Story provided by Stillwater Public Schools
Stillwater High School Social Studies Teacher Rusty Atkins has been named the National Indian Education Association (NIEA) Classroom Teacher of the Year.
Atkins was named as one of five NIEA Community Award Winners from across the country. “NIEA would like to acknowledge teachers, educators, parents, community members, and elders who work tirelessly to protect and serve Native students,” said the NIEA in its announcement of the winners. “It is our honor to recognize these individuals who have demonstrated leadership and service within their community.”
Atkins and the other Community Award Winners will be celebrated during the NIEA Annual Convention and Trade Show at an awards luncheon on Friday, October 15 in Omaha, Nebraska.
In addition to teaching social studies at SHS, Atkins is head coach for the track and field team and throughout his career has coached several different sports.
An enrolled Member of the Pawnee Nation and also Otoe-Missouria, he serves as the Native American Student Association club sponsor. The club has seen tremendous growth under his leadership and has produced many Oklahoma Indian Student Honor Society inductees.
A 1984 Stillwater High School graduate, Atkins received his bachelor’s degree from Oklahoma State University and a master’s degree from Southwestern Oklahoma State University. He is currently working to obtain his principal certification.
“Originally I went to school to become an interior designer but had the background working with kids,” says Atkins. “I wanted to help students obtain their goals, help them discover who their true essence is or will become. Teach our youth to do more than listen, become someone who truly hears. I also wanted to set an example for our native youth, that we can exist in the world and still be true to who we are as native peoples, and never forget where they came from.”
Superintendent Marc Moore says, “Rusty’s career as an educator has certainly lived up to his words. He is a valuable asset to SPS Indian Education. He elevates our district and is a great source of Pioneer Pride. It’s wonderful to see him honored and receive the national recognition he so thoroughly deserves.”
Based in Washington, D.C. and formed in 1969, the National Indian Education Association mission is to advance comprehensive, culture-based educational opportunities for American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians. NIEA works to promote educational sovereignty, support continuing use of traditional knowledge and language, and improve educational opportunities and results in communities. NIEA is governed by a 12-member Board of Directors elected annually by membership.