On Aug. 1, Betty Jean Croom Wright was inducted into the Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame, at the Quail Creek Golf Club in Oklahoma City. More than 140 guests came out for her ceremony, a black tie affair.
The goal of the Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame foundation is to identify and honor persons in Oklahoma education who have exemplified the ideals of leadership, service and research in the field of education. Each year, the board members convene to review nominations received from across the state; only educators with the highest lifetime achievement are eligible for induction. To be selected for induction is among the highest honors in Oklahoma education.
Daughter of the late Granville and Lillie Mae Croom, Wright was raised with her nine siblings in Apalachicola. Her siblings are Granville Croom Jr., Cydell Wilson, and Marvin Croom, all of whom reside in Apalachicola; Bertha Mae Rhodes, of Austin, Texas; Evelyn Goss, of Houston, Texas; Larry Croom of Miami; Lawrence Croom, of Panama City; and Deborah Thompson, of Ft. Lauderdale. Wallace Croom is deceased.
Betty also has first cousins, John Croom and Shirley White, and a host of nieces, cousins and nephews of Apalachicola.
Betty attended and graduated from Quinn High School in 1959. Her best friends were Earthine Lockley, Shirley Croom, Wesley McMillian, Vivian Tolliver and Erma Joseph. Her favorite teachers were Mr. Watson, Mr. Speed, Mrs. Tolliver, Mrs. Tampa and Mrs. Baker.
Betty attended Florida A&M University with a scholarship provided by the St. Joe Paper Mill where her father worked. She graduated from FAMU in 1963, and taught for 44 years in schools in Mainz, Germany; and Tulsa, Lawton, and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Betty also served as a specialist in math and science to schools across the state and nation and has trained thousands of teachers in effective teaching strategies. She has also served as a consultant to the Franklin County Schools throughout the years.
Wright was the only minority teacher at the American School in Mainz, Germany, in 1964. When her husband was transferred to Ft. Sill, she taught at a school for black students and later recruited to help integrate a school on Lawton’s north side. In just a few short months, she felt accepted by the students, parents and community.
In 1979, she was recognized by the Lawton Chamber of Commerce for the system of teaching economic principles she had developed at Crosby Elementary. She also taught in the PROMISE program for Oklahoma City Public Schools, providing gifted programs for students in Kindergarten through fifth grade.
Betty is now retired but still continues to stay active in educational organizations. She was a leader in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) initiative. She is the administrator of the state’s Oklahoma Student Inventors Exposition and is a trainer of teachers in the Great Expectation foundations. Betty is serving her 22nd year on the board of regents of Rose State College where she is the chairperson and serves on the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence. She has been appointed by four different Oklahoma governors, each for a seven-year term.
Among Betty’s honors are recipient of the George Washington Medal of Honor from the Freedom Foundation of Valley Forge; recipient of the National Federation of Independent Businessmen Award; National Invent America State Educator; Black Woman of the Year by the Oklahoma state chapter of the NAACP; Oklahoma City Teacher of the Year; recipient of the Oklahoma Governor Commendation; and recipient of the Western Region Association of Community College Trustee Award.
In 1993, she also received the National Donald J. Quigg Award given by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Society, of which only one is given each year, and presented in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. She is also the recipient of the Presidential Award for Math and Science Teaching, presented her in 1996 by President George H.W. Bush in the Rose Garden in Washington, D.C.
Betty resides in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma with her husband, Robert, of 52 years. She has two children, Michele Towers and Robert L. Wright III; one son-in-law; one daughter-in-law; six grandchildren; and one great-grandson.
She has an active meeting schedule, and enjoys time with her grandchildren, including vacationing with them every year.