OU Professor Surveying Teachers Leaving Oklahoma
NORMAN, Oklahoma - Teaching future educators how to use technology in the classroom, OU professor Dr. Theresa Cullen is active on social media. And an unfortunate topic is trending among teachers in Oklahoma.
“I started to see people talking about leaving,” she said.
Shawn Sheehan is one of them. He was Oklahoma's 2016 Teacher of the Year, who made the tough decision to leave for Texas.
“I felt like we weren’t documenting what was happening and what Oklahoma was losing,” Dr. Cullen said.
Dr. Cullen just launched a survey for teachers who started their career in Oklahoma and decided to take another teaching job out of state. Among other questions, she's asking where they went and why. In 48 hours, she said 200 teachers filled out the survey. She shared early results with News 9.
“The number one issue was money. It was around 88 percent of the people who filled out the survey so far. But around 60 percent said it was respect. And a lot of their written answers talked about I now feel better respected and that I have more resources available and that I’m not being asked to do extra duties,” Dr. Cullen told News 9.
The project gives teachers a place to share their stories and be heard. The survey does not ask for the teachers’ names.
“They said, ‘I don’t want to leave. It was the right thing for my family. I can pay down my student loans,’” Dr. Cullen explained. “Fifty percent of them still have student loans. ‘I can buy a house, which has always been my dream. I’ve gotten a new car that’s now reliable, which I couldn’t do when I lived in Oklahoma.’”
And Dr. Cullen hopes the end results will ultimately affect change.
“If I can learn some things from the teachers who have left Oklahoma to help make teachers in Oklahoma more successful and help our students learn better in the state, then I’m doing part of my job as a professor at the University of Oklahoma,” she said.
Dr. Cullen said she plans to share the findings with legislators and the State Department of Education.