TeachLINK Revised
Making the Connections
Issue: # 9
Special Edition
The Oklahoma Teacher Connection 
 A Division of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education

Direct from the Editor's Desk

 A Journey Toward Educational Attainment


For the first time, the Oklahoma Teacher Connection presents a special edition. To kick off the special edition, the TeachLINK brings a specialized, targeted approach to teacher education coverage by commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington celebrated in 2013, coupled with paying homage to a few outstanding educators, featured in Oklahoma's African American Educators Lift as They Climb.


Join us as we pay tribute and leverage Oklahoma's diversity!


New image of Deena
Deena V. Thomas, Editor


Making the Connections,

 Deena signature





Celebrating Black History Month

    Oklahoma's African American Educators Lift as They Climb 



 A Journey Toward Educational Attainment for All Children


Education has been coined the civil rights issue of our time, a paradoxical stance since education has always been the great equalizer and the gateway to economic freedom and active living.

Civil rights continue to be a timeless point of contention, where quality education and opportunities collide, barricaded by fortified roadblocks and incomplete streets. However, when those barriers are removed, it makes way for clear passage toward the superhighway to higher education.

"The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education." - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The 50th anniversary of the March on Washington recognized in 2013 throughout the U.S. was more than a celebratory event. It was a call to action to promote and enhance academic achievement for all children, a charge for all educators.

Dr. Martin L. King's, I Have a Dream speech mobilized the nation  half  a century ago, and those same principles are inspiring and igniting a new generation of educators to create a newfound movement, giving them the green light to move forward toward equal educational access. The struggles of the civil rights era helped shape the dispositions of both past and present teachers and administrators on all levels - elementary, secondary, and postsecondary education.

In observance of black heritage month and in remembrance of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the TeachLINK is paying homage to Oklahoma's African American educators, who have managed to push past a battery of repetitious, unprecedented tests in pursuit of equal access. Their accomplishments and unselfish acts of courage have benefited a multitude of unnamed recipients.

African American Educators Lift as They Climb retraces the steps of a handful of notable former educators, chronicling how they have carved out roads for their predecessors to follow. In addition, readers will travel alongside current educators, who are constructing HOV lanes (high occupancy vehicle) toward the destination of educational attainment.

Preparation is a prerequisite; therefore, the featured movers and shakers maintain that there are three toll gates to enter, and user fees must be paid before the underserved can travel and arrive at the dream destination King talked about in 1963.   

According to African American educators, to gain entrance into toll gate one, they expressed that they placed their trust and faith in God. To move through toll gate two, it requires a higher education degree(s). Finally, admission into toll gate three rewards those who embrace the strength and wisdom of their ancestors.

To begin the journey, a teacher introduces a child to formal education within a public school, and access has not always been equal, particularly in the 20th century for African Americans.

Toll Gate 1: The Teacher and Higher Education's Administration


No one knows about denied access better than 103 year old teacher, Lola Parker Dean, from Porter, Oklahoma.The prolific African American writer, James Baldwin, best describes Dean's plight as the Urban Renewal period - "Negro Removal."

Dean began her formal education in community schools around Porter. After completing the eighth grade, the highest grade available, she then moved to Muskogee to live with her aunt and uncle to continue her education at the all-black segregated Muskogee Training High School in 1932.

She continued her education at Langston University, where she paid $40 for tuition, graduating with a bachelor of science degree in education. She later earned a master's degree from Northeastern State University, returning to Wagoner to start a teaching career at Harrison Chapel, a two-room school near her home.

103 year old teacher, Lola Parker Dean


"My first year of teaching, I taught the first 4 grades, which consisted of a class of 15 to 20 black students.  I was the primary teacher, and another teacher taught the remaining grades through 8th grade," Dean said.

Dean described a typical day of school in 1940. "We started out with the Lord's prayer, an unfortunate loss for our children, the flag salute, and then proceeded with our classes. There were no disciplinary problems. A lot of teachers would have to teach with their doors closed because of the noise, but I didn't have that problem. I opened my door, and we had my class," she said.

Dean said she taught at the Harrison Chapel school for 8 years, and later  moved to Porter, where she served as the principal at the all black Porter school. When the enrollment dropped, she became responsible for all the grades.

"We had folding doors to separate the two rooms, so I placed my desk in between the two rooms. I cooked dinner which was really lunch. Our meal consisted of pinto beans and corn bread, and I cooked while I taught class," Dean said.

Dean said she managed her workload by allowing the 8th graders to help with the primary grades. "I had some real good students, and I let them teach the lower grades their arithmetic. I'd arrive at school at 7 a.m., when I had to cook lunch for the children," she said.

