Grow Your Own programs for developing the teacher workforce are getting national notoriety amidst an increasing shortage of teachers. Bank of America OKC recently featured The Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools’ Teacher Pipeline Programs through their community partnership spotlight. https://about.bankofamerica.com/en/local/oklahoma-city
The Bilingual and Diversity Teacher Pipeline Programs fund 100% of participants’ (who are paraprofessionals employed by OKCPS) tuition, fees and books for their teacher education degree completion. The Foundation, along with higher education partners UCO, OSU-OKC, OCCC and Rose State College, provide support and resources to them as they work through the program.
The story featured Alexiss Lopez, a graduate of the Bilingual Teacher Pipeline Program. She was born in Mexico and moved to the United States as a child with no English language skills. She began working in Oklahoma City Public Schools as a bilingual paraprofessional (teaching assistant) at Hawthorne Elementary School. As a participant of the Bilingual Teacher Pipeline Program, she was able to earn her college degree, become a certified teacher and is now a kindergarten teacher at Kaiser Elementary School.
Hawthorne’s current principal, Melinda Elms, is also featured in the story. She has been an enthusiastic promoter of the programs at her school and has seen six of her teaching assistants enter the Bilingual Teacher Pipeline Program. “They know exactly what is coming, so when they graduate, they really truly slide into the role with ease,” Elms says. “I love the example it sets for our kids,” she adds. “It’s really great for them to see someone like them working toward a goal.”
In addition to supporting bilingual paraprofessionals, the Foundation’s Diversity Teacher Pipeline Program focuses on BIPOC paraprofessionals. There are currently 65 participants working on degree completion in the two programs. Once certified, they will lead their own classrooms in OKCPS. The participants coming behind them fill the pipeline, will lead their own classrooms in OKCPS.
In addition to serving as amazing role models, as mentioned by Principal Elms, there is convincing data to show that diverse teachers help improve student outcomes. The upward mobility provided to the participants and their families is also significant.
Thanks to Bank of America, Devon Energy, Ray and Pat Potts and many other generous community partners who support the Teacher Pipeline Program, OKCPS is growing our own and building a diverse teacher workforce that will benefit our students for many years to come.