‘You’re getting someone who understands our region’: OPSU tackles statewide teacher shortage

Published: Apr. 12, 2023 at 5:47 PM CDT
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GOODWELL, Oklahoma (KFDA) - There’s a teacher shortage nation-wide including, in the Panhandle.

Oklahoma Panhandle State University (OPSU) is working to address the statewide teacher shortage with incentive programs, alongside the Oklahoma Future Teacher Scholarship and Employment Incentive Program, also known as Inspired to Teach.

Along with this program, OPSU launched a similar scholarship called the Panhandle Promise Scholarship, which addresses the need for highly trained educators in the Oklahoma panhandle public school district’s classrooms.

“Oklahoma is really in a crisis right now, in terms of our teacher shortage... here in the Panhandle region in particular, it’s really a killer for our small schools when you’ve got holes that you can’t fill,” said Julie Dinger, president, OPSU.

OPSU hopes to fill these holes with the scholarship.

It’s a two-year commitment from the student to teach in one of 16 Oklahoma panhandle public school districts.

This scholarship pays the expected out-of-pocket costs for tuition and fees a student would face after federal and state aid and all other scholarships the student receives are applied.

“You’re getting someone who understands our region, understands our communities, understands our culture and so they’re far more likely to stick with it, they’re far more likely to remain lifelong residents of our region,” said Dinger.

One teacher at Hooker High School says in his three years of teaching he’s learned it’s a very rewarding job.

“There are some kids when you might be the best person in their life and if you give them a good example to look up to it’s huge in their life,” said Jacob Test, Hooker Public Schools.

“I would encourage anybody who has thought in their lives about a teacher or a coach or maybe a counselor who made a difference in their lives, someone who saw something in you before you saw it in yourself to think about if you have that gift to give to others,” said Test.

OPSU wants to allow students to give that gift without the burden of financial debt.

“It’s a very noble job, it takes a lot sometimes, but at the end of the day when you see kids succeed in what they’re doing in your classrooms it’s pure joy,” said Test.

The deadline to apply for the Panhandle Promise Scholarship is June 1, 2023.

For more information on the scholarship and to apply, click here.