At today’s meeting, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education approved allocations to fund Oklahoma Teacher Connection (OTC) pre-collegiate and collegiate grant programs and adopted proposed emergency rules for the Oklahoma Future Teacher Scholarship and Employment Incentive Program (“Inspired to Teach”), initiatives designed to strengthen Oklahoma’s teacher education pipeline.
OTC supports the implementation of three pre-collegiate teacher recruitment programs in Oklahoma schools: Teach Oklahoma, Lead Oklahoma, and Educators Rising. Through these programs, OTC pairs participating students with educator preparation programs (EPPs) at our universities to facilitate a “grow your own” pipeline of future teachers. Campus-based programs funded by OTC grants provide opportunities for students and novice teachers to engage with higher education personnel for hands-on learning about key elements of the teaching profession, including pedagogy and classroom management, and professional development to facilitate increased teacher retention.
The Oklahoma Future Teacher Scholarship and Employment Incentive Program (“Inspired to Teach”) was established by House Bill 3564 during the 2022 legislative session to address the state teacher shortage and provide a pipeline of quality and effective teachers for Oklahoma public schools. “Inspired to Teach” will encourage the preparation of public school teachers through scholarship support for college expenses and, after graduation, provide incentive awards to encourage retention of teachers across the state.
“The education landscape is changing, and growing our state’s educational infrastructure and workforce begins with comprehensively prepared, effective teachers,” said Chancellor Allison D. Garrett. “The ‘Inspired to Teach’ scholarship and retention program and public higher education’s engagement initiatives for secondary students, college students and new teachers will help our state place and keep more highly qualified, skilled teachers in Oklahoma classrooms.”
The Teach Oklahoma curriculum incorporates the study of teacher competencies with an internship component and offers learning objectives that lead to student growth and academic achievement. Provided at no cost to districts, Teach Oklahoma targets high school juniors and seniors who are interested in discovering more about the various aspects of education.
Lead Oklahoma is a leadership class for eighth- and ninth-grade students with research-based curricula designed to increase overall academic achievement while exposing students to various careers, especially in teacher education. Also provided at no cost to districts, the program promotes college interest and success, focusing on leadership principles, participation in service-learning, and development of skills for lifelong success, including interpersonal communication, critical thinking and decision-making. Many schools use the Lead Oklahoma curriculum in leadership and teacher preparation academies.
Educators Rising, sponsored nationally by Phi Delta Kappa, is an extracurricular organization that provides high school students an opportunity to explore the teaching profession. A national organization with over 45,000 members, Educators Rising showcases various teaching fields and highlights teaching as a rewarding and distinguished career choice.
Since 1996, collaborative efforts by OTC and teacher education programs at Oklahoma universities have led to partnerships that help address teacher recruitment, retention and placement from a campus-based perspective and take advantage of the unique strengths of each institution. Collegiate grants totaling approximately $60,500 were approved to support eight special programs at seven universities in 2022-23. Participating institutions are Cameron University, East Central University, Northeastern State University, Oklahoma Panhandle State University, Oral Roberts University, Oklahoma State University and the University of Central Oklahoma.
The “Inspired to Teach” scholarship and employment incentive program provides a scholarship for eligible students majoring in teacher education at an accredited EPP at an Oklahoma public or private university or a student majoring in a pre-teacher education program at an Oklahoma community college that has an approved “Inspired to Teach” program articulation agreement with an accredited Oklahoma EPP. The scholarship amount for full-time students includes $1,000 per year for up to three academic years and $2,500 in the final academic year.
Following graduation, participants agree to teach in an Oklahoma public school (Pre-K through 12th grade) for five consecutive years, a commitment that qualifies program participants to receive a $4,000 award for each year of satisfactory service up to five years, for a total of up to $20,000.
“I’m excited for this next step toward delivering scholarship funds to students who choose to pursue teaching as a career,” said Rep. Mark McBride, R-Moore, author of the legislation. “Getting more qualified teachers in our Oklahoma public school classrooms is essential to improving the lives of our young people and strengthening our communities in the days ahead.”
More information about the “Inspired to Teach” scholarship and employment incentive program is available at okhighered.org/otc/inspired-to-teach.