In Honor of Dr. Jean Cate

Dr. Cate is retiring after 45+ years as a distinguished educator.  During this time, she served in a variety of roles and in each role; she excelled in positively influencing her students, colleagues, and the communities they serve. Dr. Cate has shown dedication to her work and commitments with an intense effort to accomplish the goals, thus influencing the teaching and learning processes.

When she was beginning her teaching career as a middle and high school science teacher and exploring the ways to engage students in their learning, Dr. John (Jack) Renner, a former OU science education professor, had a major influence on her teaching through developing curricula and conducting research on student learning and effective science instruction.  While teaching biology in Norman Public Schools, she emphasized students constructing their own knowledge and developing a conceptual understanding.  During this period, Dr. Cate was one of the authors of the biology curriculum.  This curriculum became a model for developing science curriculum for Norman Public Schools’ secondary science courses. The biology program research findings were published in the American Biology Teacher; one of Dr. Cate’s many publications. In 2016, Oklahoma Science Teachers Association (OSTA) honored Dr. Cate with OSTA’s Jack Renner Distinguished Service to Oklahoma Science Education Award.

Later, Dr. Cate moved from the classroom to the district level to direct several different programs, such as, elementary science, K-12 computer literacy, outdoor/environmental education, and business and drug education. In each of these roles, she applied the same principles as in teaching and developed the people and resources, building strong programs for the students. She collaborated with the Science Director in efforts to improve elementary science learning and development of middle school curriculum.  In 1997, she became the Director of Curriculum and Instruction for pK-12 in Norman Public Schools. In this role, she continued her advocacy for building a collaborative learning environment that valued all of the stakeholders in creating strong educational programs.  In addition to directing district programs, she served as an elementary principal. 

In 2001, Dr. Cate left Norman Public Schools and began her work with Dr. Mary John O’Hair and the K20 Center for Community and School Renewal at the University of Oklahoma, serving as the Associate Director for Academic and University Partnerships. One of her significant accomplishments was developing the leadership program for school superintendents and principals. The program received national recognition for its effectiveness and continues to have an impact in schools in all 77 Oklahoma counties.  After receiving her Ph.D. in 2004, Dr. Cate was a major influence on the work of the K20 Center and impact in school districts across Oklahoma.  In 2009, Dr. Cate received the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education’s Career Achievement Award in recognition for her leadership in Oklahoma education.  From 2003 to 2016, she also served as Principal or co-Principal Investigator for several projects and ranked in the top 20 for External Funding at the University of Oklahoma, Norman Campus. 

As a skilled educator, professional development provider, author, leader, researcher, and colleague, Dr. Cate continues to works tirelessly in areas that she loves.  Her contributions over a career that spans over four decades are too numerous to elaborate. However, among her greatest legacies are the relationships that she has built on a personal level, which made a difference in the lives of many educators and students.