s being able to differentiate between what you do know and what you don’t. It’s knowing where to go to find out what you need to know and it’s knowing how to use that information you get. I get excited thinking about who might develop the next idea that we aren’t even aware we need it. We don’t even know what we need yet but teachers help fuel studen’ts hearts and minds to get us to next. They teach us how to analyze, to move forward and open our minds. Now that is powerful. What you get we have to be tenacious in our efforts to make sure things are still happening. Remind ourselves that commitments to universities, K-12, early education, teachers, students and parents and this will all pay off. As Ben Franklin said, an investment in knowledge pays the best interest but if we all believe that we would all be investing our money right here in education and celebrate and honoring our teachers and education more. I also think teaching kind of reverses itself. Some friends I grew up with are here and some are educators and my sister -in -law Sue and we can all attest to this. Ask any parent over forty, you know, forty, fifty but anyway, ask any parent over fifty who gets a new computer, smart TV or the latest IPhone, what happens next. Yes, it’s our children who set them up, in a matter of minutes to boot. So my son Matthew was supposed to be here tonight but he got the flu. He almost made it through flu season so he wasn’t able to come but I do want to thank him for his love, his support, teaching me new things and of course, his tech support. Things change at a faster clip now so we have to stay current. We have to keep up. We have to educate ourselves throughout our lives. We can’t teach what we don’t know. We need only twenty-first century teachers to teach twenty-first century minds and Nelson Mandela said education is the most powerful weapon which we can use to change the world and how true is that today. I think curiosity is the key to learning. For me curiosity became my life’s compass. I value that my career gave me the opportunity to be out in the world seeing how people live and interact. I am fascinated by how people think, invent, take things we know and make them better for human kind and it’s why I enjoy being part of the companies across the globe. Today I am committed to being a forever student and teacher and my education taught me that. I know we all become teachers
at some point in our families, in our careers, and in our communities and what an amazing adventure we are brought on as lifelong learners and teachers. I believe what most people remember when they look back on their life and life’s work is the teacher that made an impact, a lasting impression. The reason why students remember a specific teacher is usually because the teacher believed in them, recognized a talent or something special about them, encouraged them to stay focused on their dreams, to keep trying despite any obstacle. Success will come. One of my favorite sayings is the mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be ignited. I think it’s true that the turning point in our lives involves a teacher. Oscar winners sometimes forget to thank their spouse but they don’t forget to thank their teacher. Thank you State Senator Michael Brooks for being here and thank you again Dean Garn and to Oklahoma Education Superintendent Joy Hoffmeister for your tenacity to keep education progressing. For helping bring innovative ideas together and a stimulus for teachers to build a meaningful career by lifting some of the financial burdens there is a real appeal and my family and I are proud to support the path to excellence that OU has built. Congratulations all of you on the noble work so many of you do. There is no other journey that compares to what you do. May you continue to ignite curiosity for todays and the next generations of Oklahoma students influencing our global community. It is a gift and may we continue find more ways to reward your time with treasure and one more thing. I would like to thank my husband Charles. We’re getting ready to celebrate twenty -nine years since we said I do, for being my partner in all things. He has Oklahoma roots and they run deep too and he is a native of Duncan and also an OU alum and we’re going to be back during the football season. We root for OU. We root for Oklahoma and we root especially for you and education. Thank you very much (applause).

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