By Tiffany Estes
Once again, news of a growing teacher shortage are dominating the headlines in Oklahoma and the rest of the country as well. Alarming stories about the lack of teachers is nothing new. But what does the actual data say about the workforce itself?
According to The Oklahoma State Department of Education, there are 2,831 more public schools than there were just a decade ago. That is nearly a 7 percent increase. The number of students enrolled in public schools has also increased by 4 percent over the past decade. This contributes to an imbalance in student-teacher ratio in public schools. In an essence, the Oklahoma teacher shortage continues to worsen.
The Oklahoma Eduction Association statistics reveal that a record number of emergency certificates, over 4,000, have been issued compared to the more than 30,000 certified teachers who are available to teach, however, many of these have left the profession. School districts across Oklahoma are struggling to fill vacancies with qualified teachers, even amid the academic school year. In general, less people are interested in becoming a teacher in Oklahoma.
The Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education statistics reveal that there were 1,651 bachelor’s degrees conferred in educator prep programs in 2012 and 1,223 in 2021. Overall interest in Oklahoma colleges for education progreams has fallen, with the total number of students obtaining any sort of degree or certificate in education dropping 22 percent in the past decade.
Dr. Keller, Director of Education Preparation at Cameron University Department of Education provided insight as to how Cameron University is responding to the teacher shortage.
“The Educator Preparation Program (EPP) at CU is considered a ‘Gold Standard’ teacher education provider. Our EPPs are nationally-accredited by CAEP (the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation). In fact, just two weeks ago the Education Department hosted both national and state reviewers for our seven-year re-accreditation and we had a perfect visit,” said Keller. “The teams closed out their review Tuesday, Oct. 25, and met with CU leadership to provide for us their preliminary results. The review teams said our Educator Preparation Programs met all national and state standards with no areas for improvement and no stipulations. This is a big, big accomplishment.” Keller said.
Dr. Keller gave valuable information to anyone who may be interested in becoming a teacher.
“The Education Department is constantly recruiting and supporting our future educators. We have scholarships available, and we host campus events and activities to both inform and assist people interested in becoming teachers. Indeed, a significant initiative launched this fall is the ‘Oklahoma Future Teacher Scholarship and Employment Incentive Program.’ This is also know as, ‘Inspired to Teach’ scholarship, it offers qualified students up to $25,500 as they complete their Educator Preparation Program and teach in Oklahoma. Here are the requirements:
- Graduate from an Oklahoma high school.
- Meet higher education admission standards at: 1) a public or private Oklahoma university with an accredited Oklahoma teacher education program, or 2) a community college with an approved articulation agreement with an accredited Oklahoma university teacher education program.
- Declare a major in an accredited Oklahoma university teacher education program with a degree leading to a standard teaching certificate or declare a major at a community college with an approved “Inspired to Teach” articulation agreement with an accredited Oklahoma teacher education program leading to a standard Oklahoma teaching certificate.
- Be enrolled as a full-time (12 credit hours per semester) undergraduate student each semester of eligibility in the program.
- Maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) and a minimum 2.5 GPA throughout matriculation.
- Prior to entry into the “Inspired to Teach” program, the student shall agree to complete the Oklahoma teacher preparation education program and agree to teach in an Oklahoma public prekindergarten through 12th grade (PK-12) school for a minimum of five (5) consecutive years upon graduation and licensure as a teacher.
When asked what his advice would be to a student who may be on the fence about becoming a teacher, perhaps they are not quite ready to make this commitment with their education with so much negativity in the headlines about teaching, (such as underpaid, disciplinary issues with students, etc.)
Keller responded, “ I am a teacher by trade. I am married to a 26-year veteran teacher, and my family are all educators in some way. I respect this profession and I have spent my entire adult life working to lift up my community and the people around me by being a teacher. I have probably 45 years or so left on this planet. When I am on my death-bed (or skiing pants-less down a double black-diamond slope in Aspen – whatever way I end up going out), I want to look back on my life and know with absolute certainty that I truly made my world a better place and helped my people. So far, I have done just that. I am a teacher. if someone is considering teaching, DO IT. This is a profession, not a job – it is rewarding, challenging, and has a direct effect of making our world better. The only way we make it better is by trying.”
For more information about becoming a teacher and making a difference, please contact Dr. Keller @ 580.581.2858, or by email at email@example.com.
Dr. Keller also urges students with an interest in making a difference to contact Department Chair, Dr. Stacie Garrett. She is an administrator and leader in this area. Her contact information is, 580-581-2803 or by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.