While the structure, curriculum, and approach to educating children is under much debate, the importance and demand for qualified teachers and school leaders remains a certainty. The Oklahoma Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (OACTE) shares the goal that every child graduate from high school “college, career, and citizen ready” and is dedicated to high-quality education for all student learners and ensuring that the educators who work with those children every day make a significant impact on their lives.
Each member institution of OACTE has taken the proactive approach of providing every teacher candidate with experiences in a variety of settings that include diverse student populations to reflect real classroom dynamics. The faculty in teacher preparation programs—along with mentor teachers in the public schools—support teacher candidates from their initial field experiences through their culminating clinical experience. These experiences allow candidates to apply classroom knowledge and adjust that application based on the needs of the students in each particular setting before they become full-time teachers leading a classroom.
The University of Central Oklahoma (UCO), Oklahoma City University, the University of Tulsa, and Northeastern State University have developed programs that specifically target the preparation needs of teachers in urban settings such as Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Oral Roberts University trains teachers in an online virtual experience for students in grades 3-12. UCO participates in a partnership for autistic children, while teacher candidates at Oklahoma Baptist University, Oral Roberts, and the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma often receive dual certification in dual fields including those which prepare candidates for working with children with specialized needs including English language learners, special education students and deaf students. These are only a few examples of the innovations occurring at virtually every program in Oklahoma’s teacher preparation institutions.
All colleges that prepare teachers require candidates to have multiple field experiences in a variety of settings in schools of various types. For example, in addition to semester- or year-long internships (student teaching), early childhood majors at East Central University work in local early childhood centers. At the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, teacher candidates spend many intensive hours at the on-campus Child Development Center. Service learning requirements are often embedded in required courses, as well. Future teachers at East Central University have required experiences tutoring and working with special needs children.
Additionally, every college requires multiple, early hands-on experiences in school settings. At Oklahoma Panhandle State University, all student teachers must help a teacher prepare his/her classroom for the first day, attend a professional development session, and attend the all-important first day of school.
Oklahoma colleges that prepare teachers understand the challenges involved in helping all children learn. The effort expended is commendable, and Oklahoma’s children deserve nothing less.
OACTE members represent Bacone College, Cameron University, East Central University, Langston University, Mid-America Christian University, Northeastern State University, Northwestern Oklahoma State University, Oklahoma Baptist University, Oklahoma Christian University, Oklahoma City University, Oklahoma Panhandle State University, Oklahoma State University, Oklahoma Wesleyan University, Oral Roberts University, St. Gregory's University, Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Southern Nazarene University, Southwestern Oklahoma State University, University of Central Oklahoma, University of Oklahoma, University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, and University of Tulsa.