Teach for America member Symone Thompson (center) reacts during an Induction Placement Ceremony, after finding out she would be teaching at Oklahoma City's Millwood Arts Academy in the fall.

Courtesy Teach for America

Coronavirus pandemic will likely shrink Oklahoma Teach for America Corps

But leaders say organization's members are ' more committed now than ever'

  • Robby Korth

The more than 200 Teach for America Corps members working throughout Oklahoma are continuing to work with their students wherever possible.

When Oklahoma shifted to distance learning only on April 6, they made the move with the rest of the state. In an interview with StateImpact, Teach for America’s regional Executive Directors in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Art Serna and Leslie Daugherty, said the program’s teachers are working hard.

“We’ve seen people rise to the occasion,” Daugherty said. “We saw corps members, even before distance learning was officially happening, reaching out to their students to provide some sort of sense of continuity and community.”

Teach for America corps members make up a significant part of the teacher workforce in Oklahoma, which is  suffering from a years-long shortage of educators.

Teach for America is a nonprofit organization that recruits young people to work in high need school districts for two years. The group helps them gain certification and other training requirements.

Currently the state has 3,000 emergency certified  educators who are allowed to teach on a temporary basis even though they don’t have all the necessary training normally required. In 2010, there were only 32.

Oklahoma will continue to need Teach for America Corps members. And right now, those members are looking forward to the challenge, despite what they’re facing.

“Our admitted corps members are more committed now than ever, given the inequities that they know that COVID-19 will exacerbate,” Daugherty said. “At the same time, we know that there’s uncertainties that are reduced by COVID-19 that could make it harder for some people to leave the current job or move across the country.”

Teach for America’s Oklahoma leaders said they’re working to make sure next year’s incoming class has everything they need to be effective teachers, Serna said.

“There’s a lot of focus… on our incoming corps and understanding what their motivations and barriers are right now in this moment,” Serna said.

Regardless of what school looks like next fall or how many people participate in the Teach for America program, Serna said they will apply lessons learned in Oklahoma classrooms for years to come.

“This taught us in extreme ways the ways we need to modernize education,” he said.