Education department challenges state statistics

Education majors in Oklahoma story. Photo by Allyson Hazelrigg.

Education majors in Oklahoma story. Photo by Allyson Hazelrigg.

The annual mean wage of elementary school teachers in Oklahoma, as of May 2015, is $41,900 — the lowest across the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, Oklahoma Christian University’s education program is looking past the statistics and preparing the next generation of teachers.

Oklahoma Christian is home to an accredited education program and has a 100% job placement rate for its graduates.

As a graduate of the Oklahoma public school system and an elementary education major, senior Jade George said she feels fortunate to have received her education in Edmond, Oklahoma. George said Edmond public schools hold a special place in her heart.

“I attended Edmond public schools my whole life,” George said. “I have learned and grown so much in my years in EPS, and would love nothing more than to give back to them someday.”

While George said the education and funding situation is something she has spent a lot of time thinking about, she said she wants to work in Oklahoma upon graduation.

“For me, what is comes down to is that Oklahoma is my home,” George said. “My family is here, my church is here, my connections are all here and I’m not ready to give that up.”

George attended Oklahoma Christian for its well-known education program. George said she came to Oklahoma Christian knowing she would gain knowledge and be prepared to teach in a classroom upon graduation.

“I feel as though teaching is my calling,” George said. “I love children, and I think working with children everyday would be such a blessing.”

George said she has considered moving to Texas for the better education funding and teacher salaries, but decided money is not a good enough reason for her to leave her home state.

“The only reason I would ever move to Texas is because of the money, and to me that is not a big enough of a reason,” George said. “The relationships I have here in Oklahoma mean more to me, plus…I just love being an ‘Okie’ — boomer sooner.”

Oklahoma Christian early education graduate Morgan Barnett currently teaches in the Oklahoma public school system. She says the lack of pay never played a part in her reasoning of whether or not she should work in education.

“Dedicated educators are hard to find these days and I don’t want to be one of those people who bails when times are tough,” Barnett said. “I got into my field during one of our darkest times and I hope I can stay in the field long enough to see a change and growth.”

Barnett said while many people have suggested she move to Texas to teach, she has no desire to leave Oklahoma.

“Yes, teacher pay in Texas is significantly better, but I didn’t start teaching for money,” Barnett said. “I started teaching because I love children and I want to make a difference. I don’t do my job for money. I do it because I enjoy it.”

Barnett said there are times when money is tight and times are rough. She said sometimes half of her paycheck geos to student loans and the other half goes to rent and bills.

“There are some repayment plans and programs for student loans that have been very helpful to myself and other teachers I know,” Barnett said. “These programs are set up to specifically help people in lower income professions. I have been so grateful to be a part of some of these programs.”

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