The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education recently approved allocations to fund Oklahoma Teacher Connection (OTC) pre-collegiate and collegiate grant programs and the distribution of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) program awards for teacher certification acceleration programs at two universities.
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. Earlier this month, collegiate grants totaling $68,058 were approved to support 11 special programs at nine universities in 2023-24. Participating institutions are Cameron University, Northeastern State University, Northwestern Oklahoma State University, Oklahoma Panhandle State University, Oral Roberts University, Oklahoma State University, the University of Central Oklahoma, the University of Oklahoma, OU – Tulsa, and the University of Tulsa.
The State Regents also approved ARPA program grant fund allocations in the amount of $4,900,000 to support implementation of accelerated teacher certification programs at Northeastern State University and the University of Central Oklahoma. These programs are designed to certify new teachers in high-demand geographic areas and fields, including an emphasis on streamlining the process for emergency or alternatively certified teachers to complete standard teacher certification requirements. ARPA, signed into law in March 2021, provides funding for state and local governments to facilitate economic recovery from the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Oklahoma’s education landscape is changing, and we must strengthen the teacher education pipeline,” said Chancellor Allison D. Garrett. “The Oklahoma Teacher Connection’s programs serving secondary students, college students and new teachers help meet the critical need for more well-prepared teachers in Oklahoma classrooms.”
Through OTC, the State Regents administer several other initiatives designed to expand the teacher education pipeline, including the Inspired to Teach program. Inspired to Teach provides a scholarship for eligible students majoring in teacher education at an accredited educator preparation program (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 Inspired to Teach 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, Inspired to Teach 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.
The State Regents also administer the Teach Oklahoma, Lead Oklahoma and Educators Rising programs. Working with students from middle school to high school, each of these programs offers insight into the teaching profession, service-learning opportunities, and an emphasis on academic achievement while cultivating strong advocates for teaching. In 2023-24, 28 high schools and technology centers are teaching 40 pre-collegiate teacher recruitment programs.
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 19,000 members, Educators Rising showcases various teaching fields and highlights teaching as a rewarding and distinguished career choice.
More information about Inspired to Teach and OTC’s other programs is available at https://okhighered.org/otc/.