On the last day of the teacher walkout, one phrase was heard over and over again – “Remember in November.”
Now, election day has passed and 11 current educators have won seats in the Oklahoma legislature, but teachers say this is only the beginning.
The Oklahoma Education Association says there are more teachers in the legislature than ever before. Even with these numbers, teachers say they know they have a long way to go.
“Educators have to keep up, they have to continue to ask and continue to lobby, and I know that they will,” said Representative-elect Melissa Provenzano.
From attending Bixby High School to holding down the hallways as Assistant Principal, Provenzano is headed to the capitol to represent House District 79. Provenzano says she saw the need to run during the walkout.
“It just flipped a switch,” she said. “I knew this was what I was going to do next.”
She says she has been in education for 15 years and is tired of watching the impact cuts to education funding have on the classroom.
“All that’s left is essentially a teacher and a book and good luck,” she said.
Provenzano is one of 11 teachers who won their races on Tuesday, but education advocates say the fight to put students at the forefront is far from over.
“This is not a sprint, it’s a marathon,” said Shawna Mott-Wright, vice president of Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association. “It’s the longest marathon of our lives, but it’s a marathon nonetheless, but we will continue to work, to be the voices for our children.”
No matter how many steps they’ve taken, signs they’ve painted, or chants they’ve made up, teachers say they’re not done yet. They say they know there’s still more that need to be done in order to make change for education in Oklahoma.
“We can’t give up hope,” said Mott-Wright. “We have to stare into the eyes of our children every day and do everything we can to make tomorrow better for them.”
Many educators are already planning a rally at the capitol for Governor-elect Stitt’s first day in office. They say the rally is to remind him that the need is still there.