During Dean's career, she said the community of women would help make clothing for the children, make quilts for those in need, and the men would help with the harvest. "Parents helped me with whatever I needed from cooking lunch to chopping wood. When a child was having difficulty, I would stay overnight at the child's home to help tutor the struggling student," Dean said.

By the 1970's, integration was in full swing, which would change the landscape of education forever, according to Dean.

When integration began to take shape, Dean stated that all the African American teachers were fired, and all the black schools were closed in Muskogee county. As a result, Dean filed a lawsuit, suing the district for her job. She won. Shortly thereafter additional African American teachers were hired at throughout the district.

"My greatest contribution to education is that I taught my kids to study and to do what it took to get them where they wanted to go. Some of them didn't know how to work, stay up late, and 'burn the midnight oil' or to do whatever it took to make it. Hard work never killed anybody; otherwise, I would have been gone a long time ago," the centurion said.

The Integration of Higher Education

Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education (OSRHE) Board of Regents

OSRHE Regent, RUBYE HILBER Hall: 1974-1980 - Oklahoma City


Rubye Hibler Hall was the first African American appointee to the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education Board of Regents. A Langston University and a University of Oklahoma graduate, Hall was appointed in 1974 by Governor David Hall. She served as chair of the Regents in 1978-79 and was named Regent of the Year by the Higher Education Alumni Council of Oklahoma.

"Hall was a gracious, charming woman, and highly intelligent in my opinion.

ruby hall

Former OSRHE Regent,

Rubye Hilber Hall

She had a way of getting what she wanted on the board, and she made sufficient contributions during her tenure. All of the board members and the public appreciated and respected Hall," Dr. Melvin Todd, OSRHE's former Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs said.


Hall's 33 years to education was dedicated to the Oklahoma public school system. She was inducted into the Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame, the Afro American Hall of Fame, the Langston University Alumni Hall of Fame, the Oklahoma Women's Hall of Fame, and the Oklahoma African American Hall of Fame. She is also a recipient of a vast array of other awards.

Hall died in 2003.



OSRHE Regent, AVALON REECE: 1980-1990 - Muskogee 


Avalon Reece was the second African American appointee to the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education Board of Regents, selected by Governor George Nigh in 1980. Reece, 86, was an award winning band director, who served Muskogee Public Schools for over 40 years.


Former OSRHE Regent, Avalon Reece

  "I enjoyed my years with the State Regents. When I served as a Regent, we hired more black faculty and administrators at Langston. I love Langston University. That's my alma mater. In the 1970's, all the black schools were closed. It was a trying time. The parents of the students that I taught appreciated my caring spirit, which oftentimes meant tough love. I won't trade my experiences as a teacher and as a Regent for nothing in the world," Reece said.


Reece was inducted into the Oklahoma African American Hall of Fame.

OSRHE Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

DR. MELVIN TODD: 1975-1991


Dr. Melvin Todd was the first African American to hold the position of Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs.

"At that time, I was the Director of Curriculum for  Oklahoma City Public Schools (OKCPS), and I had recently applied for the OKCPS' superintendent position. I had met Dunlap earlier, but he had no reason to remember me. Regent, Ruby Hall had recommended me, encouraging Dunlap to get an African American on the staff," Todd said.  

As it turned out, Todd was not hired for the superintendent's position. He said Dunlap was so impressed with him after watching him on TV make his bid for OKCPS' top leadership spot that he was convinced to bring Todd on board as the Standards and Program Officer. Todd commented that the former Chancellor gave him adequate time to learn his new position.


Former OSRHE Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Dr. Melvin Todd

Dunlap promoted Todd to the position of Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs after 8 to 10 years with OSRHE. "During my tenure, I brought in some African Americans, and we needed help. I brought in 2 black secretaries, and I hired Kermit McMurry," he said.


McMurry was hired as the Associate Vice Chancellor under the leadership of Hans Brisch. Todd said McMurry knew Brisch, who he believed helped McMurry secure the position. However, Todd contends that he did interview other minorities, including women; but, McMurry surfaced as the best fit for the job.

Throughout Todd's 40 year career, he commented that he made several contributions to the field. "My first contribution was to Northeast High School in civil rights. My second contribution was made to the University of Oklahoma (OU), where I worked for the university's Consultative Center for Equal Opportunity, a federally funded program.

"What we did primarily was to go out and teach teachers to be sensitive to cultural differences.   The white teachers we taught had never heard a black person speak. They never had an opportunity to interact with a black. Being ignorant does not mean being stupid, but instead it means you don't understand," Todd said.

