Southwest Oklahoma's Resource For News and Entertainment
Thursday September 21st 2017

DANA MOORE: TEACHING WITH LAUGHTER AND LOVE

Her kindergarten classroom was a cacophony of primary colors, and in a bright pink blazer, Woodland Hills Elementary teacher Dana Moore was imbuing an otherwise busy day with a moment of tranquility.

Students were finishing their handwriting assignment, and as her young charges were turning in their work, Moore took to calling them her friends. She gave them reminders in a gentle, authoritative tone, and before the bell rang to dismiss them for the day, they sang a song about learning together.

She can trace a family tree among the students she has known during her tenure at Woodland Hills. She went to school there as a child, and now into her twentieth year teaching there, Moore said she feels at home.

“I think I grew up here,” Moore said. “This year, I have a grand-kindergartener: one of my students that I had in my very first year of teaching here has a child that is in my class now. I think I am officially old now.”

Though she has been fond of babysitting and tutoring young children since volunteering as a teenager, it would take Moore much longer before she knew she was meant to teach. She was working at a bank that was offering to cover her tuition if she chose to enter the profession, but she knew it was not the career for her before the classes began.

“It only took me enrolling in banking courses to go, ‘this is not what I what to do,’” Moore said. “I had family and friends that were elementary school teachers. I had been able to go with them over the summer to decorate their classrooms, and I thought ‘I love that.’ So I enrolled, and it was magic.”

Earning a handful of degrees from Cameron University did not diminish the enchantment that education held for Moore, either: she has a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education, a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and she went on to receive a Master of Early Childhood Education, and a Master of  Educational Leadership.

She became an LPS teacher during the 1994 – 95 school year and has spent her entire career at Woodland Hills.

In 2008, Moore began teaching courses in Early Childhood Educations at Western Oklahoma State College in Altus.

Her dedication has not gone without notice. Moore was named the Lawton Teacher of the Year for 2013 in April, and after receiving the honor on a local level, she was given statewide consideration. According to press releases, LPS has had several state teacher finalists over the years, most recently in 2005 when Jim Calaway advanced to the final group, but only once has the Oklahoma State Teacher of the Year- Ed Hennessee in 1968- come from Lawton. Moore was chosen from over 500 submissions to be a finalist for the state title after submitting a portfolio, a biography and a video. Asking her colleagues for assistance was difficult, Moore said, but hearing their responses moved her.

“We love kudos just like the kids do, but it is very hard for me to ask parents and colleagues to talk about me,” Moore said. “I didn’t know what the kids said because the videographer pulled them out of the classroom, but when I saw the video, I just bawled.”

Her commitment to her class has been apparent to others since the beginning.

“My husband knows he married me and the school,” Moore said with a laugh. “We got engaged during my first year of teaching, and he is well aware of what all I go through each night during the school year and what I do during the summer. Anyone who says summers are off for teachers is crazy.”

She strives to do as much as she can for each child. With a focus on developmental appropriateness, Moore remains vigilant in assessing the needs of each individual student in her classroom. But whereas some of her students read with ease, others are learning what the sight of simple words looks like. To complicate matters further, what she taught kindergartners twenty years ago no longer suffices for current curriculum standards.

Devising lesson plans that meet these stringent requirements while reaching her students can be frustrating, Moore said, but she does what she can.

“For some of my kids, that is really overwhelming because they did not go to Pre-K,” Moore said. “I still have to make it work in the classroom and to make it fair.”

Moore engages her students in a variety of activities to ensure that they are constantly learning. Because there is a connection between reading and singing words, Moore said she will often put her records on for her students.

“If we can sing it, we can read it,” Moore said. “I love what I do, and I think that enthusiasm comes through with the kids. There will always be frustrating days; as teachers, there is a lot put on us to make sure that the kids learn what they need to learn.”

Maintaining her resolve also meant fighting breast cancer. Receiving the diagnosis three years ago was devastating, Moore said, and while her doctor went on to discuss available treatment options like radiation and chemotherapy, all she could think about was her children. 

“I didn’t understand what all of that was, and I just started crying. ‘What about my kids?’ I said. ‘What about all of my kids? My classroom kids?’” she said. “It was really tough, but as I went through the process of going to hospitals and having surgeries and chemo, the parents and grandparents that I had had over the years were now my nurses, my doctors and my pharmacists. It was amazing.”

Speaking to her students about the disease as her strength began to falter was difficult, but when she lost her hair, her students were there for her.

“I came back to school the next day with a wig, and the kids said, ‘oh, your hair looks so pretty!’ But for me, it was itchy, so I would move it and the kids would just giggle and laugh. They loved it. The only way I got through it was with humor and their love—I didn’t have time to cry. There was too much joy and hope and enthusiasm in here.”

Her students taught her as much as Moore taught them, and she cites their smiling faces as her motivation to return to her classroom.

“I love being here. This is home to me,” Moore said. “This is where God needs me to be; this is where I needed to be.”