Educator Currents Newsletter for all Oklahoma Educators


Heroes Among Us

There’s the story of Waynel Mayes, a first-grade teacher at Moore’s Briarwood Elementary, who played instruments with her class and had them sing “Jesus Loves Me” as the tornado ripped apart her school. She said she didn’t want the children to be afraid.

There’s the story of Rhonda Crosswhite, a sixth-grade teacher at Plaza Towers Elementary, who laid on top of students to save them.

Mark Hunt, the principal of Westmoore High School, shepherded his student body and staff into shelter just before the tornado turned away from his school.

The list of teachers, administrators and other educators who saved children and others during the May 19 and 20 storms is lengthy.

They are our heroes. They deserve our warmest embrace.

Then there are the first responders and the many, many volunteers who have donated water, clothes and other items and who are helping to clear rubble and help rebuild. They deserve a huge debt of gratitude.

A special thank you to our bus drivers who came from all parts of Oklahoma to shuttle people to Sunday’s prayer service, and to volunteers from the State Department of Education and many schools throughout the state that have helped sort donations and get them to those affected by this tragedy.

Oklahomans are the strongest, most faith-filled people. We shine brightest in times of deepest darkness.

The State Department of Education has heard from people all across the country who want to help, and received condolences from as far away as France, Greece and Spain. Many of these people have asked how they can donate directly to the schools most affected.

Moore Public Schools has set up a relief fund to help refurbish classrooms and educational materials as well as help students, families and staff of the district with food, clothing, shelter, transportation and other needs.

Donate online through 

Make checks payable to:
Moore Public Schools Tornado Relief Fund

Mail checks to:
Moore Public Schools Tornado Relief Fund
1500 SE 4th Street
Moore, OK 73160


Following a natural disaster such as the tornadoes that recently struck Moore and several other communities, agencies typically step in to provide assistance in the form of housing, food, clothing and other services. Mental health needs also are a focus of disaster recovery efforts.

The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, in conjunction with the Red Cross, has trained more than 500 licensed mental health professionals to assist with disaster recovery efforts. The department also is working with the State Department of Education and Moore Public Schools to provide needed services and supports to educators, students and families. 

“The main purpose of the mental health outreach is to help staff, students and parents understand what’s ‘normal’ following a natural disaster of this magnitude,” said Melissa White, Executive Director of Counseling and ACE at the State Department of Education. “Children will have a lot of questions, and we want to help teachers and parents know how to answer them.”

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) is a widely used resource for disasters of this type. Information specifically about mental health recovery after a tornado can be found at

“Adolescents and children may differ in their response to a tornado or other natural disasters,” White said. “The emotional impact and trauma associated with this natural disaster is not a short-term event. For most people, the psychological recovery time can range anywhere from one to three years, or longer.”

The NCTSN website offers a variety of materials that educators and parents can access to help them answer questions or give to students.

“The main thing people need to know is that recovery from natural disasters takes time, but help is available,” White said.

For more information about available services, call Melissa White at (405) 521-3549.

All OK Educators Invited to
Participate in Reward School PD

Bethany’s Earl Harris Elementary and partner school Council Grove Elementary from the Western Heights School District have decided not to keep the benefits of a State Department of Education Reward School Grant all to themselves.

Instead, they are using the grant to share professional development opportunities with educators from across the state.

“The Reward School Grant gave us the money to bring in speakers to provide professional development to our teachers,” said Tim Haws, principal at Bethany’s Earl Harris Elementary School. “We calculated the number of people from each school who might attend these sessions and determined we have extra space available, so we thought we’d invite others.”

Sessions are:

  • June 13, 8:15 AM – 11:00 AM: Guy Doud, 1986 National Teacher of the Year and Award-Winning Author, will share strategies on building relationships and increasing student motivation while helping teachers to rejuvenate, refuel and restore their enthusiasm.
  • July 31, 8:15 AM – 2:30 PM: Drew Eichelberger, Executive Director of Elementary Education for Putnam City Schools will present a workshop on new academic standards, including model teaching and steps to implement.
  • August 1, 8:15 AM – 2:30 PM: Sara Smith, Director of Gifted and Talented Education for the State Department of Education, will demonstrate the Expanding Expression Tool, which allows a multi-sensory approach to teaching that helps students expand their vocabulary and writing skills. 

