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Why nominate a teacher for a 20 Under 2 Novice Teaching Award?

New teachers face tremendous challenges when they step foot into Oklahoma classrooms for the first time. This year, as the pandemic wears on, novice teachers have been forced to wrestle with sickness and uncertainty in ways no teacher ever has.

While we know that an award cannot combat the enormous obstacles that teachers face day in and day out, our experience as coaches have taught us that a little recognition can go a long way.

At TLI, we begin every coaching conversation with praise— telling teachers what they did well over the past week. While we know that praise helps boost self-confidence and self-esteem, we also know that praise is as useful as critical feedback in helping professionals grow. Teachers need to understand what they do well, so they can continue to utilize and grow those skills in the classroom.

This is one of the reasons why we created the 20 Under 2 Novice Teaching Awards. Nominating a teacher in their first or second year in an Oklahoma classroom is one way to give new teachers the recognition and praise they deserve. 

We urge you to take 5 minutes (yes! 5 minutes!) and nominate a new teacher for the 2022 20 Under 2 Awards today! 

Your nomination will brighten a new teacher’s day, and remind them why they should stay in the classroom. We need our great teachers in Oklahoma!

Nominations are open until Sunday, 2/20.  See nomination requirements here and click here to nominate today! 






World Read Aloud Day

For the past 13 years, World Read Aloud Day has called attention to the importance of sharing stories by challenging participants to grab a book, find an audience, and read-aloud! The global effort, created by the non-profit LitWorld and sponsored by Scholastic, is celebrated annually in over 173 countries and is all about bringing people together through the shared connection of reading aloud in all of our communities.

In celebration of World Read Aloud day, we asked our Chief of Staff, Marissa King, about her recent reads, favorite memories, and suggestions for where to get the latest titles in celebration of #WRAD!

Q: What role does reading play in your daily life?

A: I’m a total sucker for a bookstore (Hi, Magic City Books and Fulton Street!). There’s just nothing else like it. I typically read about 40 books a year– a mix between audio and print. And obviously I read hundreds of books to my 3-year-old. He strongly prefers a full hour of reading every morning—more if he can get it- and it’s always what I’m doing while I drink that first cup of coffee. I get a strange amount of pleasure out of recommending books to people when I know what they’re interested in reading. I used to make suggested summer reading lists for former students and friends every year. And I love it when people tell me what they’re reading! 

I’m still an avid library user. Like I LOVE Tulsa City-County Library. I take my 3-year-old there regularly. I have the app. I get audio books from them. I reserve books online. I did the distanced pick-up during the pandemic. When I saw the very small amount of my taxes that went to TCCL, I was like, ooooh, they should up that. Getting a library card was one of the first things I did when I moved to Tulsa.

Q: What are some of your recent reads?

A: Over winter break I finished Transcendent Kingdom, How the Word Is Passed, and Salvage the Bones. Now I’m reading 100 Things We’ve Lost to the Internetthe Lost Art of Reading Nature’s SIgns, & Why We Make Things and Why It Matters. I have a strong penchant for nature books–recently read Fox & I and The Shepherd’s Life.

Q: What are your favorite memories around reading? 

A: As a kid, my mom would haul us into the town library and each of my siblings and I would choose an enormous stack of books. The library implemented a 20 books per person/per time rule because we checked out SO MANY BOOKS. I didn’t grow up with a TV, so we read ALL the books.

At TLI, we believe in the power of reading just like we believe in the power of research based professional development and our teachers! As a part of our annual 20 Under 2 Novice Teacher Award we celebrate and encourage a love of literacy by providing each honoree with a $250 gift card to Magic City Books.

Ways to spread a love of reading today!

TLI’s Top 3 Coaching Resources

We are sharing TLI’s 3 most used coaching resources. We hope you find these helpful and please reach out to us with any questions you may have!

#1 Low Inference Notes Template

Our coaches use this template when observing classroom teachers. The template is a good reminder to add time stamps and record objective notes about what the teacher and students say or do.

#2 Coaching Conversation Template

Our coaches use this template to analyze their low inference notes, develop an action item and plan a coaching conversation. This template includes key elements to include in each portion of the coaching session.

#3 Elements of Effective Action Steps

This one-pager includes examples and non-examples of effective actions steps along with tips about how to develop action steps that will move teachers forward.

Meet TLI: Joanna Lein

What do you do at TLI? 

I am proud to serve as the Executive Director and Founder of TLI. I have a variety of hats from coaching teachers, coaching leaders, designing professional development, partnering with districts and other organizations, fundraising, managing our staff, and projecting forward on our overall strategy. 

How did your career path lead you to TLI? 

