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Give That Teacher A Key To The City!

Teacher Sarah Hagan (center) receives the key to the city from Mark Whinnery, the city manager of Drumright, Okla., and Mayor Deborah Bright.
Courtesy of Melinda Parker
Teacher Sarah Hagan (center) receives the key to the city from Mark Whinnery, the city manager of Drumright, Okla., and Mayor Deborah Bright.

The motivation behind our series, 50 Great Teachers, is pretty simple: Celebrate great teaching and great teachers.

A few months ago, I celebrated Sarah Hagan, who doesn't so much teach algebra as shout it from the rooftops. Never have I seen more creative math lessons or more engaged students than in her classroom in Drumright, Okla.

The story is below. If you missed it, here's all you need to know about Hagan:

Algebra speed-dating, problem-solving with snowballs, math jewelry collection.

In the days before my story aired, I warned Hagan that her phone might start to ring a little more often and that her inbox might fill up with notes from well-wishers. It happens. And it happened. But I didn't see this coming:

Students wrote Hagan congratulatory notes.
/ Courtesy of Sarah Hagan
Courtesy of Sarah Hagan
Students wrote Hagan congratulatory notes.

Drumright didn't just throw Hagan a party to celebrate her teaching. They declared May 6, 2015, "Sarah Hagan Day" and gave her a key to the city. A key, I should say, that's almost as big as she is. It's better that she couldn't keep it; it wouldn't have fit in her house.

The assembly at Drumright High School was no small affair. According to Hagan's account, the superintendent kicked things off with a little speech, followed by a read through Hagan's biography courtesy of the city manager. Then, remarks from the mayor. And desserts, lots of desserts.

For all of you teachers out there, working long hours and doing good work that few people but your students and fellow teachers notice, take heart.

Because a teacher just got a key to the city.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Cory Turner reports and edits for the NPR Ed team. He's helped lead several of the team's signature reporting projects, including "The Truth About America's Graduation Rate" (2015), the groundbreaking "School Money" series (2016), "Raising Kings: A Year Of Love And Struggle At Ron Brown College Prep" (2017), and the NPR Life Kit parenting podcast with Sesame Workshop (2019). His year-long investigation with NPR's Chris Arnold, "The Trouble With TEACH Grants" (2018), led the U.S. Department of Education to change the rules of a troubled federal grant program that had unfairly hurt thousands of teachers.
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