Freeman, Kellys, and Mueller Inducted into BPSF Educator Hall of Fame

posted Apr 15, 2016, 3:50 AM by District Webmaster   [ updated Apr 15, 2016, 4:34 AM ]

On April 14, 2016 the Bartlesville Public School Foundation inducted its seventh class of honorees into its Educator Hall of Fame. Outstanding former teachers Kathleen Freeman, Joan and Jack Kelly, and Susan Mueller were honored for their service in Bartlesville Public Schools.

BPSF Hall of Fame Induction Panorama

The Induction Breakfast was held at 7 a.m. at the Bartlesville Community Center, with the Community Hall filled with tables sponsored by community members and organizations. The event is a major fundraiser for the Bartlesville Public School Foundation, which funds grants to teachers in the public schools for professional development, classroom materials and equipment, and to bring experts into the schools for face-to-face interactions with students. The foundation has funded well over two million dollars in creative projects outside of traditional sources since it was founded in 1985.

State Academic Champion Volleyball Team

The event began with Nancy Lyn Magee, the President of the Foundation, introducing the members of the Bruins Girls Volleyball Team, who were the 2015-2016 Academic State Champions in their sport.

Steve Bradshaw, Bank of Oklahoma CEO
The guest speaker for the event was Mr. Steve Bradshaw, CEO of the Bank of Oklahoma, and graduate of elementary and middle schools in Bartlesville and Bartlesville's Sooner High School. Mr. Bradshaw was introduced by his childhood friend, Rick Johnson, who teaches science at Madison Middle School. Mr. Bradshaw had fun pointing out that he was in the Sooner High class of 1978, not 1975 as shown in the program, protesting that he was not a child prodigy. He shared the story of his progress in banking, including the various setbacks he faced and how he persevered and took advantage of opportunities, learning from mentor George Kaiser.

Steve Martin with Kathleen Freeman

Hall of Fame inductee Kathleen Freeman, who taught at Oak Park Elementary for 27 years, was introduced by Steve Martin, former member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives. Mr. Martin highlighted how Ms. Freeman "straightened the bent twig" of his young and challenging son when he was in her first grade class at Oak Park, making a lasting difference in his life as she similarly influenced generations of children at that school.

Marilyn Blackburn with Joan and James Kelly

Inductees Joan and Jack Kelly, with their son James accepting the award on behalf of Jack, were introduced by Marilyn Blackburn. She shared the story of how in 1976 they came out of retirement and brought their style of teaching honed in small rural schools to Bartlesville's Jane Phillips and Woodrow Wilson elementary schools, investing in their students in the city for a decade, with Jack later serving as the district's transportation supervisor.

Nathan Christensen introduces Susan Mueller

Susan Mueller, the final inductee of this class, was introduced by her former student Nathan Christensen. He wittily shared how in his one year in her choir program, Ms. Mueller was an inspirational influence on him as she has been for so many students and community members over the years. Ms. Mueller gave a sincere and passionate speech about the importance of public schools and how Oklahomans like her know how to overcome adversities, such as those threatening vocal music programs across the state in its current school funding crisis.

Susan Mueller speaking about public schools

The school district is extremely fortunate to have the support of the Bartlesville Public School Foundation and is grateful for the outstanding service of these former educators.

Recent Grants

Classroom Grants for Teachers
funding new and innovative approaches to education
2013-2014: 13 grants totaling $16,933.36
2014-2015: 12 grants totaling $12,430.79
2015-2016: 18 grants totaling $19,267.68

Experts in Residence
brings professionals to the classroom to share their experiences directly with students
2014-2015: 3 grants totaling $12,900
2015-2016: 4 grants totaling $6,200

Professional Growth
allows certified teachers and principals to enhance their instruction and management skills by attending national, regional, and state professional development conferences and workshops
2013-2014: 9 grants totaling $16,799.76
2014-2015: 10 grants totaling $17,011.55
2015-2016: 5 grants totaling $9,917.15

BPSF Hall of Fame Sponsors

$10,000 Matching Grant
Truity Education Foundation & BPS Foundation; awarded to Ranch Heights Elementary

