This fall marks the first semester of a federally funded program to incentivize people to enter the education field.
Students are required by the state to complete a minimum of 12 weeks student teaching to receive a traditional education certification in Oklahoma.
Oklahoma Education Association president Katherine Bishop said this is just one of a variety of burdens that educators face entering the field.
“Our teacher preparation programs are vital to educators that are stepping into the classroom,” said Bishop.
During that time, students are not paid.
“For so many of our educators that are stepping into the classroom, to have to take that semester and do full student teaching, there is no way to have that job and another job,” Bishop said. “It alleviates that barrier of having to provide for your family.”
The State Department of Education partnered with the State Regents for Higher Education to use $12.75 million in federal funding for stipends for student teachers.
The program will provide up to $3,250 to about 1,300 qualified student teachers. Student teachers will be paid $1,625 at the beginning of their internship, and the final $1,625 payment will be paid by the in-state school district that hires the new teacher.
The three-year program was announced in August.
University of Central Oklahoma College of Education and Professional Studies interim dean Dr. Bryan Duke said some student teachers who received the stipend provided positive feedback on the program.
“Many have told us that this is a game-changer for them. Student teaching and completing a teaching preparation program can get really expensive,” Duke said.
This program comes as education leaders seeks ways to recruit and retain teachers in Oklahoma amidst a severe teacher shortage.
“This is something we have known for quite a while, that a shortage was there, but we are really at crisis level and have been the past few years,” Duke said. “The pandemic really made things more challenging for teachers.”
To qualify, the student teachers must be seeking a degree through an Oklahoma college and be hired by an Oklahoma school district.
“We have so many wonderful teachers out there, but we will lose them if we do not find a way to keep this profession rewarding,” Duke said.