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School leaders talk TLI coaching

Each year TLI partners with Oklahoma school leaders to develop their instructional leadership capacity through weekly one-on-one practice-based coaching. We serve school leaders through both our School Leader Cohort and our District Partnerships where coaches work with leaders to sharpen their instructional lens and strengthen instructional coaching at their schools. Coaches work with leaders to develop plans for school improvement and use TLI’s Leader Competency Model to set developmental goals. TLI coaches also use evidence from school observations to plan weekly sessions focused on narrow action steps that can be implemented immediately.

We sat down with school leaders and asked them to tell us about their experience working with TLI coaches. After coding interview transcripts, we  pulled out common themes to offer a holistic view of our work with school leaders. Here’s what schools leaders had to say.

TLI tailors to my needs

Perhaps the most common feedback we hear about TLI coaching from school leaders is that coaching support is uniquely tailored to individual needs and school contexts. Cushing Public Schools principal Nancy Dowell explained that rather than offer generic one-size-fits all coaching, TLI listens to her concerns and targets interventions based on the areas where she needs support. In this sense, coaching sessions offer incredibly practical and concrete interventions that school leaders can implement immediately. 

TLI coaching is aligned with our district goals 

School leaders also noted that TLI’s work was deeply aligned with districts goals and system-wide change. One school leader explained that his coach regularly communicates with his district supervisor to share information and “stay on the same page.” “That doesn’t always happen [with other professional support]. If it didn’t happen, I would be doing different things for my supervisor and for my coach. In this way, TLI coaching is specially tailored for our district and school needs.”

Principal Dowell also explained that TLI’s “willingness to work around their schedule is huge.” Similarly, Principal Nicole West explained, “One thing that sets TLI apart from other organizations is that it is very personable.” She described how her coach Nina Fitzerman-Blue makes herself widely available outside school hours to troubleshoot over the phone or give real-time feedback via email.  

TLI coaches care about me deeply 

School leaders universally describe the trusting and meaningful relationships they develop with TLI coaches. Jenks Public Schools Teaching and Learning Specialist Abbie Andrus talked about difficult feedback that coach Marissa King delivered in “such a kind and positive way.” She explained that Marissa signs her emails with the phrase “Cheering you on!” and that it perfectly encapsulates their coaching relationship. School leaders feel they can make mistakes and not be judged or made to feel less than. 

Nancy Dowell said that perhaps the most valuable part of her work with Jo Lein “is the honesty of the relationship. She always responds. She never makes it feel like it is an unreasonable question. It feels like a partnership.”

TLI offers feedback you can’t get anywhere else 

A common refrain from school leaders is that TLI offers feedback that they cannot get anywhere else. Abbie Andrus put it simply by saying, “It is (TLI) the one place I know I am going to get useful feedback from someone because that’s not something that always happens.” Principal Nicole West said, “The work is the most instructionally sound and beneficial work that I have done since I have been an administrator.” 

 

It’s a wrap: Oklahoma’s 2021 20 Under 2 Awards

Oklahoma’s 2021 20 Under 2 novice teaching awards celebrate 20 of Oklahoma’s most promising educators in their first or second year of teaching. In May we announced the 2021 honorees and this year we were delighted to shower teachers with a gift box to celebrate their excellence.

Teachers received a custom plaque that was produced at the Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences library, along with a $250 gift certificate to Magic City Books thanks to the support of T.D. Williamson and Magic City Books. We shipped gift boxes to honorees across the state from Guymon in the panhandle to Grandfield in the southwest and Grove in the northeast, and many received special award presentations at their school. The Teaching and Leading Initiative’s executive director Jo Lein was also thrilled to deliver gift boxes to honorees in Tulsa and the surrounding area.

Accolades, appreciation, and congratulations also poured in on Facebook and Instagram where we profiled each of the honorees. Many of Oklahoma’s 20 Under 2 honorees were also featured in local press including: The Lawton Constitution, Ponca Post, Muskogee Phoenix, Cushing Citizen, Black Wall Street Times (second article here), Okmulgee Times, and The Seminole Producer.

