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Midtown Monitor

Teacher Pursues Equity

Managing Editor

BROADENING MINDS: Tulsa Public Schools 2017 District Teacher of the Year Elizabeth Steinocher stands in the hallway of Skelly Elementary next to student posters that they created after a classroom discussion on cultures and countries.

EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers

Equity in the classroom is what set Elizabeth Steinocher, Tulsa Public Schools 2017 District Teacher of the Year, down her current path in education.

While becoming a teacher had been a given for Steinocher, who grew up in Broken Arrow, for a long time, she says that she did not determine where she would teach until many years later.

During her time at Oklahoma State University, she worked as a student-teacher at a variety of schools that provided her access to students with differing socio-economic backgrounds.

“I saw a stark difference as to what’s available to various kids regarding education opportunities,” Steinocher says.

Based on those experiences, Steinocher chose to work in a school district where the need for quality and dependable teachers is high.

“I want to be where the odds are stacked against students and be one of those people cheering them on and exposing them to new things,” she says. “These kids don’t pick where they go to school or where they live.”

Steinocher has been teaching at Skelly Elementary for nine years, her entire teaching career thus far.

Part of Steinocher’s intention in her second-grade classroom is to expose her students to new concepts, ones that many adults may not even know, such as computer coding and other languages.

“I have to teach my students things that help to prepare them for a workforce that we don’t know what it will look like yet,” she says.

“I want my students to know that they can accomplish anything they set their minds on.”

She also endeavors to expose her students to books in hopes to foster in them a love of reading: “Any time that I can incorporate reading into class I do it,” she says.

She does that through group and individual reading times and book discussions.

“If kids love to read, then they are constantly learning and that turns them into self-motivated learners.”

Like most teachers, one of Steinocher’s ultimate goals is that her students leave her class knowing that they are valued, she notes.

One way that Steinocher builds these relationships with her students is through their morning community circles, where Steinocher holds classroom discussions on varying topics.

“Students’ personalities start to come out, and you get to know them as people,” she says.

“It’s a great reminder of who they are and who they are working to become.”
The group discussions also provide students opportunity to reflect on real-world subjects and their personal roles in the world.

For example, she remembers one classroom conversation that revolved around different countries and cultures, which Steinocher noticed gave way to some students belittling those cultures.

“We started talking about the fact that just because we don’t understand something doesn’t mean that we mock it but that we need to learn about it,” she says.
Steinocher and her students then began to study one of the countries, which led to discussion of the country’s poverty and other problems.

“That morphed into asking, ‘what could we do to help solve these kinds of problems?’”
Students offered numerous suggestions, including community gardens and donations. Then, they created posters with their ideas and hung them in the hallway to share with the rest of their schoolmates.

Steinocher’s love for the classroom runs deep, and, for that reason, she does not have plans to move out of it due to teacher pay. For now, the Texas native plans to remain in Oklahoma.

When asked why she has not considered leaving the state as many other teachers have, her comments revolved around hope.

“I see the potential of this state: its incredible resources and kind-hearted people.
“I see what Oklahoma can be. I want to give it a chance to become that, and I want to play a part in that.”

Updated 06-17-2017

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