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Passion Drives Educators

New teachers share challenges they face this academic year and why they remain passionate about what they do.
Passion Drives Educators

Passion Drives Educators

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Autry Technology Center

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Show Details

Show 1633: Passion Drives Educators
Air Date: August 14, 2016



Rob McClendon: Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining us here on “Horizon.” I’m Rob McClendon. Well, teaching has never been an easy career path, and that’s especially the case now in Oklahoma, with a teacher shortage and a budget shortfall to boot. So we ask the question, “Why teach?” What drives people young and old to forego other, more profitable careers and spend their lives educating students? And our Blane Singletary found us some answers.

Blane Singletary: With educators and legislators at odds with how Oklahoma’s kids should be taught as well as the way it should be funded, the teaching situation in the Sooner State doesn’t paint a pretty picture. But all the doom and gloom hasn’t stopped these four newly minted teachers, who were all inspired in some way to take on this challenging profession.

Rachel Burkey: When I was little, I would play school with my friends, and I was always the teacher, and they were, like, my students. So that was just always something that always came natural to me.

Hilary Webb: I just wanted to be like my first-grade teacher. She was very positive, really made a difference in everyone’s lives.

Lucy Dieman: So my mother is a kindergarten teacher, and I’ve seen the way that she’s impacted her students, and I want to do the same for my own.

Tara Weatherford: Since middle school I worked at church, doing church camp, vacation Bible school, and everyone always told me I needed to be a teacher one day, so I just want to be someone that inspires others I guess.

Blane: Rachel Burkey, Hilary Webb, Lucy Dieman and Tara Weatherford are recent graduates of OSU’s human development family sciences program. And they’ve not lost their resolve to become educators, despite this harsh reality for Oklahoma teachers.

Webb: My dad, actually he says, “I’m paying more for you to go to school than you’re ever gonna make. Are you sure this is what you wanna do? You have to have money to live.” And, he’s right, but I just want to do something that I love.

Dieman: It’s not about the money for us. It’s about something that we’re passionate about.

Blane: And this lifelong passion is running head-first into reality – one that has affected each of them in different ways as they enter the workforce. According to Oklahoma Watch, any of these four could expect to make around $31,000 to $35,000 as a starting salary in the Sooner State. But go across the Lone Star state line, and they could make nearly $20,000 more. That’s the difference between being well off and just getting by, and why Rachel says she’s accepted a job in San Antonio.

Burkey: That is a big reason why I’m moving. Not because I don’t feel like I have any other option, but just, I wanna have a good life. I didn’t want to have to worry about paying my rent or paying my bills.

Blane: But Lucy and Hilary, who have accepted jobs within Oklahoma, are not letting the fact that they’ll be earning much less discourage them.

Webb: It’s kind of hard to hear, but at the same time, I love the job that I just signed with. I love the principal. I love the assistant principal. Starting out, I think it’s a really good choice for me right now.

Dieman: It is a little scary being on my own and going to be fending for myself, but I think if this is what’s meant to be, then I’m gonna make ends meet, and it’s gonna be a great experience.

Blane: But at the time we spoke to her, Tara had not yet landed a job. All she’d been told was --

Weatherford: Wait till the summer, wait till July, we’ll see. I keep hoping that the money will come through, and I keep thinking that in August they’ll be desperate for teachers again. So, that’s what I keep telling myself.

Blane: It’s this advice that career services coordinator Michelle Crew keeps telling these students, “Believe it or not, this situation is not uncommon this late into the summer.”

Michelle Crew: It is extra challenging for those students who are looking for positions, and they’re spending from maybe April to August in the job search and not being able to get any kind of interviews because the schools aren’t sure whether or not they’re gonna hire. They may not be hired until August or a week after school starts. That’s a very common thing in Oklahoma.

Blane: Crew told us it’s about this point in late summer that Oklahoma schools begin calling her to see if she has any teachers available. But depending on the subject, she’s not always able to oblige.

Crew: We have some amazing programs, our science and math education programs to recruit students to go into those fields. So we’re getting more and more students interested in teaching science and math, but it’s still not anywhere where it will handle the shortage in those areas in Oklahoma.

Blane: Some young teachers may feel uncomfortable with moving to a place they’ve never been before, and on the other hand, the salaries offered in other states make Oklahoma not as competitive. So with this Catch-22 playing out in the state’s education system, why is anyone becoming an Oklahoma teacher at all?

Rachel Snider: We didn’t come for the paycheck; we came for the passion.

Blane: We went out to CareerTech’s Young Professionals Meet and Greet in Bricktown. Here, plenty of fresh teachers, like Rachel Snider who teaches cosmetology at Autry Tech, took a break from preparing for the next school year and took an opportunity to connect with their colleagues, many of which have left jobs in their industry to teach it.

Snider: We all know that industry makes a lot more money. We don’t leave industry jobs and come to education for the money. We come because we passionately seek to educate others about what we love.

Blane: Ask any of these teachers, and you’ll hear the same thing. It’s a sometimes intangible passion that’s driven them to devote their lives to this line of work.

Tony Bottoms: I wanted to make a difference in the industry of truck driving. As a driver I used to gripe about the new drivers all the time and the lack of skill that they had. And then this opportunity came up, and I thought that would be really great for me to be able to get into the industry at the ground level.

Blane: And while they are something to keep an eye on, they’re not letting looming budget cuts get them down.

Ashley Ewbank: I think that it’s important that we continue to build those relationships with our students and continue to help them get the skills that they need to join the workforce.

Blane: The stage for this school year has been set. Now, it’s up to educators and legislators to figure out how best to leverage the teachers’ passion to continue building our future. Again, Michelle Crew.

Crew: Watching other people’s joy, seeing them succeed, can be an amazing feeling, and I think being able to help somebody get there, you’re giving them tools to be successful in life, and so a little bit of their success is your success. It’s a wonderful, wonderful feeling to be a part of that.

Rob McClendon: Now, when we return, kicking off the new school year with a lot of excitement despite some uncertainties.