Todd explained that some white teachers had only associated with African American in other menial roles.

"We talked about it. This took place all over the state of Oklahoma within the school systems. I talked about racism and what it was, and how pervasive it was. I concluded by saying how racism had been institutionalized in this country. It was a virus, and we couldn't escape it, because we lived and breathed the air. That was strong stuff in the 1950's," Todd said.

Todd paraphrased Albert Einstein who said it seems like education is getting in the way of learning. "We need to be aware of that. It seems we are educating for the wrong reasons that is to go out and make money and to be over somebody else in terms of power. When we educate, it is different from training, but to educate is to open their minds to the world and resources. It should not drive them to exploit. It's not about money. It is about relationships," Todd said.

Todd was inducted into the Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame in 2004, the Oklahoma African American Educators Hall of Fame, and retired in 2013 from Langston University as the Special Assistant to the President.

OSRHE Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs

Dr. KERMIT MCMURRY: 1991 to the present.



OSRHE Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, Dr. Kermit McMurry

Dr. Kermit McMurry joined OSRHE in 1991. His primary job responsibilities consist of  managing the council of students, comprised of all the chief student affairs officers from across the state, both public and private. In addition, he works with the student advisory board, which is a statutory board, for the purpose of providing advice and counsel to the Chancellor and to the State Regents. Other duties include assisting with student government associations, junior and high school student college preparation, as well overseeing several Department of Human Services contracts.


McMurry stressed he brings a number of attributes to Oklahoma's student population. "I bring the ability to be a role model for African Americans to use for their best interest. I think I bring the credentials one must have to sit in the seat that I sit in. Finally, I bring a compassion and a love for my colleagues in a way to build on the strengths that they already have that will make them even better," he said.


McMurry said he is a byproduct of those who have come before him. Those who made sacrifices, all of which he is most appreciative.


"They have been the brunt of bullets, beatings, and other adversities to prove that blacks are able to sit in the seats that we now occupy. Someone had to be the trailblazers. I simply sit on their backs like  Melvin Todd and others, for whom I have a great deal of respect, because they have been on the cutting edge," McMurry said.


McMurry said he has had a great number of mentors who believed in him, as well as those who have helped him prepare and position himself to move up the career ladder, verbally acknowledging former governors, college presidents, public officials, and other educators.


"There have been so many personalities who recognized strengths that I didn't even know I had. These individuals helped me overcome some of the obstacles. My whole notion was to become a college president. Some days I still would like to become a college president, but there are other days I believe this is where the Lord wanted me to be. I still work in the community and in the church to demonstrate to African American kids that they can do whatever they choose to do in life. All they have to do is to believe in themselves and have faith in their Father in heaven and make the necessary sacrifices to achieve their goals," he said.


The University of Oklahoma Board of Regents

OU Regent, SYLVIA A. LEWIS: 1986-1992


Sylvia A. Lewis, a former Oklahoma City Public School teacher and administrator, was appointed to the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents by Governor George Nigh in 1986, retiring in 1992 as the board's vice chairwoman.


Lewis who has been identified as a trailblazer, and she was the first African American to serve on the OU Board of Regents.


Lewis was inducted into the Oklahoma African American Hall of Fame. She died in 1995.




Former OU Regent, Dr. Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher

The same Board of Regents who denied Dr. Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher access into its law school in 1948 appointed her to serve on the University of Oklahoma of Board Regents in 1992.


This act of restitution was put in place by Governor David Walters in support of the U.S. States Supreme Court landmark case of Sipuel v. Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma.


"You cannot talk about civil rights without including Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher," Melvin C. Hall said.


Hall is a civil rights attorney and a former OU Regent who served with Fisher. "I was appointed to the Board of Regents for the University of Oklahoma on the same day as Ada Sipuel Fisher. I was appointed to a full term, but Fisher was appointed to complete the one year left of the term of Sylvia A. Lewis, who was the first African American appointed to the OU Board of Regents," he said.


Fisher, Lewis, and Hall are the only African Americans in the institution's history who have served as OU Regents, and all 3 are Langston University graduates. Hall, like Fisher, is an OU College of Law graduate.


"Lewis and Fisher are the pioneers of civil rights for higher education," Hall said.


Fisher's 3 year historical, legal battle was led by the National Association for the Advanced of Colored People's (NAACP) attorney, Thurgood Marshall, who was later appointed by President John F. Kennedy as the first African American U.S. Supreme Court justice.  