Hall of Fame Event Sponsor
Truity Education Foundation

Corporate Sponsors
Truity Credit Union

Administration/School Board Sponsors
Charles and Corky Bowerman

School Table Sponsors
Various sponsors paid for tables for schools and related groups in the district, allowing some staff members and others to attend the event:
  • BancFirst - Woodrow Wilson Elementary
  • Ford & Vanessa Drummond - Bartlesville High School
  • Caughell Rodgers Investments - Bartlesville High School
  • Meszaros/Covell families - Bartlesville High School
  • Public Service of Oklahoma - Bartlesville High School Volleyball
  • Keleher Outdoor Advertising, Inc. - Hoover Elementary
  • Safari Smiles - Wayside Elementary
  • Mr. and Mrs. Glenn Cox - Jane Phillips Elementary
  • Sen. John Ford - Jane Phillips Elementary
  • Bryan, Little, Haley and Kent - Jane Phillips Elementary
  • Mr. and Mrs. Mark Haskell - Madison Middle School
  • Bill Beierschmitt - Madison Middle School
  • Rep. Earl Sears - Central Middle School
  • Green Country Dental Arts - Central Middle School
  • Tom & Jana Gorman - Richard Kane Elementary
  • Dr. and Mrs. Oliver - Ranch Heights Elementary
  • Rep. Travis Dunlap, Sen. John Ford, and Rep. Earl Sears - Washington County Retired Teachers
Honor Roll Sponsors
Bennett Vision
Marilyn Blackburn
Mia Hughes
Ron & Lisa Kennedy
Preston & Jessica Birk
Nancy Megee
Sheila Stephenson
Bruce and Frankie Sievers
American Heritage Bank
Ginger Griffin

Music courtesy of Bartlesville High School Music Department
Flowers provided by Evans Nursery

Educator Hall of Fame Committees

Mia Hughes, Chair
Bill Beierschmitt
Marilyn Blackburn
Spencer King
Granger Meador
Earl Sears
Stevie Williams

Event Committee:
Lisa Kennedy, Chair
Jessica Birk
Marilyn Blackburn
Cheryl Cowles
Kimberly Doenges
Lesley Farr
Mia Hughes
Janie Keleher
Stevie Williams
Sherri Wilt

David Austin, Chair
Jamye Ryan

BPSF Committees

Experts in Residence: Sara Freeman, Chair
Professional Growth: Lesley Farr, Chair
Classroom Grants: Sheila Stephenson, Chair
Fund Management: Sonya Reed, Chair
Governance: Blair Ellis, Chair
Strategic Goals: Lisa Henthorne, Chair
Publicity: Granger Meador, Website Designer

BPS Foundation Board of Trustees

Nancy Lyn Megee, President
Justin Krebbs, Vice President
Blair Ellis, Secretary
Sara Meszaros, Treasurer
Jessica Birk, School Liaison

Marilyn Blackburn
Kay Bjornen
Jacqueline Bulleigh
Jody Burch
Lesley Farr
Sara Freeman
Ginger Griffin
Lisa Henthorne
Lisa Kennedy
Matt Krieger
Janice Leonard
Sonya Reed
Brian Saltzman
Frankie Sievers
Sheila Stephenson

Dr. Gary Quinn, Superintendent of Schools
Alison Clark, Board of Education
Ariel Ortega, Teacher of the Year Representative

Kathleen Freeman, Susan Mueller, Joan Kelly, and James Kelly (representing Jack Kelly)



Kathleen Freeman and her students

Kathleen Freeman knew at an early age that she wanted to become a teacher one day. “As a farm girl in Labette County, Kansas, I became quite involved in 4-H and attended a leadership camp,” says Freeman. “I discovered that I had some talent for leading and teaching younger children and providing the pizzazz needed to engage their imaginations.”

She definitely went the extra mile to provide such pizzazz. Throughout her 33-year career as a first-grade teacher, Freeman loved unleashing her students’ imagination by creating dramatic settings to drum up ideas for their creative writing.
Freeman enlisted the assistance of parents, fellow teachers, and her principals to create such extravagant events. One year, she wanted to simulate an alien landing on the playground.

She devised a group and they met one Sunday afternoon to prepare the landing site for a space ship. “A weed-eater, gold spray, glitter, lava rocks sprayed with fluorescent paint, gold moon rocks and parts of an old lawn mower sprayed gold and black created the setting,” she said.

“We trimmed the grass in a very large circle to form the landing pad and used a blow torch to blacken the grass. Giant footprints were made with yellow paint, and gold rocks were scattered over the playground. The rest was left to the imagination of the kids.”

The result according to Freeman, was nothing short of magnificent. “Language expression, fantastic art in many media, and creative writing like never before came forth from our students.”

