Nearly 1,500 emergency certified teachers help fill the teacher shortage gap in Oklahoma. In fact, they are currently teaching more than 61,000 students statewide. However, many of these emergency teachers aren't just committed to helping out in the short term, but to also change careers paths.
Hunter Day's classroom at Yukon High School looks like any other classroom. She has all the desks in place, her bulletin boards decorated and daily routines organized.
"I'm ready to just get them here," said Day. "I've done all the planning I can do."
But Hunter is not like any other teacher.
"I'm obviously nervous, I've never taught before," she admits. "I know that I'm ready, prepared content wise."
Despite her lack of teaching skills, she knows science. With a degree from Oklahoma Baptist University, she was once on track to go to medical school.
"Just kind of decided a couple of months ago that I really didn't want to do that," Day said. "I just decide I wanted to have more family time."
Now, she's taking her background in biology to Yukon Public Schools, where 100 new teachers started with the district this school year, 40, like Hunter, with little to no teaching experience.
"These emergency certified people are people that had a desire to come from something and help people," said Dr. Jason Simeroth, Yukon Public Schools Superintendent. "We have them from elementary to high school, they're teaching science and social studies and pre-K just everything and they wanted to be here, they wanted to be here for those kids."
The new teachers must attend trainings throughout the school year to prepare them for the classroom and help them deal with student behavior problems.
"I think my biggest concern when I first traveled down this route was behavior management," said Day. "I was worried that I wouldn't be able to manage the kids or that they would look at me and see how young I am and think 'oh, well you're just a kid too and I don't have to listen to you.'"
News 9 checked in with Day one month into her teaching debut.
"I think I like it more than I could have anticipated," she said.
Day says she's in a teaching groove and admits all her fears have shifted.
"They learned pretty fast that I don't put up with a lot," she said. "My biggest fear now which is way different than it was then is that the ones I know I can get to and I can get them to get it, just won't. I'm afraid they'll either drop out or just decide that they just don't want to anymore and I don't want that because I think they all have potential."
Hunter's emergency certification will allow her to teach this year on a 10-month contract.
"It's a blessing for us as a district and it's going to be a blessing for those kids as well," said Dr. Simeroth. "The passion is where you start. If you have the passion to do it, you can be good at it."
Day plans to get her certification requirement in by March, though, to come back next year.
"I definitely see teaching as something I could do forever which is not something I would have said six months ago," she said. "It's totally been a conformation for me, I love it so far."
To become alternatively certified to teach, Hunter has to complete 6-18 college credit hours or up to 270 hours of professional development. She also has to pass three tests within three years.