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Persistence pays off as Petty wins OPSA Teacher of the Year award

November 17, 2023

DURANT, Okla. – Southeastern Oklahoma State University assistant professor of political science Dr. Sondra Petty is the winner of the 2023 Teacher of the Year award from the Oklahoma Political Science Association, as announced at its annual conference this month.

The Teacher of the Year is awarded annually and “honors current instructional faculty of any institutions of higher education in Oklahoma who display exemplary skills in teaching political science classes.” Petty was nominated by fellow Southeastern instructor of political science Conner Alford, who currently serves as president of the OPSA and was the recipient of this award in 2020.

Petty’s teaching philosophy, when it comes to government and politics, is to, first, present the material students must have in order to master the learning objectives for the American Federal Government general education course that the state requires for graduation.

“More importantly, I want them to understand why the myriad of facts they have to learn will be important to them long after they have moved on from Southeastern,” Petty said. “If I don’t help them see a connection between their own lives and the laws, regulations, and court decisions produced by our government, the only thing they’ll leave SE with is a few factoids they can use in a game of Trivial Pursuit.”

Petty also conveys to her students the importance of persisting in degree progress.

“It took a long time for me to complete my education.  Like many of our students, no one in my family had a college education. In fact, my mother only finished eighth grade. I come from a low-income family, and I didn’t have a lot of prospects for a successful life. I was very fortunate to get the opportunity to finish school and I took full advantage of it.  I got lucky and had a math teacher who took an interest in me and taught me the art of working the story problem, which I was convinced I could never do because I was always told I wasn’t good at math – not true.  

“I graduated cum laude with a B.S. in Economics & Finance and a Master of Public Affairs from UT Dallas before getting a doctorate at Oklahoma.  I use my background, which isn’t at all impressive by any means, to encourage my students to work hard and stay in school.  Finish!  I always warn them that the “semester off” can easily turn into ten years away from school.  If I can save one student per semester from losing their momentum and dropping out of school, I feel like I’ve accomplished something important.”