Diversity efforts pay off for district

February 24, 2020

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Embracing and encouraging diversity brings with it many blessings, and the makeup of Oklahoma City Public Schools’ teacher workforce is no exception.

Recent studies show that diversity among teachers can make a big difference in student performance and in their attitude about school. In Oklahoma City Public Schools, 86% of students are from a minority background, but only 30% of teachers are.

The Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools held an event at Ridgeview Elementary School last week to celebrate a bilingual mother and daughter who have recently become certified teachers. Their path wasn’t an easy one. It required hard work and sacrifice on their part and on the part of their families. It also required a great deal of partnership building and teamwork on the part of the district, the foundation and education partners at UCO, OSU-OKC, OCCC and Rose State College.

The hard work has paid off. Linda Lopez now has her own first grade class at Ridgeview, and Alexiss Lopez is teaching at Taft Middle School. Linda and Alexiss are the first graduates of the Bilingual Teacher Pipeline Program, which now has 58 participants.

The Bilingual Teacher Pipeline Program model has been emulated with the creation of the Diversity Pipeline Program, which is for district paraprofessionals of color. There are currently 11 African American participants enrolled in college and on their way to becoming teachers.

Both of these programs are run by The Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools, which funds tuition, fees and books, as well as joining with education partners to provide academic and emotional support.

The pay increase for those moving from paraprofessional to certified teacher is substantial, allowing these individuals upward mobility at the same time they are able to fulfill their passion and dreams.

Ridgeview Principal Michael Lisenby shared the impact Linda Lopez has already had on her class and one student in particular. A Hispanic boy who had once been withdrawn, sad and easily upset has absolutely transformed in the short time Linda has been his teacher. Her ability to speak to him in both Spanish and English has made him more confident and is now an engaged member of the class. His mother, who had never come to the school, is now a regular volunteer.

Read Mary Mélon's original Oklahoman editorial