When Amanda Hendrix attended the Bartlesville Public School District’s third annual teacher awards ceremony in late April, she was relaxed—mostly, it turned out, because she thought she wasn’t going to win.
“They wanted someone to represent the Bartlesville Public School District in front of the entire state of Oklahoma. I’m not that girl!” Hendrix, an English teacher at Bartlesville High School and a 2013 graduate of OKWU’s Masters of Education program, said. “I had no idea. When they called my name, I was just shocked. I had no words.”
Words or not, it’s a poignant honor for Hendrix, who has dedicated her life to aiding students through education in the Bartlesville area, both as a teacher and as the Director of the Bartlesville Public School District’s Homeless Education Services.
A Passion to Serve
When Hendrix started her undergraduate studies at NSU, in Tahlequah, she already knew that she wanted to help students. High school had come during a difficult time in her life, and the educational system had always been a safe space. She wanted others to experience that same sense of safety, but she never expected to do it as a teacher.
“I thought I’d be a social worker, or maybe do family law,” she said. “But my first or second second semester of college, I took a world literature class… just seeing how much joy [the professor] had, it was like—I want to do that. Talk about good literature all day long with high school kids and help students in that way.”
Hendrix graduated with a Secondary English Education degree and began teaching tenth and eleventh grade English in Holbert, Oklahoma. She continued for the next few years at Tahlequah until she and her husband moved to Bartlesville in 2010. That’s when her passion for this community first flowered.
At first, she was only tangentially involved with the Bartlesville District, working as a tutor with the Homeless Education Services part-time, so she could raise her first child. When the role of Director eventually opened up, Hendrix took the job, serving for a number of years in that capacity. It was during this time that she began to seek out her master’s degree.
While she wasn’t familiar with OKWU before moving to Bartlesville, Hendrix soon found the M.Ed. program to be a perfect fit, moving through the eight-week classes with the same cohort.
“I really appreciated that the focus on educational training for leaders was all about servant leadership,” she said. “I really learned a lot from that, and I loved that approach to leading by serving… I feel like it helped me become a stronger teacher and leader and have more confidence in the classroom, leading my students by serving them.”
Back in the Classroom
While she wasn’t actively teaching while getting her master’s degree, Hendrix says that her M.Ed. inspired her to get back in the classroom—mostly because of the research component of her curriculum.
“We had to come up with a research project [in the program],” she said. “So I made my research project to improve the graduation rate of our homeless high school students. And that got me working a lot with high school kids again.”
Through her research—which included teaching life-skills classes and conducting monthly learning workshops with the students—she readjusted to life in the classroom. When she graduated from her master’s program, she took a spot teaching English at Bartlesville High School.
To Hendrix, the best part of her day-to-day work is the simple joy of aiding her students, especially with her older classes as they seek to form their opinions on important issues.
“They’re starting to question – Why do I believe this? This is what I’ve always believed, but why?” Hendrix said. “And having those conversations and seeing them change [is wonderful]—not to change their minds, that’s not my job, but to help them understand what it is they believe in, and to put that into words. That’s a lot of fun. And kids are just fun to talk to. Hilarious. They’re creative, they’re unique, and I love it.”
Hendrix lives in Bartlesville with her husband, Kyle, and their two children: Treyton and Austin.
Interested in learning more? Get more information on OKWU’s M.Ed. program here.