Potts puts kids, education first

Robert Smith rsmith@pawhuskajournalcapital.com
Cheryl Potts, owner of the Million Dollar Inn in Pawhuska, wants to help make sure children and teachers get the support they need.

Mama Cheryl has a news flash for you: the block party to support Pawhuska teachers has been moved from downtown to the Ag Building at the Osage County Fairgrounds from 3-6 p.m. Saturday.

If you were planning to show up with family members and friends at the parking lot behind the 911 building, just change your trajectory and aim your vehicle toward the fairgrounds. Forecasts of rain for Saturday are the reason. Potts and fellow block-party planners have come too far in their effort to help local teachers to give up now, and they still want your support.

This is not Cheryl Potts’ first adjustment in her long-running effort to help children and their families. As a youth, she temporarily left her native Oklahoma for Yale University in the late 1970s and early 1980s, where one of the things she studied was educational psychology (teacher preparation). She tried classroom teaching, but found it wasn’t the right fit for her.

Still, she remained deeply interested in the well-being and development of children.

“When you learn to teach, you can teach in various capacities throughout your lifetime,” she said, in a recent interview at the Million Dollar Inn, a lodging facility on Grandview Avenue in Pawhuska that she operates.

“Teachers spend more time with our kids than we do,” Potts said. “They have to have the patience of Job. I don’t think there’s anybody that should be more valued by our society than the teachers who teach our children.”

The block party she’s organizing on behalf of the Pawhuska Merchants Association will raise money to buy gift cards for local teachers to use in purchasing classroom supplies.

Instead of spending her career in the classroom, Potts went on to work for tribal governments, helping to develop social services programs, and she worked in the area of child protective services. The common theme for her is making sure children are given the care and education they need to prosper in the world.

“I’m really big on nutrition,” she said. “Making sure kids aren’t hungry.”

These days she spends a healthy amount of her time overseeing her four suites at the Million Dollar Inn, and enjoying the company of her visitors. The other week, a guest saw her Yale University alumni magazine on a coffee table and asked where it came from. Turned out, he also was a Yale alum. That was a first for Potts.

She explains that she went to the University of Oklahoma for graduate studies, so when Bedlam week rolls around and her husband, Stan, an Oklahoma State University grad, gets into an orange-and-black frame of mind, she takes up the cause of the Sooners.

“Come Bedlam week, I have to show him who’s boss,” she says with a chuckle.