Freeman began her career as a first-grade teacher in Oswego, Kansas. Six years later, she and her husband, Jerry, moved to Bartlesville when he accepted a position with Phillips 66. 

She then spent the remainder of her teaching career at Oak Park Elementary School, 27 years. At Oak Park, she started a summer reading program. Through the program, teachers volunteered one day a week during the summer months to work with students in an effort to increase their reading competency. 

“I had a great support system at Oak Park with the principals, teachers and parents,” says Freeman. “I cannot say enough about the parents – I couldn’t have done it without them. I really enjoyed working there.”

Throughout her career, Freeman was nominated three times for Bartlesville Teacher of the Year. She was also one of the teachers who designed, built, and taught in the one-room school that was created for the Bartlesville Centennial celebration. The project, which was sponsored by the Washington County Retired Educators, provided all third grade classes in Bartlesville with an opportunity to participate in learning in a one-room school. 

In 1990, Freeman retired from Oak Park Elementary. She has spent her days of retirement filled with volunteering, hobbies, church activities, and spending time with her daughter and grandson. 

“Teaching first grade was full of challenges and achievements,” she says. “I feel fortunate that I enjoyed going to work every day to a job that was satisfying and fulfilling.”

Ms. Freeman designated that the $1,000 award on her behalf go to Woodrow Wilson Elementary School, which now serves the Oak Park neighborhood.

Joan Kelly


Over three decades, Jack and Joan Kelly spent their professional life teaching students in northeastern Oklahoma. The couple, married for 57 years, both shared a passion for education and felt that being a teacher is the most rewarding occupation possible.

Jack Kelly
Jack and Joan Kelly were inducted into the Bartlesville Public School Foundation’s Educator Hall of Fame on Thursday, April 14. The couple’s son, James, accepted the honor on behalf of his father Jack. Jack passed away on May 4, 2015. He was 83 years-old.

“He loved children,” says Joan Kelly. “He related to them well. Jack never met a stranger. He was a card and I think that is part of what made him a great teacher.”

Jack and Joan Kelly met in college at Northeastern State University. He graduated with a major in industrial arts, she majored in business education and elementary education.

Prior to his college career, Jack served in the United States Navy. He served his country from 1951 – 1954. 

The couple moved to the area in 1957 and were married the following year. Joan began work at Phillips 66 as a secretary, a position she would hold for two years.

Jack on the other hand, decided to get a provisional certificate so he could teach. 

“A position at Wann Elementary School came open for a fifth and sixth grade teacher,” said Joan. Jack applied for, and received the job, and according to Joan, “he was hooked.”

“From the very beginning, he absolutely loved it,” says Joan. “He went back to school in the summer to get his teaching certificate. He worked on it for at least three or four summers.”

Jack then went on to obtain his Master of Education in 1961.

Joan began her teaching career in 1959 as a first grade teacher. She too was teaching at Wann Elementary School.

Over the years, the couple worked at Wann, Childers, and Oglesby schools. They taught together at Oglesby Elementary School for 15 years.

The rural schools were always a fit for the Kelly’s, as they both grew up in rural Oklahoma towns. Jack was born in Morris, Oklahoma and graduated from Okmulgee High School in 1950. Joan was born in Okay, Oklahoma and attended Okay Schools where she graduated in 1953. 

After their time with Oglesby Schools, the couple felt it was time to retire. However, not very long after they made that decision, the teaching bug bit them again. It was at this time that Jack and Joan Kelly started teaching for the Bartlesville Public School District.

They came to Bartlesville Schools in 1976, and the couple that was ready to retire, would be devoting another ten years to education with Bartlesville Schools.

Jack taught at Jane Phillips Elementary, while Joan taught at Wilson Elementary. Together, they had over 60 years of teaching experience. Furthermore, after his ten years at Jane Phillips Elementary, Jack went on to work four years as the transportation supervisor for Bartlesville Schools.

Jack and Joan Kelly knew what it meant to be public servants, and they filled the role well with their service in education.

“It was a joy to teach,” said Joan. “The younger students were always eager to learn. It was always so rewarding to see students excited when they grasped a new concept.”

However, it is running into past students that Joan Kelly finds most memorable about her teaching career.

“When I see former students out in the world exceling, it is rewarding to know that you could have been a part of it,” she says.

Outside of teaching, Jack and Joan Kelly continued their service to others. Jack, who was extremely talented at woodworking, made knives. He also made jewelry for the Tuesday House.