I started as a classroom teacher, as we all did. I found out early on that the adults in the building drive outcomes for kids. I joined the Teach For America staff and I got the coaching bug – I saw the impact that coaching teachers could have on students and adults. But each year, teachers were new, the work was hard, and it seemed like we weren’t making any progress so I joined Cleveland Public Schools as the Assistant Superintendent. As I looked around the education system, I saw a growing need to develop systems around new teachers and I felt compelled to do something about it. Hence, TLI was born. 

What is your favorite thing about doing this work? 

I love the one-on-one work. You get to know people and their motivations. You get to know classrooms and kids. While professional development can be effective, it sometimes feels distant from the work. There is nothing like being in a classroom. 

What do you hope for students in Oklahoma?

I hope that every single student has access to an excellent teacher. For this to be true, we must invest in developing teachers and principals (because people quit their bosses). We also need pathways that are accessible for anyone interested in joining the profession. 

What else should we know about you?

I am originally from the suburbs of Chicago and my family is still there. They are still confused why I am in Oklahoma but I am very happy with the life my family and I have built here. I am a proud mother of two. We spend a lot of time at parks and at lakes. I am also an avid backgammon player and rower. 

Meet TLI: Marissa King

What do you do at TLI? 

My official title is Chief of Staff but my colleagues would probably say I’m TLI’s jack of all trades. I happily split my time between coaching school leaders and managing behind-the-scenes operations at TLI. Every task from writing grants to observing classrooms is in service of the incredible teachers and leaders we work with and the inspiring students they serve. 

What brought you to TLI? 

I’ve spent the last decade and a half in education and in each role, I’ve learned that the work is always, always about people. If we want the best for students, we have to invest in the people around them.

TLI puts people at the center. We walk alongside school leaders to offer the individual support that leaders deserve. Our coaching is firm but warm. Every day, we have the pleasure of seeing how the investments in the adults in our school buildings positively impact students. 

What is your favorite thing about doing this work? 

I get to support incredible school leaders. It’s a privilege to see their progress every day. 

What do you hope for students in Oklahoma?

For all Oklahoma students, I hope for rigorous content, and the safe, inspiring schools they deserve. I want all students to have real choices about where and how to begin their college education or careers after high school.      

What else should we know about you?

On weekends, I’m probably  in the garden with my 3-year-old, trying a new recipe in the kitchen, finishing a quilting project, or tuning into an audio book. 

Meet TLI: Nina Fitzerman-Blue

What do you do at TLI? 

Work with school leaders! As the Director of Leadership Programs, I run our School Leader Cohort — a year-long fellowship that includes summer training, weekly one-on-one coaching, and opportunities for school leaders to collaborate, share with, and learn from each other. 

How did your career path lead you to TLI? 

I know from experience that leadership can be lonely. I’ve been a teacher, a teacher coach, a school leader, and a curriculum writer. After this time in schools craving more individual support than I ever actually got, I knew I wanted to provide support to school leaders. TLI allowed me to do exactly what I wanted to do — what I had actually wanted for myself — to give leaders the consistent, individual support they deserve. 

What is your favorite thing about doing this work? 

Getting to spend time with the hardest-working, most kind-hearted, smart, caring, inspiring leaders in Tulsa! 

What do you hope for students in Oklahoma?

For our Oklahoma students, I hope for rigorous content and excellent instruction. I want our students to be challenged, inspired, and met with the high expectations they deserve. 

What else should we know about you?

I am a Tulsa native, and happy to be back after more than a decade in the Northeast. Outside of TLI, I am hanging out with my family — Dan, my husband, and our two kids, Lucy and Nino. 

A Year in Review: Teacher and Leader Professional Development

TLI develops teachers and school leaders across multiple districts through short cycle coaching and professional training workshops. 
Often, trainings are offered as multi-day sessions or as a series of trainings over a number of weeks. Professional development sessions for teachers range from classroom management strategies and mindsets to developing strong lesson plans and instructional techniques.
TLI works with leaders to prioritize instructional leadership and build effective coaching skills. In Oklahoma, 75 percent of principals have five years of experience or less. Building instructional leadership capacity is imperative to reduce school leader turnover and foster quality classroom instruction. Click here to learn more about TLI’s professional trainings in our annual report

TLI really helped me narrow the focus on student skills and what students had to do to show mastery on standards.

Brandy Gildon-McCracken, Instructional coach


Meet TLI: Rebecca Fine

What do you do at TLI? 

My official title is Manager of Teacher Development and Communications. In short, I coach teachers and lead professional development. I also handle communications for TLI including our social media, website, and external communications. 

How did your career path lead you to TLI? 

