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Altus teacher looks forward to Teacher of the Year competition

ALTUS, Okla._One day after learning he's a finalist for Oklahoma's Teacher of the Year award, James LeGrand of Altus High School said he hopes he can bring the top prize home and share it with his students.

Legrand teaches AP History, as well as courses on the Civil War, and the 1960's. He's been a teacher in Altus for 10 years. LeGrand said he's happy to become recognized for his passion, but he couldn't have done it without a little help from his students.

LeGrand said the first thrill came when he was named Teacher of the Year in Altus, but now that he's a finalist for the top award, he said he’s overwhelmed by the recognition and media coverage. Nonetheless, he said he's honored to be recognized for helping students thrive.

Those students are trying to return the favor for one of their favorite teachers; they created a video presentation to help him win the big award. The YouTube video his students made depicts their favorite things about being in one of LeGrand’s classes. One student said her favorite thing about LeGrand’s class was when he ties in stories with the lectures. Another student said his favorite part was the classroom dynamic.

LeGrand said he's proud of the impact he's made and that's why he chose to be a teacher.

"This is something I've had a love for since I was a little boy. My mom bought me a 1977 set of encyclopedias and I think I read them cover to cover. It was the Internet of its day," said LeGrand.

LeGrand says one of his favorite parts of U.S. history is the Lincoln administration and the Civil War. His classroom even features a "Lincoln corner."

To bring more realism to lessons about the Civil War battlefield, LeGrand explained that the class uses a processed cow leg to simulate an amputation. He shows kids that it was a common occurrence that when someone was hit with a bullet, they had to amputate the leg.

"We take a bone saw, so students get the opportunity to actually cut off a leg. The kids love it," said LeGrand.

He explained that it’s a vital part of his overall philosophy for being an effective teacher.

"Passion, partnership, and plan. You gotta have passion in anything to be successful. Planning is very important. You have to have a plan that you can implement, that kids can relate to. Finally, partnership. Teachers have to be able to work with administrators, have to be able to work with parents, and they have to be able to work with students," said LeGrand.

If he wins, some of the prizes would include a $1,000 gift card, a personalized Oklahoma City Thunder jersey and the use of a Ford vehicle for one year.

The winner will be announced at the state fair in Oklahoma City in September.


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