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Ray’Chel Wilson, a second-year teacher at KIPP Tulsa. (Teaching and Leading Initiative of Oklahoma).

In a state where nearly half of new public school teachers leave the profession within 5 years, the Teaching and Leading Initiative of Oklahoma (TLI) wants to help. The organization supports novice educators and provides resources, assistance and a yearly award for newer teachers who are making a difference.

In Oklahoma, approximately 60 percent of students are economically disadvantaged. Oklahoma public school teachers not only deliver educational content, but also try to fill the gaps in meeting the needs of students and their families. 

TLI encourages educators to look inward at their own intentions and biases toward the classroom — and the students. Novice teachers are encouraged to recognize and honor each student’s individual strengths and unique identity, knowing that all students are capable of excellence in the classroom and beyond. 

Award honors exceptional teachers on the frontlines

TLI’s support for novice instructors includes weekly mentorship meetings, observing classrooms, and making suggestions for innovative ways teachers can provide the best possible experience for their students. And of course, TLI recognizes teachers who exemplify excellence in their work. 

Each year, TLI honors the “20 under Two” educators, 20 novice teachers who excel on the frontlines of Oklahoma’s public school education in the classroom.

One local 20 Under Two winner is Ray’Chel Wilson of KIPP Tulsa, a second-year teacher who won TLI’s Novice Teaching Award. KIPP Tulsa’s principal Donterrio Marzett said, “Ms. Wilson continuously makes real world connections for her scholars in order to engage students in the day’s objective. She always teaches from an equity standpoint and ensures that students are affirmed in their identity.”

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Investing in educators

Rebecca Fine, the manager of research and communications for TLI explained the significance of the award in an interview with The Black Wall St. Times.

“The award serves as a reminder of all the talent we have in Oklahoma educators, particularly newer teachers who are early in their careers.”

Those instructors are nominated for the award by their colleagues, principals, or even their students. Notably, the award includes a $250 gift certificate to Magic City Books, thanks to TD Williamson and Magic City. The books provide further resources for both students and teachers. 

“We want to invest in teachers’ well-being,” continued Ms. Fine. “Oklahoma teachers are the true leaders in their communities.”

Erika Stone is a graduate student in the Master of Social Work program at the University of Oklahoma, and a graduate assistant at Schusterman Library. A Chess Memorial Scholar, she has a B.A. in Psychology...

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