|Clara Sanchez is a member of the Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation’s Bilingual Teacher Pipeline Program. She’s works full-time as a paraprofessional for Oklahoma City Public Schools and has been attending college part-time to earn her degree. This semester she is student teaching, the final part of her training before becoming a certified teacher. Clara attended OKCPS her entire life, graduating from U.S. Grant High School. She says she is grateful to offer something back to the community that helped her grow. She says she feels she belongs here in the OKCPS district and wants to be part of creating a path of opportunity for her students. She says that it has sometimes been difficult to get to this point, but it is all worth it because of her personal and professional growth and the doors that have opened for her.
Last week, Melanie Garcia was highlighted by the media as the first participant in the Foundation’s High School to Teacher Pipeline Program. She graduated from NW Classen and is dedicated to becoming a teacher because she knows the influence teachers had on her life. She is now working as a paraprofessional in OKCPS and has started her college classes at OCCC. She knows she has a long road ahead, but loves working with children and is committed to doing her best every day.
Clara and Melanie are among the 57 current participants in the Bilingual and Diversity Teacher Pipeline Programs. Thirteen have graduated the program and now work as certified teachers. The Foundation funds tuition, fees and books for paraprofessionals to earn their education degrees, partnering with OCCC, OSU/OKC, Rose State and UCO.
Teachers are leaving our state and teachers are leaving the profession across the country. That isn’t a new fact, it has just been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic and all the difficulties schools have faced the past few years. According to the Learning Policy Institute, a Washington-based education policy think tank, national teacher demand exceeded supply by more than 100,000 in 2019 for the first time ever. The teaching profession is in crisis. This is a workforce problem for our schools and for our future.
Grow Your Own Programs are a proven part of the solution. GYO’s aren’t a new concept. These programs have been gaining traction across the country for a number of years, but are still relatively uncommon in Oklahoma. They are a proven model because they work. Retention rates are high in these programs – averaging 85 percent over five years. In OKCPS, the retention rate is even higher at 93 percent.
In most of the school districts across Oklahoma, there is not only a need for teachers, but a need for teachers who are as multi-cultural as the students they serve. There is compelling evidence that student outcomes are better when students have exposure to teachers who look like them. In the book, Teacher Diversity and Student Success, written by Seth Gershenson, Michael Hansen and Constance A. Lindsay, data is presented showing student outcome improvements with teacher diversification in not just test scores, but also attendance, discipline issues, graduation rates and many other metrics.
Grow Your Own programs work. An intentional focus on diverse teachers works. That doesn’t mean that these solutions are easy. The best things often aren’t. Just ask Clara or Melanie.
For more information on these programs, go to www.okckids.com