EngageOK Teachers Newsletter for October 2015


Topics Include:

  • Task force to address teacher shortage
  • Have your say on academic standards!
  • Get ideas on Twitter for your classroom
  • Building confidence in ELL newcomers
  • Video explains changes to RSA law
  • Get free toolkit to address absenteeism
  • Contest offers agriculture lesson plans
  • Teachers build childhood memories



Task force to address teacher shortage

Joy Hofmeister | Superintendent of Public InstructionDear Teachers,

Few Oklahoma schools have escaped the impact of our unprecedented teacher shortage. More than 1,000 teacher vacancies remain statewide, according to the Oklahoma State School Boards Association, a stark fact that has meant increased class sizes and the elimination of countless courses.

With the obvious exception of a parent, a teacher is the most important factor in a child’s education. The ongoing teacher shortage has affected an estimated 30,000 students, depriving them of the high-quality education they need and deserve.

This is a shortage that did not take shape overnight and has no easy fixes, but competitive pay is a crucial way to remedy the situation. I remain committed to #OKHigh5, my proposal to raise teacher pay by $5,000 over a five-year period. Ensuring a pay raise will be a challenge in light of significant budgetary shortfalls facing Oklahoma. Without bold and decisive action on the pay issue, however, students across the state will continue to suffer the consequences.

Moreover, the Oklahoma State Department of Education recently established a Teacher Shortage Task Force comprised of teachers, teacher organizations, district leaders, colleges of education, education advocacy groups, legislators, leaders of business and industry, and other stakeholders. Over the next several months, this panel will propose recommendations for changes in legislation, regulation and procedure at the state, regional, local and school levels.

I am optimistic that we will stem this teacher shortage. This is too important an issue — and too much is at stake — for us to falter or leave it to resolve itself.

Most of all, I want to thank you for your commitment to teaching in Oklahoma. I know I speak for all Oklahomans when I say we are deeply grateful for your service and dedication. Thanks to you, Oklahoma students are getting an opportunity to meet their full potential. What you are giving them is a priceless gift.


-- Joy Hofmeister, State Superintendent of Public Instruction



Have your say on academic standards! Deadline for your comments is Friday

The third draft of the Oklahoma Academic Standards in English/language arts and math have been posted! You can view the current draft here on the OSDE website. You will also find a feedback form on the site. Email the form by October 16 to tell us what you think as the writing committee continues to develop the new standards.

The fourth draft of the standards is set to be released October 30.

The new standards were mandated last year by House Bill 3399. They are set to go into effect by the beginning of the 2016-17 school year.

These standards are for Oklahomans written by Oklahomans.




Get ideas on Twitter for your classroom

While the rest of the school may have been counting down the days until summer vacation, Kimberly Blodgett posted in her classroom: “Five days until I miss you.”

The fifth-grade teacher at Little Axe Elementary got the idea for this heartfelt message after stumbling across a Twitter phenomenon that is uniting educators across the state. Using the hashtag #OklaEd, Blodgett discovered a new world of encouragement and professional development she can access any time of day.

Searching for posts marked #OklaEd is a way to find news and opinions from like-minded teachers. You can even tag your own posts with #OklaEd to share great things happening in your classroom. In addition, there is an #OklaEd chat on Twitter from 8 to 9 p.m. every Sunday.

“It’s a very positive energy. It makes you excited about what you do,” Blodgett said.

To learn more about the #OklaEd hashtag, read the story on the OSDE website here.



Building confidence in ELL newcomers

By Elizabeth Warren, ELL Program Specialist

warren"Picture this: It’s the second month of school, and your principal walks in with a new student. You smile and say, “Hello, what’s your name?”

As the student stares, the principal says, “Marco is from Guatemala, and he is totally new to learning English.”

You’ve never taught a child who doesn’t speak English before! How are you supposed to teach Marco?

Here are some quick tips for working with newcomers of all ages:

1. Label as many things as possible around your room, first in both English and the student’s native language, and then in English alone once your ELLs begin demonstrating facility with English terms. Make sure your newcomer hears the words pronounced frequently, both in and out of context.

2. Use comprehensible input, which means using your face and body to convey information. Facial expressions, gestures and pantomimes help newcomers interpret the new language they are hearing. Physically model what students need to do.

3. Add visuals and draw it out. Include pictures with new words and concepts. Provide illustrated instructions, show videos, and use manipulatives and realia.  

4. Allow students to represent understanding non-verbally, through drawing, pointing, etc. Newcomers are like sponges, soaking up English until they possess enough vocabulary to respond. They may understand more than they can express at this stage.

5. Smile! Smiling is a universal language.    



Video explains changes to RSA law

policyThis spring, the Legislature made several changes to the Reading Sufficiency Act (RSA) through Senate Bill 630. The law clarifies several items and addresses the following: retention decisions, individualized remediation, screening instruments, Oklahoma Core Curriculum Test (OCCT) scores, Student Reading Proficiency Teams and probationary promotion.

To understand more about the changes, OSDE offered a workshop on the topic at the EngageOK education conference this summer and also recorded a webinar, which includes audio explanations, a slide show and a Q&A. You can watch the webinar here. Learn more about the RSA by visiting the OSDE web page here.



