Skip Navigation

OU Professor, OU Alumna Receive Apple Distinguished Educator Awards

OU Professor, OU Alumna Receive Apple Distinguished Educator Awards

OU Associate Professor Theresa Cullen and OU alumna Bekah Hightower join a select group of instructors from around the world as Apple Distinguished Educators.

NORMAN – A University of Oklahoma Associate Professor of Education and an OU alumna have been selected as Apple Distinguished Educators, a prestigious and competitive award honoring highly innovative educators.      

Theresa Cullen, an associate professor in the Instructional Psychology and Technology Program and director of the iPad program in the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education at OU, and Bekah Hightower, director of the Media Center and Instructional Technology at Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School, join a select group of instructors from around the world as Apple Distinguished Educators. These educators embrace new ideas and opportunities through Apple technology and collaborate — in person and online — on solutions to the global education challenges of today and tomorrow.

Cullen was integral in launching the college’s iPad program, which put iPads in the hands of 575 students enrolled in the college’s undergraduate teacher education program in Spring 2013. The iPad program, now in its third year, is part of OU’s One University digital initiative, which integrates technology and creates digital content to enhance the learning experience.

The program has seen success each semester as students use the university-provided iPads to revolutionize the way they learn today and teach in the future. Students keep the iPads upon graduation so they can integrate technology into their own classrooms as professional educators.

Cullen said the Apple technology, especially the iPads, has spurred a new kind of collaboration among future teachers at OU.

“My students are becoming technology leaders in their schools and agents of change,” Cullen said. “I hope Apple saw my potential to impact education in Oklahoma. It’s one of the reasons I love my job and am excited to inspire teachers to use technology in meaningful ways every day.”

Hightower, who graduated from OU in 2013 with her master's in education and emphasis in Integrating Technology into Teaching, said each student at the school where she now works has an iPad, and 90 percent of their books are eTextbooks and iBooks. The technology-driven education she received from OU set her up for success in the tech-centered classrooms of today.

“I feel that my education from OU was a vital part of my growth in educational technology,” Hightower said. “As a graduate student I assisted in the rollout of the iPads in the college. That gave me the experience I needed for my job at Bishop McGuinness, where we rolled out our own iPad initiative. Ultimately, I think students today are digital learners, so teachers need to meet them where they are and tailor instruction to really meet the needs of the learner. That is where technology fits.”

Gregg Garn, dean of the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education, said the university community is honored to have two Apple Distinguished Educators win this award.

“We are incredibly proud of these two educators who have demonstrated the importance of preparing students for the high-tech classroom,” Garn said. “Their hard work and innovation using technology to improve student learning in and outside the classroom have made them leaders not just in Oklahoma, but throughout the world.”

As Apple Distinguished Educators, Cullen and Hightower will collaborate with other innovative educators and policy makers. They will serve as ambassadors of innovation, participating in and presenting at education events around the world.

About the Apple Distinguished Educator Program

The Apple Distinguished Educator Program began in 1994, when Apple recognized K-12 and higher education pioneers who are using a variety of Apple products to transform teaching and learning in powerful ways. Today it has grown into a worldwide community of over 2,000 visionary educators and innovative leaders who are doing amazing things with Apple technology in and out of the classroom. Learn more about this group of innovative educators online at

About The University of Oklahoma

Created by the Oklahoma Territorial Legislature in 1890, the University of Oklahoma is a doctoral degree-granting research university serving the educational, cultural, economic and health-care needs of the state, region and nation. The Norman campus serves as home to all of the university¹s academic programs except health-related fields. The OU Health Sciences Center, which is located in Oklahoma City, is one of only four comprehensive academic health centers in the nation with seven professional colleges. Both the Norman and Health Sciences Center colleges offer programs at the Schusterman Center, the site of OU-Tulsa. OU enrolls more than 31,000 students, has more than 2,600 full-time faculty members, and has 20 colleges offering 165 majors at the baccalaureate level, 157 majors at the master¹s level, 80 majors at the doctoral level, 29 majors at the doctoral professional level, and 28 graduate certificates. The university¹s annual operating budget is $1.7 billion. The University of Oklahoma is an equal opportunity institution.