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The Tulsa Way: Learning Opportunities Abound for Teachers at Tulsa Public Schools

Each year, Tulsa Public Schools welcomes a large group of novice teachers to the team. These teachers are all new to the classroom, but they come with a wide range of life experience.

“I was in law enforcement, then I did call centers,” said Ashley Price.

Now, Ashley is teaching 1st grade at Whitman Elementary. She began her education journey with Tulsa Teacher Corps, which prepares aspiring teachers for the classroom. Through Tulsa Teacher Corps, she learned the skills necessary to be successful in the classroom through self-guided online coursework, hands-on training, and personalized coaching.

“I’m learning a lot,” said Ashley. “I think you just have to be able to know how to navigate. Everybody has their own personality. These are like little grown people. You have to know each student. You have to know how each thinks, how they move, what triggers them, or what encourages them to be even better. Who likes competition to do better on assignments? Who doesn’t?”

Ashley said the coaches observe her in the classroom, then offer support, guidance, and encouragement. She also seeks out her co-teachers for advice when needed.

“I always reach out to the people around me,” she said. “They are my support system.”

Tulsa Teacher Corps is just one avenue Tulsa Public Schools has to support novice teachers. Every new teacher – new to teaching or new to the district – is encouraged to attend a four-hour orientation. There, they learn about the strategic vision of the district and have the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the websites they will be using, including Tulsa Way and the Teaching Channel.

New teachers will also attend Novice Teacher Induction. The induction is a five-day course that covers curriculum, social emotional learning, and no-nonsense nurturing. It also helps teachers learn how to meet the needs of diverse learners – including exceptional students and English language learners.

Once they are on-site and in their classroom, teachers who have been with Tulsa Public Schools for fewer than four years will have access to an instructional mentor who they will meet with on a weekly basis to go over growth opportunities with them.

The supports aren’t limited to novice teachers though. The Professional Learning team ensures that all teachers have access to continual, innovative educational opportunities.

One Saturday a month, the team hosts Tulsa Way Saturday where they offer professional development on several topics, including technology, social-emotional learning, teaching strategies, exceptional student services, English language development, and unit planning. They also partner with Teach for America to offer sessions on inclusion and diversity. The design team comes in to discuss the future of learning. The data team also offers their expertise.

There are other professional development days for fine arts, counselors, gifted and talented, career technology, and physical education.

The learning doesn’t stop in the summer either. For a full week, teachers have the opportunity to choose from more than 140 classes and receive a stipend for their time. Some courses are taught by teachers; others are taught through partnerships with other organizations.

The Race Massacre Institute also takes place during the summer. The four-day class includes historical context, lesson-planning, anti-bias training, and a tour of the Greenwood district.

In-between these events, teachers can attend professional development seminars outside of the district or take part in online webinars.

Teachers are given these opportunities to grow and learn so they can, in turn, help their students do the same.

“It’s really all about the kids,” said 2nd year teacher Katrina Davis. “What can I do every day to make sure my kids have what they need?”

For more information on the novice teacher experience, click here.