Honoring Oklahoma’s talented new teachers is a highlight of our year and we can’t wait to celebrate again next year! Nominations for Oklahoma’s 2022 20 Under 2 novice teaching awards will open in January. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter to stay up to date. We wish all Oklahoma teachers a restful and rejuvenating summer, and thank you for your dedication to Oklahoma students!

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Presenting the 2021 20 Under 2 Honorees!

Twenty of Oklahoma’s most talented novice teachers have been chosen as this year’s 2021 20 Under 2 honorees for the third annual 20 Under 2 Novice Teaching Awards. The 20 Under 2 Novice Teaching Awards hosted by the Teaching and Leading Initiative of Oklahoma, celebrate emerging teachers who are setting the pace for excellent teaching and make Oklahoma’s future look bright. 

Across the state, principals, veteran teachers, and district leaders submitted their top novice teachers for consideration. Each nomination was reviewed by a committee of education professionals and chosen through a multi-stage selection process. The 20 honorees were selected for outstanding classroom culture, for fostering academic success, and for their commitment to Oklahoma students and communities.

The 20 Under 2 Novice Teaching Awards were created to recognize the talent and dedication of Oklahoma’s newest teachers amidst a challenging landscape. In recent years, Oklahoma educators have grappled with limited resources, large class sizes, and low pay, and this year teachers faced a global pandemic along with new forms of distance learning. For educators just beginning their profession, these challenges are especially difficult. After five years, only about half of new teachers remain in the classroom and schools struggle to recruit high-quality teacher candidates. The 20 Under 2 awards acknowledges these difficulties, and honors new teachers’ whose emerging strengths and talents are needed now more than ever. 

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Thanks to the generous support of T.D. Williamson and Magic City Books, 20 Under 2 honorees will receive a $250 gift card to Magic City Books to build their classroom library. Honorees will also receive a gift box that includes a custom 20 Under 2 plaque, a Round Table membership from Magic City Books, a custom notebook and other goodies.   

“Celebrating this year’s 20 Under 2 honorees is a bright spot amidst an especially difficult year. Oklahoma’s 2021 honorees have not only persisted through the pandemic, but their tremendous skill, hard work, and dedication has distinguished them as some of our most promising educators,” said TLI Executive Director Dr. Joanna Lein. “It is critical that we continue to find ways to invest in our state’s teaching talent because our students deserve the most skillful and experienced educators.” 

The 2021 20 Under 2 Honorees are:

Abby Messick, Crooked Oak Public Schools

Addison Lambert, Sand Springs Public Schools

Alice L. Lee, Jennings Public Schools

Allison Kirkley, Muskogee Public Schools

Ashli Robinson, El Reno Public Schools

Blake Karr, Fort Gibson Public Schools

Caitlyn Spoonemore, Grandfield Public Schools

Christina Beverage, Oklahoma City Public Schools

Ellen Florek, Tulsa Public Schools

Emily Gonzalez, Mid-Del School District

Henry Mitchel Bibelheimer, Haskell Public Schools

Jarred Bush, Cushing Public Schools

Kaitlin Wright, Okmulgee Public Schools

Kaitlyn Hull, Lawton Public Schools

Katherine D. Downing, Grove Public Schools

Lauren Kelly, Varnum Public Schools

Leighton Loch, Ponca City Public Schools

Morgan Dragg, Norman Public Schools

Ray’Chel Wilson, KIPP Tulsa

Yesenia Vera , Guymon Public Schools

Click here for the press release and group photo. For additional information please contact Rebecca Fine at rfine@tlioklahoma.org.

Announcing 2021 20 Under 2 $250 Book Prize

On Thursday, May 13th, we will announce this year’s 20 Under 2 honorees! The Teaching and Leading Initiative of Oklahoma is excited to share that thanks to the generous support of T.D. Williamson and Magic City Books, this year’s honorees will receive a $250 gift card to Magic City Books to build their classroom library. 20 Under 2 award winners will also receive a gift box that includes a custom 20 Under 2 plaque, a Round Table membership from Magic City Books, a custom notebook and other goodies.

