ELEVATE: Special Support for New Teachers

Emergency-certified teachers receive individualized training at Mid-Del

MIDWEST CITY (March 13, 2019) – As an emergency-certified teacher, Joyette Messiah is constantly learning how to manage her classroom while keeping her young students excited about reading – and it’s her new love.

“I love teaching. I seriously love being the person who can influence them in a positive way,” said Messiah, a first-grade teacher at Steed Elementary in Midwest City. With a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in human relations, Messiah had worked for about 20 years in day care centers before she decided to pursue a career in public schools.

“For a lot of the kids, what they’re really missing is that connection that someone actually cares about them. I love being able to interact with them, building positive relationships. I love that part of the job,” said Messiah, who receives hugs daily.

teachersNearly 3,000 teachers with emergency certification are teaching in Oklahoma this year, and like Messiah, 90 are in the Mid-Del School District. Emergency certifications are a reflection of a statewide teacher shortage, as they may be issued only when the district has exhausted every option to find an appropriately certified person for the open position.

Emergency certificates are temporary, and although the certificates are renewable, emergency-certified teachers are expected to meet the initial alternative certification requirements by the end of their first school year. Fitting in time to study for the tests and earning the professional development hours needed can prove to be a challenge because novice teachers typically need more time to prepare for lessons and adjust to the demands of a new career.


trainingJason Perez, chief human resources officer at Mid-Del, said many of the district’s emergency-certified teachers began with the district last year, and Mid-Del wants to help them on their path to standard certification.

“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,” Perez 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.” 

To help, Mid-Del has created an after-school academy open to all emergency-certified teachers. The district holds small-group breakout sessions on classroom management and study groups for teachers looking to pass the Oklahoma General Education Test (OGET). It even welcomes teachers from outside the district to join in for free.

“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.

Christina Hersh, a kindergarten teacher at Barnes Elementary in Mid-Del, got an emotional lift from attending the district’s classroom management support group.

“It felt nice that I wasn’t alone or feeling like I was lost or that I was crashing and burning. There were other people who helped me realize not to quit now; it will get better,” Hersh said.

middelVanessa 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.

In addition to the after-school support and study groups, Mid-Del is exploring the possibility of partnering with a local university to bring college-credit education courses to its campuses, allowing its emergency-certified teachers to take courses at times that are convenient to their schedules. One requirement of standard alternative certification is a college course in classroom management and pedagogical principles.

“The life of a teacher is so busy. That can be especially true for a new teacher,” Perez said.  “Trying to understand the art and science of teaching can make the first year a real challenge. This is why we wanted to offer professional development that could be easy for them to access and not at a huge cost to their limited family time.”

One of the six goals of the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s eight-year strategic plan, Oklahoma Edge, is to reduce the need for emergency certifications by 95 percent. Robyn Miller, OSDE deputy superintendent for accountability and school support, said districts like Mid-Del that are proactive in providing professional supports increase the likelihood that their novice teachers will become lifelong educators.

“Guiding students to make discoveries and grow in achievement is the incredible force that drives an educator. Inversely, obstacles that impede that learning connection can be frustrating and derail an early career teacher,” Miller said. “Whenever schools and administrators can make teachers’ lives easier, in this case by bolstering teaching skills with additional training, teachers can more readily focus on the important and rewarding work of instruction with students becoming the ultimate beneficiaries.”

For Messiah, support from her principal has been crucial to surviving her first year of teaching in a public school. In addition, she works with a team of first-grade teachers who act as mentors.

“When you have leadership like I have, you’re good,” Messiah said. “But when you go into a school system where the leadership is not understanding and they don’t have people to help that first-year teacher, I don’t see them making it past a term. It would be impossible.”

Annette Price is communications and constituent services specialist at the Oklahoma State Department of Education.


 PHOTOS: Elementary school emergency-certified teachers discuss their experiences in classroom management in a breakout session at one of the evening classes offered by the Mid-Del School District at the Mid-Del Technology Center.


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Last updated on March 13, 2019