I began my career in education as a middle school teacher at Tulsa and Union Public Schools teaching science and reading. Eventually, I left the classroom to attend graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and pursue answers to questions about education that had been brewing during my time in the classroom. After graduating with my degree in education policy, I came back to Oklahoma and worked as an education policy analyst at the Oklahoma Policy Institute. During my time at OK Policy I was steeped in state level policy making and wrote about the impact those policies would have on students, teachers and families. While this advocacy work was fulfilling, I missed the classroom. I joined TLI so that I could support teachers across the state and continue to do work that addresses educational inequities in our state.   

What is your favorite thing about doing this work? 

Working with teachers! Being in the classroom brings me so much joy. I have the privilege of observing teachers every week and meeting with them one-on-one to reflect on their practice. It’s also really fun to get to know their students and witness the hard work teachers our into their classrooms. Teachers in Oklahoma deserve higher salaries, more resources, and smaller class sizes. Supporting teachers as a coach feels like one way I can help teachers get the support and development they deserve. 

What do you hope for students in Oklahoma?

I want all Oklahoma students to have access to an equitable education, and this means all students will have access to highly skilled teachers. I think this starts with teacher salaries that are commensurate with their hard work and talent. Teaching is incredibly difficult work that requires technical execution skills and hours of skillful planning. I want teachers to be paid enough so they don’t have to worry about providing for their own families, and so they don’t have to sacrifice their own well-being. Coupled with adequate professional development support, highly qualified teachers would lead Oklahoma students to better outcomes. I also hope that low-income students and students of color have teachers who are well prepared to meet their distinct needs.

What else should we know about you?

I am originally from upstate New York, but Oklahoma has become my home! I live with my fiancee (we’re getting hitched in June 2022!) Jesse, our dog Ollie, and cat Kodie. You can reliably find me either playing tennis, biking, running, or gardening when I’m not working. One of my favorite places in Oklahoma is the Tallgrass Prairie in Pawhuska, OK, and I squeal with delight every time I see bison. 

A Year in Review: School Leader Cohort

As part of its leadership development, each year TLI selects a group of promising leaders across multiple districts to take part in a year-long, fully-funded School Leader Cohort (SLC).
SLC begins in the summer with a leader institute and continues throughout the year with weekly one-on-one coaching and 6 off-site professional development days. This year due to Covid, SLC shifted to virtual coaching and modified off-site professional development.
SLC coaches use TLI’s Leader Competency Model to assess leaders quarterly and set developmental goals that they target during weekly coaching sessions. Click here to read more about the school leader cohort in our annual report. 

As an instructional leader TLI coaching helped identify content gaps for teachers and students, and where we were hitting the mark and not hitting the mark as a school.

Nicole West, Principal

Annual report 2020-21 (4)

Meet TLI: Samantha Aponte

What do you do at TLI? 

I serve as a Manager of Teacher Development with TLI. Much like every member on our team, we wear a lot of hats! In this capacity I design and facilitate professional development and coach teachers in various districts. We empower teachers to leverage their talents and prior experiences to create quality content, safe learning spaces, and address injustice in the classroom.

How did your career path lead you to TLI? 

I began my career in education in 2015 in Oklahoma City Public Schools teaching fifth grade ELA and absolutely fell in love with the content and kids.Soon after, I moved to Tulsa and continued teaching before transitioning to being a school leader. I developed an interest in adult education while working on my masters in Teaching, Learning, and Leadership from OSU. I leveraged my learning from my program to guide my instructional coaching as well as craft meaningful professional development. Through this, I was able to better see the impact it had on teachers and students alike. I was drawn to the work TLI was doing across the state and wanted to be a part of their mission to “develop highly capable educators so students have access to an equitable education.”

What is your favorite thing about doing this work? 

Connecting and collaborating with teachers! Meeting teachers (especially those new to the profession) from across the state. Hearing their unique perspectives, reflections, and experiences gives my work additional purpose and meaning. 

What do you hope for students in Oklahoma?

Students in every district, school, and grade should have access to grade-appropriate work, data driven instruction, a supportive network, and teachers with high expectations. This should be true for all students, regardless of their race, ethnicity, sexuality, or any other part of their identity. My hope is that students across the state, especially our students of color, know that their voice and experiences matter, and they deserve to get a great education in a safe and welcoming learning space. For this to be true, I hope that their teachers receive the development, pay, and resources they need to ensure all students can achieve at high levels. 

What else should we know about you?

I am originally from Miami, FL, but have found a home in Oklahoma in the last 7 years with great friends and two happy pups. Outside of work I enjoy cooking and spend a lot of time hosting friends (virtually and in person). I find a lot of joy in bringing folks together! 

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