The 20 Under 2 Novice Teaching Awards celebrate emerging teachers who are setting the pace for excellent teaching and making Oklahoma’s future look bright. The awards were created to recognize the talent and dedication of Oklahoma’s newest teachers amidst a challenging landscape. In recent years, Oklahoma educators have grappled with limited resources, large class sizes, and low pay, and this year teachers faced a global pandemic along with new forms of distance learning. For educators just beginning their profession, these challenges are especially difficult. After five years, only about half of new teachers remain in the classroom and schools struggle to recruit high-quality teacher candidates. The 20 Under 2 awards acknowledges these difficulties, and honors new teachers’ whose emerging strengths and talents are needed now more than ever.

Watch for the full list of Oklahoma’s 2021 20 Under 2 honorees on May 13th, and tune in to social media to learn more about these 20 top educators in the weeks to come. Find us on Instagram and Facebook @tlioklahoma.

Nominations for Oklahoma’s 3rd annual 20 Under 2: Novice Teaching Awards open February 21st

Education scholar Lisa Delpit writes that “Education is not a job for the weak-willed.” Oklahoma teachers have grappled with limited resources, large class sizes, and low pay, and this year teachers faced a global pandemic along with new forms of distance learning. For educators just beginning their profession, these challenges are especially difficult. 

Despite the obstacles, teachers remain committed to their craft and their students. Oklahoma needs talented, experienced teachers now more than ever, and developing expertise requires tremendous skill, hard work, and dedication. 


Our state’s newest teachers deserve to be recognized for their emerging strengths, talents and commitment to Oklahoma students. The 20 Under 2: Novice Teaching Awards celebrates novice teachers who make Oklahoma’s future look bright.

The Teaching & Leading Initiative of Oklahoma is now accepting nominations for public school teachers in their first or second year who demonstrate mindsets and skills integral to high quality teaching and learning: 

  • Believes all students are capable of excellence 
  • Shares responsibility for achieving success with students, parents, and school community   
  • Develops deep learning through thoughtful planning and collaboration with colleagues 
  • Values growth and seeks feedback from students and colleagues 
  • Fosters measurable academic growth   

Nominations are open February 21 – March 7, 2021. All full-time public school teachers in their first or second year of teaching or those who have returned to the classroom after ten or more years, are eligible. See full eligibility requirements here. Nomination details coming soon!


Nominate today! Click here to see last year’s honorees. Please contact us with any questions.

2021 Teacher Pipeline Bills

For nearly a decade, Oklahoma has been facing a severe teacher shortage. Steep budget cuts during this period have forced teachers to make due with limited resources, fewer staff, and chronically low salaries. Unsurprisingly, Oklahoma teachers leave the profession at rates that surpass the national average. The latest 2018 Oklahoma Educator Supply and Demand Report shows that over the past six years on average 10 percent of educators leave Oklahoma’s classrooms each year, compared to 7.7 percent nationally. Approximately half of all teachers exit the classroom within five years. 

To address this shortage, Oklahoma issued 97 emergency teaching certifications in 2012-2013 to individuals with bachelor’s degrees, but who lacked university-based education coursework, content area background or classroom experience. The number of emergency certifications has skyrocketed since this time with 3,320 emergency certifications awarded in the 2019-2020 school year.

Strengthening the teacher pipeline is vital to ensure all Oklahoma students have access to a high quality education. Oklahoma’s teacher shortage has resulted in higher student to teacher ratios and larger class sizes, which has a negative impact on student achievement. Studies have also shown that uncertified teachers produce lower academic outcomes for students than their certified peers. Fixing Oklahoma’s leaking pipeline will require recruiting new teachers into the profession and providing the resources and support educators need to stay in the profession. 

