Union math instructor named 2022 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year

Rebecka Peterson, a mathematics teacher from Union Public Schools in Tulsa, was named the 2022 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year today in a ceremony at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Peterson teaches pre-calculus/trigonometry and Advanced Placement Calculus to grades 10-12 at Union High School.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister made the announcement, which comes with $10,000 in cash and prizes from community sponsors, including the use of a vehicle for a year to tour the state as Oklahoma’s next teacher ambassador.

Peterson

“Rebecka’s success in the classroom can be measured not only through the achievements of her students, but through the professional growth of the colleagues  she inspires as well,” Hofmeister said. “In addition to recruiting and mentoring, she leads through collaboration. Rebecka’s enthusiasm and encouragement have motivated countless other teachers to strive to overcome the challenges of the pandemic and continue providing exemplary instruction to Oklahoma students.”

Peterson was recently named one of six state-level finalists for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST). PAEMST is the highest recognition a K-12 mathematics or science teacher may receive in the United States. Peterson has been teaching for 13 years and has spent the last 10 years at Union High School.

“I want my students to know they are accepted exactly as they are,” said Peterson, a proud immigrant of Swedish-Iranian descent. “I am so proud of our mission as public educators, our mission that everybody’s in — everybody’s welcome, no matter the color of your skin, no matter your ZIP code, no matter your gender.”

Peterson, who describes teaching as her dream job, helps administer the blog “One Good Thing,” in which she posts positive results from her classroom every day. She has contributed more than 1,000 posts to the blog, inspiring her students to reflect on hope and positivity in their own journals.

“I am who I am because of teachers – both my own and my colleagues,” Peterson said. “Thus, first and foremost, I would say, ‘Thank you. Thank you for inspiring me to bring my best every day. Thank you for modeling grace, love, kindness, gentleness and perseverance in the classroom.’”

One indicator of the success of Peterson’s students is their performance on the Advanced Placement Calculus exam. Her students’ pass rate has soared from 50% to 88% since she began teaching the subject. Many of her students have gone on to become math teachers themselves.

Beginning July 1, Peterson will assume full-time Teacher of the Year duties, which include speaking engagements and encouraging others to enter or remain in the profession. She will succeed Jessica Eschbach of Norman Public Schools, who will continue to tour the state until July as the 2021 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year.

Today’s ceremony was made possible through a partnership with the Masonic Charities Foundation.

For a glimpse of Peterson in the classroom, view her teaching video here. 

To learn more about the other Oklahoma Teacher of the Year finalists, click here. To see all the finalists’ teaching videos, click here.

Peterson classroom

Rebecka Peterson shows her students at Union High School how to solve a math problem. Peterson teaches pre-calculus/trigonometry and AP Calculus and is the 2022 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year.