Joan still today works at her church and volunteers at Agape Mission once a month. She gardens and enjoys raising African violets.

Joan designated that the $1,000 award from the BPSF on behalf of her and Jack be split with $500 going to Woodrow Wilson Elementary School and $500 to Jane Phillips Elementary School.

Susan Mueller


The Bartlesville Public School Foundation sang the praises of longtime choir teacher, Susan Mueller, at this year’s Educator Hall of Fame Induction ceremony. 

Mueller comes from a family of educators. Her parents, Lois Epperley and Glenn B. Epperley, were the first ones in their families to go to college and earn their degrees in education. She has two brothers who were also educators – Cecil, who coached at College High for many years, and Barry, who taught until he entered the army through the Oklahoma State ROTC program and came out a second lieutenant.

Her love for music came at an early age, as her father was the choir director for Stillwater High School throughout his career. 

“It’s crazy to say, but I truly knew what I wanted to be when I was just six or seven years old,” says Mueller. “I always loved music and wanted to share my passion with others.”

In 1969, the Epperley family moved to Bartlesville and Susan graduated high school the following year. She went on to earn her Bachelors in Music Education at Oklahoma State University, and continued her education at Southern Methodist University earning a Master’s in Music and Choral Conducting.

1975 was a defining year in Mueller’s life – she married her husband, Stan, and began her first teaching position at Jenks High School. Also during this time, she worked at Tulsa Junior College and Oral Roberts University teaching piano and mass choir. 

In 1980, her husband was hired on at Phillips 66 and the couple moved back to Bartlesville. The couple also now had their firstborn son, Jake. A few years later, their second son, Scott, was born. 

At this time, Susan began teaching choir at Bartlesville Wesleyan College. She also taught voice lessons and method classes in her spare time. Mueller remained at Bartlesville Wesleyan College until the music program closed in 1987.

It was then that Susan Mueller began her career with Bartlesville High School. Under Mueller’s direction, the choir, and the Bartlesville High School Fine Arts program, would grow tremendously through the years.

In her first year at Bartlesville High School, Mueller had 36 students enrolled in the choir program. “We were in room 108 at the high school,” she says. “It was a small room – a small group of kids, and they were great kids, but we were growing. Shortly, we grew to 80 and then 100. We had outgrown the room.”

The program was moved to the old auditorium in order make room for all the students wanting to participate in choir. This would be the home for the choir program until the Fine Arts Center was built in 2004, which Mueller says is the proudest moment of her career.

“So many people worked hard to make the Fine Arts Center a reality,” she says. “The whole process was wonderful. The construction company sat down with each of the Fine Arts teachers individually and asked what we wanted for the new building. It was a collaborative effort and the teachers were involved in every aspect of the process.”

Mueller recounts the opening ceremony for the new Fine Arts Center and paints a beautiful picture.

“The choir, brass, strings, dancers – everyone together performing Gloria by John Rutter,” she says. “Every department within the Fine Arts program had a role in the ceremony – even down to the smallest detail. The art department painted the tops of the dancers’ leotards to represent a respective Fine Arts department – it was amazing. All of us within the department had been scattered throughout the school for many years and to see this collaboration in full-force to represent the opening of the Fine Arts Center was truly special.”

Other memorable moments for Mueller throughout the years include the musicals they performed. “They were tremendously stressful, but I loved it,” she says. “Ricky Newkirk (former Fine Arts Center manager) would design sets that were so beautiful it would bring me to tears.”

She also made great memories for her students. Every couple of years, Mueller would work the song In Solemn Silence into her programs, so she could be assured that every student knew the words to the song. Her students would perform In Solemn Silence, which means “Prayer of Peace,” whenever tragedy would strike – 9/11, the Oklahoma City bombing, etc.

“Music provides a way to express emotions,” says Mueller. “I still have students reach out to me today saying when tragedy struck, the words of In Solemn Silence went through my head.”

Perhaps the most fun memory for Mueller’s choir students is the last day of school. Each year, on the last day of school, the students gather around Mueller and her piano and request songs. They spend the final day of the year singing, laughing and enjoying their last day with a special teacher.

“I loved my career,” says Mueller. “I loved teaching, I loved the faculty, and I loved the kids I worked with.”

Mrs. Mueller designated that the $1,000 award from the BPSF on her behalf go to the district's vocal music program.

Susan Mueller and students