After winning a hotly contested election in November, State Superintendent-Elect Joy Hofmeister is busy traveling the state, trying to get a pulse on the big issue facing Oklahoma schools.
Even though the campaign is over, Hofmeister is still traveling almost every day, trying to learn what educators, parents and students expect out of her.
11/4/2014 Related Story: Joy Hofmeister Elected New State Superintendent
Her eagerness to learn goes back to her roots in St. Louis, Missouri where she was born. She then moved to Tulsa where she was raised and attended the old Eastwood Baptist High School.
When she enrolled at TCU for college, she joined ROTC, where she performed weekly drills and training exercises, something she said many people don't know about her.
No matter where her journey took her, her passion for teaching has never changed.
“I always wanted to be a teacher, from the beginning, and I loved my teachers. They played a significant role in my life,” she said.
When she takes office in January, she is taking on a role that has been the flashpoint of conflict between outgoing superintendent Janet Barresi and educators.
Dave: "Do teachers trust the State Superintendent office right now in Oklahoma?”
Hofmeister: "Well it is important that we recognize, our teachers are demoralized, there are many reasons for this. I do believe it starts at the top."
She's already made her first move; recently, she and her team sent out a survey, in which 10,000 Oklahomans responded.
They said their number one concern about Oklahoma education is testing, and Hofmeister agreed, saying Oklahoma children are over tested, but has a solution.
"Something that will be more aligned with the ACT where there is value with those tests after graduation. Right now, we are taking tests that don't provide value once you graduate. We have seven tests right now require of all high schools students. We can take from seven to one."
Another issue she will focus on is teacher pay. Oklahoma teachers have some of the lowest average salaries in the country and Hofmeister said we're losing out to other states.
3/31/2014 Related Story: Thousands Of Teachers Rally At State Capitol For Education Funding
"This is a serious problem, it's a crisis. We need to make our plans to really bring our teachers up to the regional average and then we will be able to compete with the states around us," she said.
Despite an uphill climb ahead, Hofmeister said she will work with the state government to create an eight-year plan - much like ODOT has with construction projects - that would increase education funding and teacher pay and push through testing reform.
To do that, Hofmeister said she wants to, “Alleviate the burden and over-regulation, and reports and red tape that keep teachers from focusing on their students.”