State Educator Named Oklahoman Of The Year

altOKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma Today, the magazine of Oklahoma since 1956, has named Oklahoma Assistant State Superintendent of Education Dr. Ramona Ware (Emmons) Paul as the Oklahoman of the Year for 2009. Randy Krehbiel’s feature story on Dr. Paul is in the January/February 2010 issue.

 Paul received the honor for developing the nation’s leading early childhood education program, according to the magazine.

“Ramona Paul is the first educator and the first Oklahoma state employee to be named Oklahoman of the Year,” said Oklahoma Today editor in chief Louisa McCune-Elmore. “Her vision and achievement have put Oklahoma in the limelight of early childhood education progress. To say that she has created a better future for Oklahoma is an understatement, and we believe telling her story is a step toward creating the best schools in our nation. There can be no doubt that our state’s four and five year olds are lucky children indeed.”

Dr. Paul began working on developing Oklahoma’s public early childhood system nearly 30 years ago, and she continues that work today. Oklahoma ranks No. 1 in the nation for early childhood education, both in number of children served and the quality of its programs, which require a certified teacher and adherence to the state’s core curriculum. Rutgers University’s National Institute for Early Education Research has rated Oklahoma’s early childhood education programs number one in the nation for six consecutive years. Moreover, an ongoing Georgetown University study shows the programs help to close achievement gaps and increase all students’ readiness for reading.

To date, nearly 73 percent of all Oklahoma four year olds are voluntarily enrolled in the state’s publicly funded pre-Kindergarten programs, and about half of those enrolled are being served in full-day programs.

“We are excited Dr. Paul has been selected for Oklahoman of the Year,” said Oklahoma State Superintendent Sandy Garrett. “For nearly 20 years, I’ve seen firsthand the passion and professionalism of this extremely knowledgeable educator and innovative change agent.”

 Garrett added, “Ramona has worked steadfastly behind the scenes and is deserving of this honor. She has been the engine that has kept our state on track and on task for adding an entire grade to its publicly funded school system. Ramona and I are frequently requested to present to policy makers in other states and countries about Oklahoma’s early learning success.”

 Paul said she was humbled the honor of being Oklahoma Today’s 2009 Oklahoman of the Year. Working to develop a quality early childhood education system in Oklahoma has been a calling, but she said it has been a calling she has shared with many, including State Superintendent Sandy Garrett, Governor Brad Henry and first lady Kim Henry, businessman and philanthropist George Kaiser, former governors and many others.

“I’m thrilled by this honor, but Oklahoma’s success with early childhood education has been a team effort including many people over three decades,” Dr. Paul said. “To see the vision all of us have been working toward and dreaming about become reality is rewarding. Helping children to develop a love of learning and experience the wonder of academic curiosity from an early age will reap huge dividends not only for them, but also for our state.”