As of Tuesday, Keystone Lake was 34 feet above normal. Reports showed water flowing at a rate of 290,481 cubic feet per second into the lake and 275,000 cfs out of the lake via Keystone Dam. Pictures and video of the flood waters are both stunning and heart-breaking. There are no words to comfort a home or business owner whose roof top is all that can be seen poking out from above water. The losses of personal keepsakes and treasures just continue to grow as people are evacuated to safety, be it to stay with family and friends or in a shelter, often leaving so much behind. Let’s keep our friends and neighbors in our thoughts and prayers as the week’s forecast suggests even more rain is on its way. Borrowing from the quote shown at right, in a time of destruction, think of something constructive you can do to help someone who has been dealt a blow by this flooding tragedy.

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 School’s out for summer!

 Actually, it has been out for more than two weeks now, but I’m just getting around to writing about it.

 Summer has new meaning...a new purpose for me. You may or may not know (or even care, for that matter), but I returned to school this past term — as both a teacher and a student.

 I’ve been behind the editor’s desk at this newspaper for nearly 35 years. I’m not giving up that post yet, but my time and capabilities at the news office have been limited due to the teaching job. So, summer is providing some catch-up time, plus an opportunity to plan for a big fall celebration as we mark The American’s 100th anniversary.

 Because the newspaper industry has been dealing with issues brought about by substantial changes in society’s news and advertising habits over the past few years, I decided if I still wanted to eat (and I do!!) I needed to find another steady flow of income. So, I am seeking alternative certification to be a teacher and was one of hundreds hired throughout Oklahoma last year under emergency certification.

 Before I stepped into my eighth grade U.S. History classroom, I was fortunate enough to be among the first class of a Teacher’s Institute under the auspices of the Teaching and Leading Initiative of Oklahoma. This included a cram-packed summer course and ongoing personal coaching throughout the school year operated by a team of top notch and uniquely gifted educators. Plus, like others hired in similar circumstances, I’m required to take various college courses and complete some intense test-taking within a particular amount of time in order to achieve the alternative certification goal.

 So, while I completed my first year of teaching, I was very much a student myself.  But, besides “book smarts,” I was learning something else: I was surrounded by a group of wonderful educators who always — always — put their students and the needs of their students first.

 I never doubted this to be the case, but to experience it first hand has been a blessing of encouragement. I have long supported teachers and have written in this very spot about the strength of teachers who I considered very special while growing up. I was impacted in many positive ways by teachers and now have an opportunity to pay that forward.

 I’m frequently asked if I enjoy teaching and answer each time with a resounding, “YES!” It seems a natural fit for me and some days left me wondering if I should have ventured off this direction long before now.

 What this ‘change in life’ allows me to tell others is that it’s truly never too late to do something completely different with your life. Your choice may be far different from my own, but if you find yourself in a situation where change appears to be unavoidable, don’t hesitate to follow your heart. I’m reminded often of just how quickly time passes and with those fleeting days go opportunities if you don’t reach out and grab them.

 In my case, I’ve grabbed the Tiger by the tail and am learning to communicate with a generation made up of technology experts with few admitting to ever reading a newspaper.  I’m not there to convince them otherwise, but do make mention now and then when I know they can see their name or picture in the local news.

 I’m thankful for the teachers who have welcomed me into their fold, as it’s a place I’m honored to be, rubbing shoulders with some of the best. I’ve had many questions and concerns through the beginning of this process and always easily found an educator who was happy to help me or answer a question. I’m thankful for that.

 My own eighth grade social studies teacher, Mrs. Hazel Peterson, always reminded us to, “Learn! Don’t memorize!” In other words, don’t waste your time memorizing facts for a test. Once the test is over, you’ll forget everything. Mrs. Peterson wanted us to digest and understand the material in order to take it with us when we left her class. It was as if that memory was challenging me as I first stood and looked out over my classroom. No doubt about it, my students have her to thank for all that they learned this year!

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