Get free toolkit to address absenteeism

Did you know a student is considered chronically absent if he or she misses as few as two days of school a month? From 5 million to 7.5 million students are chronically absent each year, and thus are less likely to succeed academically and more likely to drop out of school.

The U.S. Department of Education has joined other federal agencies with the goal of reducing chronic absenteeism by at least 10 percent each year, beginning this school year. To support this goal, the agencies have produced a free toolkit that recommends the following action steps:

Step 1: Generate absenteeism data and act on it.

Step 2: Create and deploy positive messages and measures.

Step 3: Focus communities on addressing chronic absenteeism.

Step 4: Ensure responsibility across sectors.

To download “Every Student, Every Day: A Community Toolkit to Address and Eliminate Chronic Absenteeism,” click here and look for the link at the bottom of the page.



Contest offers agriculture lesson plans

agAg in the Classroom is providing free lesson plans to teach your students how Oklahoma agriculture impacts their lives. The lessons are part of Ag in the Classroom’s annual contest. This year the theme is “Agriculture -- From the Ground and All Around.” The contest is open to grades Pre-K to 12. Grade-level categories include everything from coloring to essay-writing, and the video contest is open to all grade levels. Students will win cash prizes and be recognized at the state Capitol on Ag Day, March 30.

To access lesson plans, contest rules and submission forms, visit the Ag in the Classroom website here.



Teachers build childhood memories

By Shawn Sheehan

2016 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year

lunchboxRemember carrying around your lunch box with your favorite Saturday morning cartoon characters on it? Or maybe it was a band or TV show. Super cool kids had a matching Thermos. 

Remember that one teacher who made you feel like you could do anything or be anyone? Remember when she asked if she could read your work to the rest of the class because it was so good? Remember when you needed that extra boost to make it through the day, and somehow she knew and came through?

Remember the standards that were posted at the head of your classroom? Remember all the tests you had to take – especially the big ones required to graduate? Remember walking in the classroom and sensing that the teacher was majorly stressed out, but you were unsure of why or how to help?

Remember what’s important. Remember that we have the power to make memories good and bad. Remember why we do what we do and adjust accordingly.

To follow Shawn's Teacher of the Year blog, click here.



What's for dinner?

By Susan Pinson, M.A.T.

Executive Director of Professional Development and Technical Assistance

Are you looking for resources to spice up your lessons and keep students engaged? Here are some scrumptious recommendations to satisfy your appetite for something quick, hearty and sweet.




Pencil Box offers free teaching supplies in Tulsa

oh yes! it's freeA free store for teachers has come to Tulsa! The Pencil Box, a non-profit where teachers can shop for free school supplies, opened October 6 at 916 W. 23rd St. in Tulsa.

Public and non-profit schools with 70 percent or more students enrolled in the National School Lunch Program are eligible to shop at The Pencil Box. Initially, the store is serving Tulsa Public Schools and plans to expand to serve eligible schools throughout Tulsa County.

For more information about the store or its fundraising event, Cocktails for Crayons, click here.



Vote for Oklahoma

grant opportunitiesWe need your help in securing as much as $150,000 in grants to Oklahoma classrooms!

Many Oklahoma teachers are in the running for $2,500 grants through a program from Farmers Insurance, which is awarding $1 million to teachers across America. You can help bring these grants to Oklahoma classrooms by voting for Oklahoma teachers every day through October 31.

Vote here for as many proposals as you want, once per day. There are 20 grants available for the teachers who get the most votes.

Oklahoma is home to one of 15 finalists for the grand prize $100,000 grant, Sandy Weller at Tulsa International School. Vote today!



Win $20,000 grant for app designs

The Verizon Innovative App Challenge gives middle and high school students a chance to bring their problem-solving app ideas to life. In its fourth year, the App Challenge calls students to gather teams, dream up ideas, and create concepts for mobile apps that could solve problems in their schools and communities.

Prizes include free tablets, grants up to $20,000, and training from MIT Media Lab experts to turn student concepts into working apps available for download.

The deadline for submission is November 24. For more information, click here.



Apply for grants


If you want to start a new AP course at your school, improve an existing APcourse with updated materials/equipment or seek funds to train teachers in AP content and strategies, consider applying for one of the four types of AP grants available to Oklahoma public schools. Grant applications are now available online and are due December 5.

For more information and to download applications, click here.



Nominate teachers for top honors

The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence is seeking nominations for its 2016 Academic All-State Scholarships and Medal for Excellence Awards.

Scholarships and educator awards totaling $125,000 will be presented at the foundation’s 30th annual Academic Awards Banquet on May 21, 2016.  For nomination forms, click here. Nominations are due at the beginning of December.



How can we help?

helpIf you have questions for the OSDE, email Annette Price, communications and constituent services specialist. Annette has experience teaching at the early childhood, secondary and adult levels.





submissionsDo you have ideas to share with teachers across the state? Engage with other teachers to build your skills and inspire your creativity. E-mail  your contributions.






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Last updated on October 22, 2015