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Elementary education alumna Anna Perry leads her first grade class in the flag salute.

New mentorship and coaching program to assist educators in early careers 

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Media Contact: Kirsi McDowell | Senior Communications Specialist | 405-744-9347 |

School districts in Oklahoma and across the country are facing a growing shortage of teachers. Oklahoma State University is stepping up to help address the challenge. 

The College of Education and Human Sciences is working hard to recruit and support future teachers. Enrollment in OSU education preparation degree programs is rising, and earlier this year, the Educating Forward fundraising initiative surpassed more than $5 million, creating more than 200 new scholarships for students. 

Recruiting future teachers to the pipeline is vitally important. Yet, keeping current teachers in the classroom is also a critical piece of the puzzle.

The College of Education and Human Sciences has developed OK-Thrive (The Retention of Innovative Educators), a new mentorship and coaching program to support new teachers and Extension educators at the inception of their careers.

“We have seen over the last decade a rising number of teachers leaving the profession at the earliest stages of their career,” said Dr. Jon Pedersen, OSU College of Education and Human Sciences dean. “We have to address this crisis not only from a recruiting perspective (and incentivizing the teaching profession) but also retaining teachers in the first three critical years of their professional experience.”

Conversations with Oklahoma school district leaders affirmed the need for an induction support program. 

“We've known for many years that retention of educators needs the attention of our work. As part of our land-grant mission, we’re excited to support our graduates and help them establish their teaching roots in Oklahoma," said Dr. Shelbie Witte, head of the School of Teaching, Learning and Educational Sciences.

As a result, OK-Thrive is intentionally designed to support educators and the unique challenges they face in the first three years in the profession. 

“Our graduates leave OSU well equipped and prepared for the classroom,” OK-Thrive director John Weaver said. “We feel that support should not end at graduation. OK-Thrive will allow us to offer an additional layer of support aimed at helping teachers transition from theory to practice.”

OK-Thrive launched a pilot program this fall, partnering with Stillwater Public Schools and Guthrie Public Schools, to serve and support OSU teacher education graduates who are beginning their first year of teaching.

“We all can learn from someone who is more experienced,” Weaver said. “Novice teachers often have the tools and strategies they need to be successful in the classroom. Coaching helps teachers one and apply their skills while balancing the demands of a new career.”

Weaver noted schools and districts do a great job onboarding new teachers and have been excellent partners with OK-Thrive, working together to provide comprehensive support for new teachers. OK-Thrive programming includes workshops that address critical needs of early career teachers, collaborative professional development communities and personalized coaching to meet teachers right where they are and address their individual needs. 

“We’re working to build a community and create a space [for early career teachers] to grow and learn from one another,” Weaver said. “We know that as teachers’ self-efficacy increases, they will have a more significant impact in the classroom.” 

OK-Thrive is funded in part through appropriations for higher education by the Oklahoma legislature in HB2900 to address the critical shortage of certified teachers in Oklahoma.  

In the 2022-23 pilot year, OSU will collect data on the effectiveness of the program and impact on teachers and continue to refine OK-Thrive with the goal of expanding to serve educators in school districts across Oklahoma.

“We believe OK-Thrive will have a dramatic impact on teacher retention, not only in the profession, but in the district and school in which they were hired,” Pedersen said. 


Inspired to TeachDr. Toby Brown works with a student at Stillwater High School.

Thanks to legislation passed last spring, the Oklahoma Future Teacher Scholarship (OFTS), also known as Inspire to Teach, will provide financial support to students pursuing an education degree and incentives after graduation for teaching in Oklahoma schools.

“OFTS and the Employment Incentive program took a meaningful step to recruit, support and retain well-prepared teachers for Oklahoma schools, and we’re grateful for this important investment in Oklahoma education,” said Dr. Shelbie Witte, head of the School of Teaching, Learning and Educational Sciences.

Inspired to Teach offers $1,000 annually for up to three academic years for full-time students who have earned less than 90 credit hours. In the final academic year, full-time students with more than 90 credit hours receive $2,500.

The financial support continues following graduation and earning teacher certification. Participants can earn $4,000 for each year they teach in an Oklahoma public school for up to five years.

For more information, contact Dillon Graham in the OSU Office of Educator Support at

Story By: Christy Lang | ASPIRE Magazine

Photos By: College of Education and Human Sciences

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