Oklahoma Schools Hiring Teachers With Emergency Certificates

Thursday, August 28th 2014, 6:33 pm
By: News 9

Oklahoma's loss of the "No Child Left Behind" waiver comes amid what instructors are calling a growing problem. 

A statewide teacher shortage is causing school districts to hire teachers with emergency certificates at a growing rate.

Emergency certifications allow districts to hire applicants with a college degree, even if they have no background in education.

One district compares the process to a paid internship.

"It gives a chance to someone who's from another career field to say, 'you know I've always wanted to try this, and I think I can make a difference in the life of a child,'" El Reno Superintendent Craig McVay said.

McVay has given that chance to seven people in his district. Most with little to no teaching experience in a high school classroom.

"Hardest thing I've ever done," said Andrea Williams, a teacher with an emergency certification. "From top to bottom, I haven't found an easy part. It's hard."

Jennifer Hardaway also has an emergency certification.

"We've got the education, and we've got the love and passion," Hardaway said.

For McVay, the professionals he hires aren't the issue.

"The back story is frustrating," McVay said.

The back story is the increasing number of applicants.

In all of 2012, the state received 98 applications for emergency certifications. In 2013, it increased to 189. This year, in July and August alone, that number jumped to 280.

The State Department of Education blames the increase on the statewide teacher shortage, which officials say is generated from the state's teacher salary average, ranked second to worst in the nation.

“We're putting out great candidates for other states that are paying more,” McVay said.

"I'd like to think it says there's a lot of people just like us that understand there's a problem, and so we're going to jump in and help," Williams said.

Now, McVay calls on legislators to fix the problem by increasing salaries, while teachers with emergency certifications plan to prove their ability to teach.

The State also blames the shortage on a stressful environment, caused by classroom size and political climate.