The State Education Department is taking its show on the road this year, hosting a number of conferences to help teachers prepare for the upcoming school year.
Engage-OK kicked off Monday morning at Broken Arrow High School. More than 1,000 educators and administrators crowded the high school, ready to bone up on new state and federal standards for the coming year.
They were all also preparing themselves for larger class sizes and fewer resources.
State School Superintendent Joy Hofmeister compares this year's legislative session to walking on broken glass.
School budgets were cut and Oklahoma teachers are now the lowest paid in the nation. Still, Hofmeister said we can't afford to let our children suffer the consequences.
“Because, what we know is our students aren't going to be able to wait. They are in need of the best education for the first grade, second grade, third grade. They don't get a do-over year. We have got to get it right,” she said.
Many of the break-out sessions focused on the changes that will be expected of teachers in the coming year; it’s becoming something of a ritual.
Math teachers, for example, are being asked to embrace their fourth new set of standards in the last four years.
Nonetheless, the educators we spoke with remain generally optimistic, although many at the conference also had a message for parents.
Pretty Water teacher, Maggie Bennett said, “We're going to take care of your children. We're going to make sure they get the education they need. But stay involved with the legislature. Pay attention to how our legislators are supporting, or not supporting, public education.”
At the opening of the conference, Hofmeister played a story on an Iowa teacher leadership initiative that I reported on earlier this year.
She’s trying to get a similar program established in Oklahoma. The legislature has approved the concept, but, so far, not found the money to pay for it.
The Broken Arrow conference continues Tuesday, and similar conferences will be held this month in five other locations throughout the state.