STATEMENT FROM OKLAHOMA EDUCATORS HALL OF FAME For nearly 40 years, the Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame has celebrated those who have dedicated their lives to Oklahoma’s children and their futures. We honor their expertise, commitment, sacrifice, leadership, and service every year. We will continue to do so.
Since the non-profit organization’s incorporation in 1984, OEHF has partnered with the Oklahoma State Department of Education to honor and recognize these individuals who collectively represent the best of a noble profession.
State schools Superintendent Ryan Walters recently ordered the removal of the portraits of Hall of Fame inductees from a corridor of the state Education Department. We read through the media that he referred derisively to the inductees as “union bosses” and “bureaucrats.” He made this change without notice to the Hall of Fame, which retains ownership of the portraits. The inductees or the persons who nominate them pay for the portraits, and the Hall of Fame has them framed professionally for display.
We have reached out to Superintendent Walters and the state Education Department for conversation. We respect his commitment to parents and students. Every educator knows that education is most effective when it is a partnership between schools, educators, families, students and the community.
We are hopeful a dialogue will result in Mr. Walters’ reconsidering his decision, and that he will place the portraits on display at a location in the Oliver Hodge Building (named for an inductee) that is accessible and visible to the public and honorees’ families, that will protect the craftsmanship of the portraits, and that will dignify the honorees’ individual and collective service to Oklahoma.
We firmly believe it’s possible to honor and recognize parents, students and esteemed educators who spent their professional lives working with and for young Oklahomans.
Over the years of selecting honorees, OEHF selection committees have engaged in vigorous debate over nominees. The beauty of the Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame is that it’s never been about political leanings but rather how nominees have advanced education and served Oklahoma.
Collectively, Hall of Fame honorees have served tens of thousands of Oklahoma students in pre-K-12, career technology, and higher education. They have broken racial barriers, shattered glass ceilings, challenged the status quo, changed hearts, and filled many, many young minds with the confidence they needed to pursue their hopes and dreams. Many of their names are found in Oklahoma history books and on buildings throughout the state.
Many inductees are no longer with us, but their colleagues, former students and families hold their loved one’s Hall of Fame induction as a cherished memory and evidence of an enduring legacy. That legacy and history are part of us as a state and as an education community.
The Hall of Fame inductees earned this recognition over decades of service. The very least we can do is honor them in a manner befitting their leadership, service, and legacy.
For additional information, contact OEHF President Eugene Earsom or Executive Director Sharon Lease.
Hall of Fame Announces 2022 Inductees A trio of Oklahoma educators whose dedication to public education has benefited generations of Oklahoma children have been selected for induction into the prestigious Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame.
Weldon Davis, H.J. Green, and David Pennington will be honored at a Nov. 4 induction ceremony at Oklahoma City Golf and Country Club.
“Our 35th class of hall of fame honorees served the state in so many different ways but always focused on ensuring the success of Oklahoma students,” Sharon Lease, executive director of the Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame, said. “They are the type of educators we should all aspire to be, and we’re thrilled to recognize their incredible contributions.”
Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame President Eugene Earsom also lauded the honorees.
“It is heartwarming and appropriate to honor these three whose devotion to the teaching profession has been so admirable and accomplished,” Earsom said. “This year’s inductees collectively have more than a century of dedication to achieving a first-class quality education for every student in Oklahoma.”
Davis’ education career began small, teaching elementary and junior high students in Barnsdall. Returning to his hometown of Lawton, he spent two decades as a teacher, counselor and adjunct professor. During his time in Lawton, Davis grew into a formidable public education advocate, while rising to president of the Lawton Association of Classroom Teachers.
He left Lawton schools for the halls of the state Capitol as the first multi-year Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) president. During his six years as OEA president, Davis traveled statewide to fight for public education. He provided advocacy opportunities to teachers, recruited and campaigned for pro-public education legislative candidates, and deftly navigated Capitol politics to help secure new state revenue for schools and better retirement benefits for teachers.
Davis’ career came full circle when he returned to the schoolhouse, closing out a distinguished education career with 16 years at Oklahoma City Public Schools, including the last six as principal at Northwest Classen High School. Even in retirement, Davis remains a fierce public education advocate through leadership positions with the Oklahoma Retired Educators Association.
“The breadth of Weldon’s career and educational influence is staggering,” Kenya Kraft and Joe Wynn wrote in Davis’ nomination. “He has impacted countless lives ... and has consistently been recognized as a trusted voice for education in our state.”
Pennington’s four-decade career in Oklahoma education likewise had rural roots that eventually carried him to the national stage. After teaching and coaching in Kansas and Bristow, Pennington began his career as an administrator with building and central office positions in Bristow. He began the first of two superintendencies in Blackwell in 1995, and, in 2004, he accepted the position of Ponca City Public Schools superintendent where he served for 13 years. His leadership in Ponca City was marked by progressive initiatives to modernize the educational experience for students and for staff professional development. Pennington was deeply involved in a number of civic endeavors and his peers selected him to serve in statewide leadership roles with the Oklahoma Association of School Administrators (OASA). His time with the OASA also led to service opportunities at the national level, where he served for more than a decade with the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), including as AASA president in 2014-2015. Pennington was named OASA District 4 Superintendent of the Year four times and was honored with OASA’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019. AASA also recognized Pennington for distinguished service in 2017. Since his retirement from Ponca City in 2017, he has continued to serve as executive director of the United Suburban Schools Association.
In nominating Pennington for the Hall of Fame honor, Guthrie Public Schools Superintendent Mike Simpson reflected on Pennington’s impact and the respect he has within the education community.
“I have personally witnessed his service to students of Oklahoma in the districts he served,” Simpson said. “His mentorship has built countless other educational leaders, impacting instruction in Oklahoma for generations.”
From start to finish, change has been a hallmark of Green’s career path. While he hails from tiny Wakita, Oklahoma, the story of his education career has an urban foundation that led to a lifetime of work focused on high school reform. Green’s early career in Tulsa Public Schools aligned with desegregation efforts, and his leadership as Booker T. Washington High School’s principal helped establish the school’s cutting-edge specialized curriculum as part of a voluntary integration plan at the all-Black school. During his eight years as the school’s principal, he was named one of the 60 most effective high school principals by the National Association of Secondary School Principals and was eventually inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame.
Green’s experience as a football player at Oklahoma State University and as a high school coach served him well when he served for three years as executive director of the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association. However, his focus wasn’t just athletics. Green helped establish a statewide academic bowl and, under his leadership, OSSAA began awarding academic state championships for athletic teams. After years serving as an administrator in California, Green returned to Oklahoma in 2008 to serve as Tulsa’s deputy superintendent and turnaround officer under former superintendent Keith Ballard.
Green is also well known for a three-decade-long career as a high school and collegiate football and basketball referee. He has served on boards for several nonprofits in Oklahoma and California, including the Oklahoma Educational Memorial Trust Foundation, the Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame (charter board member) and the National College Football Hall of Fame.
“It’s impossible to articulate the enormous impact of his work or the influence that he’s made on the lives of students and educators – not to mention Oklahoma history,” Kyle Dahlem wrote in nominating Green. “While other parts of the state and nation struggled to change the culture of schools, Tulsa put an integration plan in place and worked the plan all under the aegis of H.J. Green.”