OPSU Shaping the Next Generation of Teachers

Oct 24, 2023

Natasha Eidson

Panhandle State is Shaping the Next Generation of Teachers

Oklahoma Panhandle State University has a well-established track record for delivering top-notch teacher education and is committed to graduating a continuous stream of exceptionally qualified teachers for the state of Oklahoma.

Through the Oklahoma Teacher Connection grant, the State Regents administer several initiatives designed to expand the teacher education pipeline, including the Inspired to Teach program. Inspired to Teach provides a scholarship for eligible students majoring in teacher education at an accredited Educator Preparation Program (EPP).

The Inspired to Teach scholarship amount for full-time students includes $1,000 per year for up to three academic years and $2,500 in the final academic year. Following graduation, Inspired to Teach participants agree to teach in an Oklahoma public school (pre-K through 12th grade) for five consecutive years, a commitment that qualifies program participants to receive a $4,000 award for each year of satisfactory service up to five years, for a total of up to $20,000. At OPSU, there are currently six hardworking students in the Inspired to Teach program and three graduates receiving funding.

University President, Dr. Julie Dinger stated, “We are dedicated to equipping our students with the essential tools and resources to become highly effective educators, contributing to the resolution of Oklahoma’s statewide teacher recruitment initiatives.”

OPSU’s initiative to bridge the gap for education majors continues with the Panhandle Promise Scholarship, which aims to tackle the urgent need for well-prepared educators within the public school districts of Oklahoma’s Panhandle region. It entails a two-year commitment from students who agree to teach in one of the 16 public school districts located in the Oklahoma Panhandle.

In addition to Inspired to Teach, for the second year in a row, Oklahoma Panhandle State University has been awarded the Oklahoma Teacher Connection (OTC) pre-collegiate and collegiate grant of $8,000 by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. The grant funds are distributed from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) program that awards teacher certification acceleration programs. OPSU is well prepared to participate in the state’s initiative for teacher recruitment and is eager to see its graduates teaching in Oklahoma.

Since 1996, collaborative efforts by OTC and teacher education programs at Oklahoma universities have led to partnerships that help address teacher recruitment, retention and placement from a campus-based perspective, and take advantage of the unique strengths of each institution. Earlier this month, collegiate grants totaling $68,058 were approved to support 11 special programs at nine universities in 2023-24.
“Oklahoma’s education landscape is changing, and we must strengthen the teacher education pipeline,” said Chancellor Allison D. Garrett. “The Oklahoma Teacher Connection’s programs serving secondary students, college students, and new teachers help meet the critical need for more well-prepared teachers in Oklahoma classrooms.”

Dr. Charla Lewis, Dean of the College of Arts and Education, stated, “My proposal focused on band director shortages in the Oklahoma Panhandle and the need for mentoring and professional development to try and help keep and attract band directors to the Panhandle. We will be having three professional development sessions this year.” She continued, “Band director participants will receive a travel stipend of $100 after the first session they attend and a participant stipend of $50 for each session they attend. Whatever money is left after those sessions will be used to purchase music for the schools of the participating band directors. Last year, over $5,000 was spent on music alone.”

Oklahoma Panhandle State University has a strong commitment to shaping the next generation of teachers. Through scholarships like the Inspired to Teach Program and the Panhandle Promise, OPSU is not only providing financial support to eligible students majoring in teacher education but also ensuring that they contribute to Oklahoma’s education system. The University’s initiatives are pivotal in transforming Oklahoma’s education landscape and ensuring a brighter future for education in the state. For more information on these valuable programs, click here.

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