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OCU Education Department Receives Grant to Help Urban Schools

The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education awarded the Oklahoma City University Department of Education a one-year grant to recruit education majors to teach in urban school districts. 

Professors Elizabeth Willner and Lisa Lawter developed the proposal to recruit and inspire teacher candidates across Oklahoma. The project, called “Connecting Across Cultures,” will bring multicultural education expert Martha Lue Stewart to the OCU campus for a conference Feb. 10.

Stewart will give a presentation about issues teachers encounter when teaching student groups with diverse cultural backgrounds and will share her strategies to support all students’ learning.

Lawter said the conference is important because of the dramatic increase of diversity seen in urban schools over the last three decades. For example, in Oklahoma’s two largest school districts minority students outnumber white students — 79 percent in Oklahoma City and 53 percent in Putnam City districts — yet the majority of teachers, 83 percent, are white.

“There are challenges and opportunities inherent in this mismatch, and addressing issues related to ethnicity and culture is crucial for teacher candidates,” she said.

Willner said the shortage of teachers in urban schools is another challenge that urban school districts face.

“We also have challenges with teacher shortages in urban schools where the turnover is high,” Willner said. “Beginning teachers report they need additional strategies to assist the wide range of their students in reaching their full potential.”

Conference organizers plan to extend invitations to Oklahoma City University students from underserved populations to learn about teaching in urban schools. In addition, five delegates from each of the 22 Oklahoma teacher preparation programs will be invited in hopes of inspiring them to work in urban settings.

OCU education majors, Clara Luper Scholars and American Indian Scholars will facilitate roundtable discussions during the conference.

For more information, call the OCU Education Department at (405) 208-5371.