Fortunately, lawmakers have filed a number of bills this legislative session to address the teacher shortage. The following bills aim to strengthen the teacher pipeline in Oklahoma: 

  • HB1592 (Rep. Provenzano) For purposes of state salary increments, teachers with active duty in the military service or out-of-state or out-of-country teaching experience as a certified teacher or its equivalent shall be granted credit for the respective years of experience.
  • HB1813 (Rep. Blancett) Student teachers serving a full-day internship, shall be eligible to receive compensation beginning on the first day of the internship and for up to one full school year. 
  • HB1836 (Rep. Waldron) The State Department of Education shall develop a system to code teacher certification and renewal applications in order to report data on the pathways for teacher certification, including emergency certification.
  • HB1837 (Rep. Waldron) Expanding the teacher shortage incentive program for students enrolled in any major course of study at the undergraduate or graduate levels who teach in Oklahoma for a minimum of five years. 
  • HB1838 (Rep. Waldron) Each eligible student participating in the teacher internship program shall be awarded a one-time stipend of $4,000.
  • HB1840 (Rep. Waldron) Any teacher who graduated from an in-state institution of higher education and who is assigned to teach at a Title I school shall be reimbursed for any testing fee or payment for a competency exam. 
  • HB2692 (Rep. Hasenbeck) Advanced Roles for Teachers and School Leaders Act would establish a three-year pilot program for advanced teaching roles and organizational models in schools.
  • HB2693 (Rep. Hasenbeck) Reward teachers who are renewing their National Board certification by awarding them a portion of the renewal application fee. 
  • HB2752 (Rep. Baker) Establishes a micro-credential program in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and computer science to award add-on endorsements to teachers in STEM and to be used in lieu of the subject area competency examination.
  • SB51 (Sen. Hicks) Remove the requirement of taking and passing the general education exam for teacher certification.

Becoming a TLI fellow is more than just coaching, it also means being part of a community of leaders dedicated to real change

Director of Leader Programs Nina Fitzerman Blue understands how difficult and lonely school leadership can be. As a former school leader herself she knows it can feel alienating when you don’t always have someone to consult and check your decision making. TLI’s School Leadership Cohort is designed to address this need by making space for a cohort of leaders to collaborate, problem solve, and network.

Throughout the year-long fellowship, leaders have multiple opportunities to learn alongside their colleagues. The fellowship begins with a combination virtual and in-person summer session where leaders develop the foundations for high leverage growth, and collaboration continues throughout six off-site professional development days throughout the year.

Leaders quickly develop trusting relationships within their cohort that become just as valuable as one-on-one time with their coach. Superintendent Kiana Smith says that the TLI cohort, “Truly allows me to have a friend in this work and a partner in this work because it is lonely as the superintendent…you contemplate so many things and you don’t want that pressure to be felt with your [colleagues].” Fellows often find themselves calling and texting peers to brainstorm ideas, ask advice or share resources. 
Too often school administrators are not offered sufficient opportunities to learn and grow, which is critical for long-term success. Joining the TLI School Leadership Cohort means becoming part of a community of educators dedicated to improving their practice and growing their schools. Click to hear more about becoming part of TLI’s leadership network.

Want more information? We’d love to hear from you.

Lots of focused practice, leads to widespread school change.

School leaders get the most out of the TLI School Leader Cohort when they are committed to understanding their practice and making changes that will lead to better outcomes for students.  Coaches work with leaders to target a specific action that will have the greatest impact, and they practice these skills to build expertise and confidence. 

TLI building visits often involve side-by-side classroom walkthroughs or teacher coaching where leaders can compare notes during debriefs and incorporate feedback into subsequent practice sessions. Observing students, teachers and leaders in action helps TLI coaches gather an accurate needs assessment and adjust planning as fellows evolve. This approach leads to real growth and lasting change. 