Educators interested in attending the sessions can view more information or register at

The State Department of Education in January awarded grants totaling $400,000 to six Reward Schools throughout the state as part of the department’s Raise the Grade Together initiative.

Reward Schools are designated as high achieving in all state assessments or showing high progress in reading and math. As part of the grant application, Reward Schools had to propose a partnership with a Priority School, those that are in the bottom 5 percent of achievement in the state in reading and mathematics, have a graduation rate below 60 percent for at least three years, or have received a School Improvement Grant (SIG).

Tim Haws said Bethany’s premise has been that they are going to learn as much from their partner school as that school will learn from Bethany.

“They are doing a lot of things that are very good that we can learn from,” he said. “We’ve been very successful, but a lot of that has to do with very hard work and high expectations. We are very data-driven. We know we don’t have all the answers, and that is the benefit of this partnership.”

Haws said Bethany already was collaborating with schools in Edmond and Putnam City to get ideas for continuous improvement; the Reward School Grant just helps them continue that.

“The professional development we have lined up will benefit all of us greatly,” he said. “The funds to bring in these speakers would have taxed our budget, and I’m not sure we could have done it.”

Haws said one of the first benefits of the Reward School grant was that it helped break the ice between Bethany and Western Heights.

“This gave us a reason to visit. We’re all so busy with a lot to do in a short amount of time. This gave our teachers, counselors and other staff members a chance to break into grade level and discipline discussions and learn from each other.

The grant also will help provide some technology pieces that will benefit both schools and will allow Bethany to give some additional teacher stipends to those spending extra time on professional development.

Oklahoma C3 Grant RFPs Sought

Requests for Proposals are now being sought for Oklahoma C3 Competitive Grants from local education agencies (LEAs) and educational partners seeking to scale successful projects to a regional or statewide level of implementation to impact an increased number of students.

Awarded grants will be programs that are likely to support the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s goal that each Oklahoma student will graduate from high school, and each graduate will be college, career and citizen ready by the year 2020. Grant awardees will provide services to a significant number of students, teachers, administrators, and/or other stakeholders. Points will be granted for programs that serve schools designated as Priority, Targeted Intervention and/or Focus Schools.

Examples of activities that may be included in successful proposals, but are not limited to include:

  • Innovative dropout prevention programs.
  • Enrichment, mentoring, tutoring, social and emotional skill-building.
  • Professional development for teachers and administrators on the use of the arts, behavioral skills and/or character education to improve academic success.
  • Research and dissemination of best practices related to Oklahoma education reform initiatives.
  • STEM-related activities for students and/or educators.
  • Literacy-related activities for students and/or educators.
  • Professional development for teachers and administrators on implementation of Oklahoma C3 standards and assessments; use of data to differentiate instruction; best practices of effective teaching, leadership, and professional growth tools; use of accountability data and school status designations to drive instruction; and implementation of digital learning tools to build 21st Century skills.

The contract period will be from July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2014.

To read the RFP and to apply, go here:

Four Districts Receive
Healthy School Awards

Four Oklahoma school districts have been awarded recognition from the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) through the program, “HealthierUS School Challenge.”  This recognition and designation is attained after strenuous menu planning by Child Nutrition staff, nutrition education and physical education components planned and taught by certified personnel, as well as, additional physical activity documented and verified throughout the school day.

Each school site within a district wishing to participate in the process applies for different award levels.  Those include: a) Gold with Distinction, b) Gold, c) Silver and d) Bronze.  Each level has a different list of criteria for achievement.  The applications/menu plans are strictly scrutinized at three levels of administration within the USDA, including, state, regional and national.

School districts, sites, award level, and duration of the recognition are:

Tulsa Public Schools (May 2013 – May 2017)

  • Bell Elementary School (Bronze)
  • Burroughs Elementary School (Bronze)
  • Greeley Elementary School (Bronze)
  • Park Elementary School (Bronze)

Shawnee Public Schools (March 2013 - March 2017)

  • Horace Mann Elementary School (Gold Award of Distinction)
  • Jefferson Elementary School (Gold Award of Distinction)
  • Sequoyah Elementary School (Gold Award of Distinction)
  • Shawnee Early Childhood Center (Silver)
  • Will Rogers Elementary School (Gold Award of Distinction)

Union Public Schools (January 2013 - January 2017)

  • Jefferson Elementary School (Gold)
  • Rosa Parks Elementary School (Gold)
  • Roy Clark Elementary School (Gold)

Enid Public Schools (April 2012 - April 2016)

  • Hayes Elementary School (Silver)

Employees in the State Department of Education’s Child Nutrition office are very proud of these schools.  So many of the local staff must be on board and working together to apply for the award. The school staff is then expected to continue the efforts throughout the designation period. Congratulations!


