Gaylord News is a reporting project of the University of Oklahoma Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication

Gaylord News

Gaylord News is a reporting project of the University of Oklahoma Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication

Gaylord News

Gaylord News is a reporting project of the University of Oklahoma Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication

Gaylord News

Education students at OU walk out with teachers

Future teachers have been standing alongside those at the walkout to make a difference in the lives of their future students.

Anna Smith, a senior at the University of Oklahoma who is majoring in elementary education, has been at the Capitol every day of the walkout except one. Smith is in her last semester at the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education and is student teaching second grade at Reagan Elementary School in Norman, Oklahoma.

Most of the days at the walkout were the same for Smith, except for April 9. Monday started at 5 a.m. for Smith as she and several other Norman Public School teachers walked from Norman to the Capitol. The 20-mile walk took the group about eight hours to complete.

“It was a really early start, but we were really motivated to get here,” said Smith.

Norman teachers walked to make a point that they were not ready to give up. Smith said they wanted to show legislators they will fight as long as they have to in order to get what is right for their kids.

Smith and her colleagues at the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education are required by OU to complete 16 weeks of student teaching to graduate. However, the walkout has left student teachers without these classes, so they have been given other options from faculty during this time.

Staff at the college of education has been arranging activities in the college for students to continue their development as professionals. The activities will be flexible and allow those who want to go to the Capitol that opportunity.

“We feel like we have that obligation,” said Teresa DeBacker, the associate dean for professional education at Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education. “Since they are OU students, we want them to be the best they can be when they graduate in a few weeks.”

While some students have been at the Capitol, others have been volunteering at the schools, passing out breakfast and lunch or providing services to parents with students in the area. Smith missed one day at the Capitol to provide childcare for a local family she knows with kids in the school system.

“I will probably be at the Capitol every day after today as well,” said Smith. “I just see it as important to be there standing up for my students and the teachers that have helped me along the way.”

After graduation, Smith will not be teaching, but traveling abroad to Tegernsee, Germany, where she will be a full-time nanny for a family. While she will not be teaching, Smith is hoping to get the chance to volunteer in the local school’s English program.

“I wanted to have the chance to go abroad and travel after graduation before I get settled into a job and feel the pressure to stay there,” said Smith.

The walkout not only affects current teachers, but also those in college who will soon enter the workforce. Smith said the walkout does have an effect on which state she will choose to teach in after her time in Germany. She also mentioned that out of a class of 20, only around three of her fellow graduates said they would stay in Oklahoma to teach.

Many want to leave Oklahoma and go to surrounding states that have education funding and higher pay than Oklahoma. Smith thinks this is a “direct reflection” of the crisis Oklahoma has put on public schools.

While Smith is passionate about becoming a teacher, she believes the public education system in Oklahoma is detrimental. She is worried about the extra work load and stress that comes with the job.

“As a first year teacher, I will not want to work 2-3 jobs to pay rent,” said Smith.

Smith said she did not want to work in an education system that could not properly pay its teachers or properly fund students. She feels that increased funding would allow teachers to have smaller class sizes and the tools they need to do their job.

“Without these services and funding, our teachers are put under so much pressure to literally do everything,” said Smith.

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