Meet Johnnie Keel
Share a little bit about yourself! Where are you from and how did you end up where you are now?
My roots run deep in Oklahoma. I was born in Durant but have lived in OKC since I was 4. I am Seminole and Muscokee Indian. My biggest supporter is my husband, David. We have two daughters that are both in education; two awesome grandsons and a 3 year old labradoodle, Baker.
Why did you decide to become a teacher?
I worked in the Oil and Gas business for 17 years as a Lease Analyst. While I enjoyed my job, there was always something missing – a purpose I wanted to make in the world. I heard about a grant OU received called American Indian Teacher Core to recruit Native Americans into teaching. I had to convince the director of the program that I was worth taking a chance on since I wasn’t a young college newby and had a family to also raise. It was a definite decrease in pay, but I love teaching and everyday is a new day of joy and challenges!
Where did you attend college?
University of Oklahoma
How many years have you been teaching?
This will be my 29th year.
What grades and subjects are you currently teaching?
I have the best job ever! I teach 3rd, 4th, 5th grade gifted students and 6th grade math to advanced 5th grade students. I do not have a set curriculum for GT but instead focus on problem solving, collaboration, critical thinking – skills that will serve my students outside of the classroom.
I love the hands-on activities and the originality of the lessons. With my gifted students, they are perfect to build curiosity, great peer discussions, and critical thinking. They are inquiry-based and I can easily connect the OERB lessons with what they are learning in their regular classes as well as making real-world connections.
What else do you enjoy doing besides teaching? Any hobbies
I love watching most sports (soccer, football, basketball, OU softball), playing games, being with friends and family, traveling, and writing. I hope to write a book about my life as a Keel as there have been many unique & humorous experiences. I also want to write a children’s book.
What is your favorite part of the OERB curriculum?
I love the hands-on activities and the originality of the lessons. With my gifted students, they are perfect to build curiosity, great peer discussions, and critical thinking. They are inquiry-based and I can easily connect the OERB lessons with what they are learning in their regular classes as well as making real-world connections. An added plus is having the materials all provided to really teach outside of the box with fun, informative, higher level content.
Do your students have a favorite lesson in the OERB curriculum you teach?
There are oohs and ahhhs in all the lessons. But, one of the favorites is the “drilling” for oil through the bread. I use the older lesson with the gummy fish and whales and they love it!
What is your favorite part about OERB HomeRoom?
I love the printed hard copies of the notebooks but it is nice to access the lessons and teacher information from home as I plan. Of course, the videos are a great addition to grab the students attention and reinforce a concept of the lesson.
Share a favorite moment during your teaching career?
I have so many but one that stands out involved our entire school. I was one of 3 NPS teachers who went to Japan in 2009 as part of the Hitachi teacher exchange program. It was such an amazing experience to see the beautiful country and people. Each school that we visited had a program for us. The students, shop owners, hotel attendants all showed such a respect for us as teachers. The following school year our Japanese teacher mates came to America to visit our schools. Each teacher and student at Truman helped prepare an amazing assembly, had bulletin boards decorated, rooms sparkled and many had welcoming programs planned. Students were dressed up like it was picture day and on their best behavior. My students had “business cards” and were taught how to introduce themselves by bowing and presenting the card. My homeroom moms had a catered Thanksgiving lunch for my students and our guest which included turkey, dressing and all the trimmings. It was a day I felt such pride in our school and as a teacher!
Any additional information you want to share with us?
I am a lifelong learner and love the challenge of grant writing. This summer was full of experiences acquired through grants/fellowships. I presented at the National Ag in the Classroom Conference in Orlando. I spent two weeks in Amsterdam and London on a Fund for Teachers Fellowship to look at ways to help students handle emotions and stress. I taught a STEM Indigenous Camp at the First Americans Museum towards the end of July. Then I topped off my summer going to Yellowstone to study the regeneration of the bison as a National Endowment of the Humanities fellowship.
These experiences help me continue to bring new concepts and unique lessons to my students and to share with teachers through my work with AG in the classroom, as an A+ Schools fellow, an Oklahoma Writing Project teacher consultant, and as a docent and teacher at the First Americans Museum.