Register for
Vision 2020

All Oklahoma teachers, administrators and other educators should register now to attend the State Department of Education's summer professional development conference - Vision 2020.

To register or learn more information, follow the link

The conference features the top educational presenters from across the state and the nation. More than 200 sessions cover everything from new academic standards to how to help struggling math students, how to incorporate more Advanced Placement curriculum in your school, breakthroughs in literacy for early grades and much more. 

Tony Wagner photo

The schedule of keynote speakers includes Dr. Tony Wagner during the general session of Thursday, July 11. His address will be followed by a book signing.

Dr. Wagner recently accepted a position as the first Innovation Education Fellow at the Technology & Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard. Prior to this, he was the founder and co-director of the Change Leadership Group at the Harvard Graduate School of Education for more than a decade.

Dr. Wagner consults widely with schools, districts and foundations around the country and internationally. His previous work experience includes 12 years as a high school teacher, K-8 principal, university professor in teacher education and founding executive director of Educators for Social Responsibility.

He is also a frequent speaker at national and international conferences and a widely published author. His work includes numerous articles and five books including his latest, "Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change The World," that has just been published by Simon & Schuster. His other titles include: "Change Leadership: A Practical Guide to Transforming Our Schools," "Making the Grade: Reinventing America’s Schools," and "How Schools Change: Lessons from Three Communities Revisited." Recently, he collaborated with noted filmmaker Robert Compton to create a 60-minute documentary, “The Finnish Phenomenon: Inside The World’s Most Surprising School System.”

Dr. Wagner earned an M.A.T. and Ed.D. at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education.


Teacher of the
Year Applications

There is still time to submit 2014 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year applications. Any district Teacher of the Year is eligible to apply. The application is located on the Teacher of the Year webpage at on the State Department of Education website.  Applications are to be postmarked or delivered to the SDE no later than June 7, 2013.


State Superintendent Janet Barresi discusses May's devastating tornadoes and the courage and bravery of Oklahoma’s educators. Click here to read the column, or click here to watch her video or listen to her radio message.


Free, Back-to-School Dental Screenings

The Oklahoma Dental Association realizes that poor oral health in children can lead to failure to thrive in school. That is why teachers across Oklahoma are being asked to spread the word to elementary school children and their parents or guardians about a new statewide event called Back to School with a Healthy Smile.

On July 31, 2013, volunteer dentists will provide FREE dental screenings for elementary school children at their individual practices.

State Superintendent Janet Barresi is serving as the Honorary Chair of the inaugural program as part of her commitment to give each child in Oklahoma the chance to learn about healthy habits. This program will give each elementary school student in Oklahoma a chance to start the school year with a healthy smile.

All children screened will receive results and a free child admission ticket to the Oklahoma Aquarium!

So give your students something to smile about! Encourage your students’ parents to go online to and find a list of participating dentists in their area and schedule an appointment.

Happy/Safe Summer

To all Oklahoma educators, on behalf of State Superintendent Janet Barresi and the staff at the State Department of Education, please have a safe and happy summer. Enjoy time with your family and all that our great state has to offer. We hope to see many of you at our Vision 2020 professional development conference in July and to visit with many of you in your schools in the fall.

Reading image

Encourage Summer Reading

Remind your students to participate in the State Education Department’s summer reading program – Read 5 for Summer.

Research shows that if children read at least five books on the appropriate reading level over the summer it will help them return to school ready to learn.

Bookmarks were sent home with each elementary school child in the state along with letters for parents and tips for questions to ask before, during and after the reading experience.

The bookmarks have space for a child's Lexile score as well as lines to record the titles of five books read during the summer. They can return their bookmarks to their school librarians in the fall for recognition and rewards.

School and public librarians, as well as teachers, can help children record their Lexile scores on the bookmarks. Parents and others also can look up a child’s reading level on the State Department of Education’s Lexile page:

The Oklahoma Department of Libraries and the Metropolitan Library System are supporting the State Department of Education’s Read 5 for Summer program, which is running in conjunction with the library’s own summer reading program, Dig into Reading. The books children read over the summer will count for both the SDE and Department of Libraries summer reading programs.