Jon Hazell: Teacher of the Year establishes a scholarship for high school students in Durant, OK

In my last blog, I wrote about our need to focus on positive ways to improve the climate of public education, as opposed to adding to the negativity of an already tough situation. In my hometown of Durant, I have been working on something I feel is doing just that. I think it can be copied around the state. And the early results show that a broad segment of the community will support us.

One of the prizes awarded to the school of the state Teacher of the Year is a very generous $5,000 from the Masons of Oklahoma. My superintendent said I could choose what we did with the money, so I established a scholarship for our high school students who are going to major in education. We began writing up the criteria.

Next, at my request, the Durant Chamber of Commerce director set up a meeting for me with local business leaders. I shared with them the dire situations we are facing in Oklahoma regarding teachers leaving or quitting or young people simply not pursuing the teaching profession in the first place. I discussed the budget cuts, the huge numbers of emergency certified teachers stepping into our classrooms, and the overall tough climate for public education in Oklahoma. Then, I asked them to sponsor the scholarship I had established every year in perpetuity.

They agreed. In fact, they are considering increasing the dollar amount over time. This clearly shows the dynamic support we can expect from our business community when we present them with workable solutions to our many challenges.

The scholarship process will be administered by a committee composed of a teacher, an administrator, a business representative, a parent and a representative from the local college. Third, this money and criteria are under total local control. The scholarship benefits everyone in the community, as it is a tangible investment into an educational system that desperately needs positivity.

Any investment in our public education system will result in long-term benefits to every facet of our society, from health to crime to the economy. It is a no-brainer.

Because of the excitement, this proposal has generated here in Durant, I am planning to present a proposal to replicate it in several surrounding communities.

Of course, this is not a cure-all for our education woes. The issues we face are too numerous and complex to be solved with some magical fix. But we can resolve them one step at a time. Just imagine if this would encourage only two or three young people from each community to consider a career in education. What a difference this would make across the state!

If anyone would like to contact me for additional information, I would be thrilled to discuss this with you or help any way I can.

Have a great day!

Jon :))

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Last updated on May 22, 2017