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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.

In the year of Covid: Top 5 Gifts For Teachers

Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons

Each year, the TLI team puts together a list of our top gifts for teachers. This year, the circumstances are a little different. Teachers are balancing Covid health concerns, managing distance learning, and working around intermittent quarantine. It’s been a rocky year and teachers deserve our gratitude more than ever.  

To make gift giving easier, our staff rounded up the favorite gifts we’re giving to the teachers in our lives–those we coach, those that teach our own children, and those we count as friends or family.

We love gifts that make daily classroom instruction easier or more effective. For the techie teacher in your life, Executive Director Jo Lein suggests a subscription to Screencast-o-matic, an easy video-making platform. For the newer teachers who are creating teaching resources for the first time, Jo likes to give a Teachers Pay Teachers gift card

For those teaching in-person, consider the physical tools that keep classrooms organized and efficient. Director of Leader Programs, Nina Fitzerman-Blues suggests a portable laminator, especially for lower elementary teachers. She also swears by these colorful flip chart markers. For the most organized teacher in your life, grab a label maker but be warned, it’s addicting.

Gifts to keep teachers safe and healthy are always appropriate, especially as Covid remains top-of-mind for many teachers. Go basic with a pack of neutral Everlane face masks and vitamin-packed Emergen-C. Or upgrade to beautifully scented hand sanitizer from  Primally Pure and a thick lotion like this one from Jenkins and Co (Tulsa) to combat the dryness from hand washing and cold temperatures.

If you want to add a touch of relaxation to an otherwise troublesome year, look for gifts with extra panache. Genean Seals, Manager of Teacher Development, suggests the Feeling Fab-A Box for a monthly reminder to take care of yourself.

 We also love to gift twig candles from The Nest. All of the 16 scents are hand-poured a short walk away from our office in downtown Tulsa. Pro-tip: Ask The Nest to gift wrap. Their fancy feather embellishments never disappoint.

Make life a little easier for teachers who are broadcasting their lessons from home. Chief of Staff Marissa King likes to keep gifts cozy with a hot water kettle for tea, mess-free snacks, and a few festive touches like this colorful fair-trade garland.

There are plenty of great options for entirely virtual gift giving this year. It’s always a crowd pleaser to send a bag of beans from your favorite local coffee shop. If you want a gift that lasts all year long, check out coffee subscriptions that mail coffee each month. We also love the Dollar Tea Club which lets you customize the amount of tea you deliver each month starting at just $1.

Not sure what to send? You can’t go wrong with a delivery service gift card like GrubHub cards or Uber Eats.

Think of it like self-care: Make time for your growth and development

School leaders often tell us that they don’t have time for coaching. With unrelenting schedules, taking time for your own growth and development can feel overwhelming or even frivolous in the face of daily to-dos. But research shows that great leadership doesn’t just happen. Leaders who reach their full potential effectively prioritize their time and make space for development. 

For some Tulsa-area leaders, applying for the TLI School Leadership Cohort is the first step in the process. Nicole Whiteside, a school principal and School Leadership Fellow says, “Take the time because it will pay off in the end. We have all these things on our plate as school leaders, but at some point we have to know what to prioritize.” 

TLI believes that coaching shouldn’t add more to an already full plate. Instead, TLI coaching sessions simultaneously teach new skills while tackling to-dos more efficiently.  Sometimes this looks like a “you talk, I’ll type” conversation where coaches help leaders organize their thoughts and draft the outline of a plan or schedule. 

Other times TLI coaching entails making an up-front investment to learn a new concept or skill in order to save time in the long run. One fellow learned how to cut her planning time in half, freeing up her schedule to invest in other parts of the school. In this way TLI coaching is an investment in your professional growth as a leader, but also in school-wide change and improvement.

Reflecting on her experience as a fellow, Principal Carolyn Statum said, “I don’t know what I did before TLI. How did I make it as a school leader without this feedback and pushing?” 

Most school leaders would never consider denying professional growth and feedback to their staff, but too often leaders overlook their own development. Joining the School Leader Cohort means making a commitment to your professional goals and pushing your leadership to its full potential. 

Listen to former fellows reflect on their time in the School Leader Cohort and how they made time for professional growth. 

It’s not one-size-fits all: TLI coaching is listening, relationship building and adapting to real needs.

Assistant Principal Staci Brown is a 2020 School Leader Cohort member.

Like good teaching, effective coaching is built on trusting relationships between coach and school leader. 

This concept guides TLI’s work with fellows from the onset. Nina Fitzerman-Blue, Director of Leader Programs, explains “I am here to make sure you are not failing as a leader. My entire job is to make you better.” 

TLI’s School Leader Cohort Fellows feel this deeply. Assistant Principal Staci Brown says that unlike other professional development approaches that offer ready-made programs, TLI coaches listen to your needs and cultivate collaborative relationships. Weekly building visits and in-depth conversations help foster open and honest conversations that lead to real growth and change. 

While at first some find it intimidating to meet with coaches weekly, most fellows report that because TLI’s sole focus is growth and development (not evaluation) they can be uniquely open about their professional needs. Through this relationship-centered approach TLI empowers fellows to interrogate their own practices, so they have the tools for growth beyond the fellowship. 

 Listen to why 2019 School Leader Fellows were ready to be coached.

Do you have questions about TLI’s intensive leader coaching? We’d love to hear from you.

20 Under 2: 2020 Teacher Honorees

Educators have a lot to think about these days. We don’t know exactly what school will look like as Covid-19 news changes each day. School start dates and formats are still in flux.

But here’s what we do know: Excellent Oklahoma educators deserve to be recognized.

“Now more than ever we need to celebrate excellent educators. As the coronavirus changes the way we live, work, and learn, teachers are guiding students and families through these challenging times.” said TLI Executive Director Jo Lein.

Join us in celebrating 20 Under 2’s list of emerging teacher leaders, high performers, and novice educators who make Oklahoma’s future look bright.

Access the full press release here or see individual teacher photos here.

 

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