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Our Experience at the Oklahoma Teacher Walkout by Liz Willner, Cassidy Jasperson and Monica Hiller

Our Experience During the Walkout at the Oklahoma State Capitol by Liz Willner, Cassidy Jasperson and Monica Hiller

The Oklahoma Teacher Walkout represents educators’ dedication to the students they serve. After years of no progress in classroom funding, teacher salaries, and other state services that support children, it was time to take the desperate measure of walking out of the classroom to the state Capitol. To echo a chant from the Walkout on Monday: This is What Democracy Looks Like!

OKCU student Monica Hiller and Education Professor Liz Willner at the walkout
OKCU student Monica Hiller and Education Professor Liz Willner at the walkout

All week, many of our teacher education students at OKCU joined our graduates who are now teaching across the state to put voice to their concerns and to advocate for our state’s children. Sadly, our current students are still worried about education funding as well as their future pay when making the decision to stay in Oklahoma or go to a state that respects their work with appropriate salaries and conditions that make it possible to teach well.

Oklahoma needs 4,000 teaching positions filled next year. Only about 1300 education majors are graduating out of Oklahoma colleges this year. Of those, many will be going out of state to teach. 

OKCU Student Teacher Cassidy Jasperson
OKCU student teacher Cassidy Jasperson attends the walkout

Another concern highlighted by this week’s events is the lasting effects of this decade of neglect on the teaching profession in Oklahoma.  Unless we do something now, we will have even more unprepared people in our classrooms. We currently have an unprecedented number of alternatively and emergency certified people, in addition to those with very little pedagogical preparation such as Teach for America. 

This is not the first protest I have been a part of, but this is the longest protest I have been a part of. The first day was electric. People were passionate and it was a big party, but as the days went on, the excitement turned to frustration. For three days, the House of Representatives did nothing because they expected the teachers to leave.

 Every day we remind them from the rotunda of the Capitol that “we're not leaving!”

While we can’t blame anyone for wanting to be a teacher, developing a thoughtful practice takes time, challenging academic preparation across the curriculum, well-developed and purposeful practicums, and mentor teachers who skillfully guide student teachers in the final phase of a teacher education program.

Monica Hiller, a student teacher at Grove Valley Elementary in Deer Creek attends the walkout
Monica Hiller, pictured on the left, a student teacher at Grove Valley Elementary in Deer Creek attends the walkout

Our teacher education majors show, through their participation in the Walkout and every day in the OKCU Teacher Education Program, that they are the professionals we need in our state’s schools.  They are the professionals our students need. They are the future of education in our state, but they need both the salary and conditions that match their professional preparation.

One of the biggest misconceptions about the walk-out is that it is about teacher pay; let me say this very clearly, the walk-out is not about teacher pay.

The walkout is about securing the funding for classrooms, schools, and support staff that Oklahoma's students deserve. I have had the opportunity to speak with my parents' senator and I look forward to meeting with more. We would much rather be in the classroom, but we will be at the Capitol until our students get what they deserve. 

Cassidy Jasperson, a student teacher at Deer Creek Intermediate School attends the walkout
Cassidy Jasperson, a student teacher at Deer Creek Intermediate School, attends the walkout

Liz Willner, Ed.D., is the Petree College of Arts and Science Education Department Chair and the OKCU Director of Teacher Education. She co-wrote this post with Cassidy Jasperson and Monica Hiller.

This Walkout Band video taken by instrumental music education student teacher Erin Epperly has, as of the time of this posting, been viewed nearly 1 million times: 

Click to see Walkout Band Video