Assistant Principal Staci Brown explains, “Someone being alongside you, and actually [having] feet to the ground, really holding you accountable, really helping you pick the highest leverage moves…” is vital to realizing school leaders’ vision for students and families. 
While practice can be challenging, Principal Carolyn Statum says, “It’s okay because we made a promise to kids and that means the best thing I can do is to continue to improve my practice and be responsive to the feedback I get from my coach.” Learn more about how school leaders partnered with TLI coaches to ignite lasting growth for students, teachers and families.

Want more information about the School Leader Cohort? Drop us an email or find us on social media.

Top 5 Gifts We’re Buying For the Kids In Our Lives

TLI staff members spend a lot of time thinking about what helps kids learn so naturally, we’re always ready to gab about the best holiday gifts for learning. Here are a few of the things we’re buying for the kids in our lives

  1. Gifts For the Budding Scientist

Science gifts are all about getting kids to observe the natural world. To offer tools for exploration, put together a simple nature box with an unbreakable magnifying glass, a kid-sized insect net, or a simple flower pressing kit. For an entirely whimsical gift, order acorn cap candles for just $10 or see if you can make your own. 

A subscription to Ranger Rick, a kid’s nature magazine published by The National Wildlife Federation, is a favorite gift for Chief of Staff Marissa King. The magazine is packed with great animal photos, snippets of information, and a strong environmental message.  For older kids, Executive Director and former science teacher Jo Lein likes Britannica’s virtual reality experiences .  Gifts for Pretend Play 

2. Gifts for Pretend Play

To get the kids in your life developing new skills and vocabulary through pretend play, add a few wooden toys to your holiday gifting. Executive Director Jo Lein likes the themed toys from Melissa and Doug for toddlers to pre-kindergarten age children. Her current favorite is the usable cleaning set with it’s own storage rack. 

We’re also impressed with wooden pretend toys like this sewing machine from Bella Luna Toys or the Magnolia’s Kitchen Aid look-alike mixer for kitchen play. 

  1. Gifts for the Little Builder

For hours of building fun and endless geometry experimentation, Director of Leader Programs Nina Fiterman-Blue suggests Magna-tiles, a pricey but long-lasting gift for kids of all ages. For a wooden building options, try Haba blocks ball tracks or castle theme blocks. For fort building, grab a set of Waldorf Clips to easily hold blankets and fabric in place while building motor skills. 

  1. Gifts for the Budding Artist

Nina Fitzerman-Blue, Director of Leader Programs, likes to keep it classic with paint or chalk. For an art teacher-approved gift, check out 3-in-1 Woody sets that act like wax crayons, watercolors, and window paints in one package. Even older kids will love the zen-like quality of Buddha boards that just require water to paint and disappear a few minutes later. 

  1. Gifts for Little Readers 

Books are always an appropriate gift–any age, any interest, anytime! Nina Fitzerman-Blue recommends the Dahl collection for ages 7-9. For more ideas, get in touch with your local bookstore (we love Fulton Street and Magic City Books here in Tulsa) or look for book round-up lists based on topic. 

Good coaching is specific, targeted and empowering. That’s the heart of TLI’s approach.

Principal Donterrio Marzett

As a former teacher and school leader, TLI Director of Leader Programs Nina Fitzerman-Blue understands that every minute of the school day is precious and that leaders work relentlessly for their students. School leaders don’t have time to waste. This is why TLI uses a one-on-one coaching model that pinpoints areas of growth to make targeted change. 

Nina pushes school leaders to dig deep, reflect on their practices and identify specific areas for growth. Principal Carolyn Statum explains, “The training we get is targeted to the things we need and we are able to see positive results in our buildings.” 

While TLI coaching narrowly focuses on specific action steps, fellows also learn transferable skills that pay off beyond their time in the leadership cohort. Principal Jackie Dupont said that TLI coaching helped her become more proactive in leadership and address issues she had previously avoided. 

TLI aims to help fellows translate their individual growth into positive, school-wide change. Working side-by-side, TLI is committed to partnering with school leaders to set tangible goals and make schools better for Oklahoma students and communities. 

Listen to leaders reflect on their time in the fellowship.

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