April 2018 Editorial Winner

Riley heads to Texas
JJ Francais, The Chronicle

No, Lincoln Riley - head football coach at the University of Oklahoma - isn’t headed to Texas. However, if the headline grabbed your attention, then the facts just might scare you. We aren’t losing a football coach to Texas but rather thousands of teachers.
Thousands of teachers are choosing to either leave Oklahoma or the profession altogether. Among the reasons cited are pay, classroom resources and supplies.
Many schools across Oklahoma are reporting a teacher shortage, which often leaves schools with only two options. One, hire individuals who have a degree (but no training or courses in education) and file for emergency certification or, secondly, increase class sizes. Option two puts an added burden on the remaining teachers.
Oklahoma currently leads the nation in emergency certifications. While there have been great teachers (even right here at home in Elgin) who have started out alternatively certified, we shouldn’t allow that to become the norm.
Now, I am not worried about tomorrow or even the rest of this school year. The system can probably maintain this bleed-and- replace for years to come, but there will come a point when we have done all the bleeding we can. The prospect of that point should give all of us pause.
We have made the progress we have because countless individuals had a desire to help and a knack for connecting with others. They undertook an education designed to not only vet them (this is far and above a background check), but also exposed them to a classroom, provided constructive feedback and allowed them to go from novice to expert. Something no alternatively certified teacher has the luxury of experiencing.
Today an education major undergoes a series of clinics designed to test them in increments - not only for effectiveness but to help them determine if teaching is truly their calling.
Teaching is a craft that is honed and perfected, year after year. It shouldn’t be a quick vocation, a way to make ends meet or something you do until you figure out what you want to do. Teachers are the gatekeepers between the world and our future.
My question is simple. How likely are fifth graders who are sitting in chairs that pinch, studying from books held together by duct tape and taught in classrooms of 30 kids to choose teaching as their chosen profession?
The profession should be a tough field to get into. Anyone choosing to pursue it should wake up inspired to teach day after day - and teachers should have our undivided support.

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