Oklahoma State University to invest in teachers for Oklahoma through OK-Thrive

In an effort to address a growing teacher shortage in Oklahoma, the Oklahoma State University College of Education and Human Sciences is introducing OK-Thrive, a mentorship and coaching program that will support new teachers during the first three years in the profession.

 The goal of OK-Thrive, The Retention of Innovative Educators, is to empower teachers and cultivate growth and professional development during the critical early years and to help them establish their teaching roots in Oklahoma through a nurturing, non-evaluative community.

 “We face a critical time in teacher education and PK-12 education nationally,” OSU College of Education and Human Sciences Dean Dr. Jon Pedersen said. “We have seen over the last decade a steady decline in the number of individuals choosing to pursue teaching the profession and rising numbers of teachers leaving the profession at the earliest stages of their career. We have to address this crisis not only from a recruiting perspective (and incentivizing the teaching profession) but also retaining teachers in the first three critical years of their professional experience.”

Conversations with Oklahoma school district leaders affirmed the need for an induction support program. OK-Thrive will pair exceptional practicing or retired educators with new graduates from OSU educator preparation programs as well as Extension educators in all 77 Oklahoma counties. The program will be funded in part through appropriations for higher education by the Oklahoma legislature in HB2900 to address the critical shortage of certified teachers in Oklahoma.  

“Through OK-Thrive, we will support our graduates with one-on-one coaching and mentoring. We believe the program will have a dramatic impact on teacher retention, not only in the profession, but in the district and school in which they were hired,” Pedersen said.

OK-Thrive will launch in 2022 with a pilot cohort, preparing to give all novice PK-12 teachers an opportunity to engage in the experience in subsequent years. Oklahoma State also will lead in data collection on the impact of close coaching/mentoring on classroom instruction, teacher efficacy and impact on student learning and development. 

“The launch of OK-Thrive is a dream come true for us. We’ve known for many years that retention of educators needs the attention of our work. As part of our land-grant mission, we look forward to working with America’s Brightest Educators and supporting our graduates,” Dr. Shelbie Witte, head of the School of Teaching, Learning and Educational Sciences.

John Weaver, OSU clinical assistant professor, will serve as OK-Thrive Director and an advisory board of College of Education and Human Sciences faculty, staff and community partners will guide and support the program. 

“I’m excited to support Oklahoma State University graduates as they enter the teaching profession. We prepare great teachers and we want to do all we can to keep them here in Oklahoma,” Weaver said.