Oklahoma school district helping emergency-certified teachers prepare for requirement exams

MIDWEST CITY, Okla. – Thousands of teachers who are currently working in Oklahoma classrooms didn’t start out their careers hoping to end up in a local school.

Instead, they decided to leave their previous careers to become emergency-certified teachers as the state experienced a teacher shortage.

While thousands of emergency-certified teachers have stepped in to fill the need, experts say there is still room to grow.

In December, the Oklahoma State School Boards Association said nearly 5,000 more teachers were needed across Oklahoma to match the average student-teacher ratio in the region.

El Reno Public Schools Superintendent Craig McVay told News 4 that the student-teacher ratio in his district is just below the regional average at 13.3 students per certified teacher. According to him, part of that is due to the 19 emergency-certified teachers the district has this school year.

“We would be far greater if we had to just rely on traditionally certified staff,” McVay said. “We’re fully staffed right now. We expect that will change over the holidays. We have a couple of teachers that will be out having babies, so we’ll be a little shorthanded there.”

As emergency-certified teachers help with the teaching crisis, a local school district is working to help those educators.

After their first school year of teaching, emergency-certified teachers need to meet the initial alternative certification requirements. Officials say it can be difficult for those teachers to earn the professional development hours needed and study for tests, especially since novice teachers typically need more time to prepare lesson plans.

“What we’ve noticed is we have emergency-certified teachers who aren’t getting through the testing, but my principals really like their emergency-certified teachers,” Jason Perez, chief human resources officer at Mid-Del, said. “Over 85 percent of the ones we had last year they wanted to bring back. Those teachers just need additional resources to get the certification piece done.”

That's why officials with the Mid-Del Public School District are working to help emergency-certified teachers prepare for those requirements.

Mid-Del has created an after-school academy open to all emergency-certified teachers to help them pass the Oklahoma General Education Test. The sessions are open to all teachers, including those outside of the district.

“If we get emergency-certified teachers from Oklahoma City, Choctaw, Moore, Edmond, whatever, it doesn’t matter. This isn’t just about looking after Mid-Del. It’s about alleviating the statewide teacher shortage crisis,” Perez said.

Vanessa Symonds, a ninth-grade physical science teacher, said she has used many of the classroom management strategies she has learned from the Mid-Del classes in her classroom at Westmoore High School.

“After the first class, I had three pages of notes. Some things worked for my classroom; some things didn’t. But it was good to have those options to work with,” Symonds said.

Mid-Del is also trying to partner with a local university to bring college-credit education courses to its campuses, which would allow emergency-certified teachers to take courses at times that are convenient.

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