EngageOK Teachers - February 2018


February 2018


State Superintendent of Instruction Joy Hofmeister visits with children and teachers at the Early Childhood Center in Durant.

Survey Reaffirms Reasons for Teacher Shortage

Dear Teachers,

A newly released comprehensive survey reaffirms what we have long said is a chief factor in Oklahoma’s unprecedented teacher shortage: inadequate compensation and dwindling resources for students and teachers. Ask any teacher and this conclusion seems obvious. However, we are grateful to finally have concrete, indisputable, research-based data to answer why 32,000 certified teachers have stepped away from our Oklahoma classrooms, yet continue to keep their certificates active.

Why spend the money for such a large survey? First, we didn’t. No state or federal dollars were used. The cost was gifted to the state by a member of the Teacher Shortage Task Force to fulfill a specific recommendation of the Task Force, which has been working since 2015. Second, the survey results serve multiple purposes, as it also will be used to contribute to our state’s federally required “Teacher Supply and Demand Study.”

Based on these results, increasing pay alone could result in a net return of thousands of teachers to our classrooms. This is promising news. As the state Legislature convenes, we continue our call for a $5,000 pay increase for all teachers — across the board. Oklahoma cannot afford to wait any longer to recruit and retain our talented educators. Our kids deserve a competitive public education, and this will never happen without well-equipped teachers.

Thank you for your years of sacrifice and exceptional service to your students, schools and community. We stand with you and won’t stop fighting for what our kids deserve.

To see the full survey results, click here.



Joy Hofmeister, State Superintendent of Public Instruction

Perspective Shift Needed to Teach Children in Trauma

By Kristin Atchley, Executive Director of Counseling, OSDE

How often do you sit at your desk, staring at a wall, wondering how you can possibly help a student? A growing conversation among educators is “How do I help a kid who has experienced trauma?” Students experience trauma over their lifetime and come to school with their invisible suitcase full of complications and pain. How do we help unpack those heavy, invisible suitcases and educate a child of trauma?

Understanding the challenges of creating a trauma-informed classroom or school is the place to begin. Often, professionals want a guide that includes specific interventions, techniques or appealing phrases. However, the process of being trauma-informed is more about a perspective shift.

According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, children suffering from traumatic stress symptoms generally have difficulty regulating their behaviors and emotions. They may be clingy and fearful of new situations, easily frightened, difficult to console and/or aggressive and impulsive. They may also have difficulty sleeping, lose recently acquired developmental skills and show regression in functioning and behavior.

As educators embark on the journey of becoming trauma-informed, a great deal of information and support is needed. For more information about becoming trauma-informed, visit our website or request training

Check out these other wonderful resources for becoming trauma-informed: Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative, The National Child Traumatic Stress Network, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and this TED Talk about how childhood trauma can affect health across a lifetime.

Combine Reading, Math, Research in February

By OSDE’s Office of Curriculum & Instruction

henryWhat better way to start Black History Month than sharing a fantastic book with your students? “Henry’s Freedom Box” is listed as one of the “10 Picture Books to Read in the Middle School Classroom,” but don’t let that stop you from sharing this book in the upper elementary grades. 

This Caldecott Honor book tells of the gut-wrenching struggles faced by slaves and the harrowing trials they were willing to endure for freedom. It is based upon one of the most famous runaways, Henry “Box” Brown, and his escape to freedom through the Underground Railroad. The illustrations are captivating and the story riveting.

Try collaborating with your school librarians to incorporate research standards. Students can dive into multiple-meaning words, compare and contrast works of literature, research the Underground Railroad and pull it all together with a writing activity.

The author, Ellen Levine, also wrote a nonfiction book. “If You Traveled on the Underground Railroad” gives more insight into the dangers slaves faced trying to escape. The chart below lists standards that could be used to meet the activities presented above. 



A powerful read-aloud pulls at the heart of a listener and leaves her with more questions than when the book started. “Henry’s Freedom Box” begs the question, “Can this really happen?” The answer lies squarely in the middle-school math standards. 

The key is to allow students to generate the questions and the answers.

  • How big must a box be to put a man inside?
  • If you make one side of the box a certain size, what does that do to the other sides?
  • At what weight is a box too heavy to be turned over three times?     

For a list of 10 great picture books for your middle school classroom, click here.

OSDE Work Group to Study Chronic Absenteeism

absenteeismOSDE has assembled a work group to study and recommend potential solutions to chronic absenteeism. The group, which consists of representatives of community nonprofits and education advocacy organizations, held its first meeting in January.

In OSDE’s 8-Year Strategic Plan, Oklahoma Edge, chronic absenteeism is the nonacademic indicator of school success in the new school accountability system.

The work group will study a variety of issues, including:

  • A pattern of chronic absenteeism can begin as early as kindergarten and often follows students throughout school.
  • Rural schools often face greater challenges when community resources are scarce or geographically distant.
  • How other factors -- such as mental health obstacles, lack of transportation and poor nutrition, which can lead to obesity and bullying -- affect attendance.

To read the full story, click here

Teachers: Your Community Supports You

By Jon Hazell, 2017 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year

hazellHello, fellow teachers!

Over Christmas break I had some time to reflect on my traveling and speaking engagements to some very diverse groups. One of my biggest takeaways is the amazing community support for public education across the entire state, in spite of what our Legislature may or may not be getting done.

I am not oblivious to the difficulties we have faced in recent years with regard to funding and salaries, but overwhelming support and encouragement from our local communities and stakeholders has grown in tandem with our struggles. I read a statistic the other day that showed that statewide, over 85 percent of local education bond issues pass.

The public stands behind us as strongly as I have ever seen in my 35 years in education. And while it may not happen as fast as I would like, that backing will soon translate into some much-needed and well-deserved changes.

I, for one, greatly appreciate and am in awe of the amazing things so many of you are doing in the midst of these tough times, and evidently, that appreciation is not limited to myself. Our communities recognize and appreciate you as well.

 Be encouraged, and have a great second semester!

TOYThe 2019 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year application is now available. Download the 2019 application packet here.

Applications are due to the Oklahoma State Department of Education by Wednesday, May 23. For more information, visit the Oklahoma Teacher of the Year web page.

Free Treats for Teachers

chocolateFREE CHOCOLATE FOR TEACHERS: Nominate your favorite teacher to win free tickets to the Norman Chocolate Festival. The nationally recognized festival, organized by the Norman PTA Council to benefit public education, will be from 10 am to 2 pm Feb. 10 at Norman North High School. Winners will be announced Feb. 7. For more information, click here.


friesFREE CHEESE FRIES FOR TEACHERS: Have a fun teacher who stole your heart? Eskimo Joe’s wants to hear about it. Send a letter, poem or video. Be creative. Winning teachers win $100 and free cheese fries for a year. For more information, click here.



News From Across the State

icumiED TALKS: Teachers Christine Mueller of Central Junior High in Moore and Ryan Walters of McAlester High School discuss rewards and challenges of the classroom in their latest Ed Talks. To see the videos, click here.

ASTRONAUTS IN SCHOOLS: Former astronauts are making the rounds at Tulsa schools as part of Flight Night Space Week. To read the story, click here.

STATE BOARD LIVE: OSDE is now live streaming Oklahoma State Board of Education meetings to increase transparency and engagement. To access the live stream or archived board meetings, click here. For a 2018 calendar of State Board meetings, click here.

classenNATIONAL AWARD: Congratulations to SHAPE America Southern District 2018 Health Teacher of the Year Shana Classen from Washington Irving Elementary in Edmond. Shana will be honored during the national convention in Nashville.


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Last updated on February 6, 2018