Sipuel's supreme court ruling, as well as the McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents are the predecessors of the Brown vs. Board of Education, according to Hall, and Marshall acted as the lead attorney for both cases. The Sipuel and the McLaurin cases opened up an interstate pipeline for advanced degree completion.


Fisher was inducted into the Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame in 2001, the Oklahoma African American Hall of Fame, and the Oklahoma Women's Hall of Fame in 1996. The University of Oklahoma dedicated the Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher Garden in her honor. She died in 1995.


Fisher has been recorded as one of the nation's paramount historical civil rights icons of the 20th century.


OU Regent, MELVIN C. HALL: 1992-1997    


Melvin C. Hall is the third African American to date to be named to the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents, selected by Governor David Walters in 1992. After serving 7 years as a board

Former OU Regent, Melvin C. Hall

member, Hall was appointed chair, another first for African Americans.


Hall contends that he was in awe to have had the unique privilege to work one year alongside Fisher, who he calls a legendary figure. He stated that it was not until his former law school classmate, the late Opio Toure, decided to host a conference in her honor that the state took notice of the strides Fisher made to integrate higher education and promote advanced degrees.


"In 1992 when Fisher was appointed to the board, I was sitting on the back row," Hall said with pride. "I thought wow, I am witnessing history. It was after our conference that paid tribute to the legend that the accolades and recognitions started pouring in for the contributions she made to desegregate higher education in the state of Oklahoma. That was huge," he said.


As he moved through the democratic process, he said he learned as a Regent that one should never show his hand too early on any issue. "There is no need for anyone to try to lobby you or to get you to change your mind; therefore, you should always reserve judgment until you have garnered all the facts in order to make an intelligent, informed decision unless you want to take the lead," he said.


He stressed that educators should position themselves in the same manner. He further explained that when an individual shows his hand prematurely, anything he has to contribute to the debate will be lost, and the person's contribution will be taken for granted.


"My greatest contribution as an OU Regent was being in the room, being present, being a part of the process for bringing in diversity, which my presence brought. When you have diversity, then constituency groups, who do not have a place at the table now have a presence; therefore, their issues can be addressed and resolved. I made the campus life experience for minorities a more environmentally friendly, more hospitable, more comfortable. The educational environment is not going to be successful unless the person believes he is comfortable experience. He has a place, and he feels welcomed," Hall said.


The 14th President of Langston University

Dr. ERNEST L. HOLLOWAY: 1979-2004


He began his professional career as a science teacher in his hometown of Boley, Oklahoma with Boley Public Schools.


His lifelong friend and Langston University (LU) roommate, Rev. Willard Dallas, eulogized his fraternity brother before a crowd of 500 plus in LU's Caesar "Zip" Gayles Fieldhouse, the perfect home-going celebration setting for the institution that he loved.


Langston University's 14th President,

Dr. Ernest L. Holloway



Ernest L. Holloway told me when we were students at Langston that he had planned to obtain his doctorate degree and come back and run the institution," Dallas said.

 Dr. Ernest L. Holloway did just that.

The 14th President of Langston University held the post for 25 years, and to date, he remains the longest tenured executive chief in the institution's history.

In a 2004 interview, Holloway said he had no intention of becoming LU's president at the time, but instead after his wife's death, his goal was to focus on his 3 adolescent sons. 

"I was recently widowed. I had 3 young boys to raise, and when the A & M Regents approached me about taking the presidency, I thought I can't handle that right now. Langston was under fire. It was a tough time for me and the university," Holloway said.

He fondly proclaimed himself as a Boley bear, the man from humble beginnings, roared pass his personal and professional adversities and managed to keep the doors of Oklahoma's only historical African American university open at a time when the institution was threatened with closure.

With the help of supportive constituents, alumni, and LU students, Holloway resurrected the university, dodging the adverse impact of what was thought to be eminent domain.

Under his leadership, Langston University cruised into a status of being recognized for its highly effective, distinguished academic programs, which were nested within a rural, picturesque campus - a complete transformation.  

Holloway was inducted into the Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame, the Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame, and the Oklahoma African American Hall of Fame. In addition, the instructional leader's obituary contains miles of awards and honors.

He will long be remembered and admired for his daily strolls across the LU's campus, talking, laughing, and developing relationships with the students, a ritual Holloway relished.

Dr. Ernest L. Holloway died on Christmas Eve in 2011.

OSRHE Director of Teacher Education and the Oklahoma Teacher Connection

GOLDIE THOMPSON: 2012 to the present.


As a child, she was mentored by Nancy Randolph Davis, the first black teacher to enroll at Oklahoma State University's master's science degree from the college of Human Sciences graduate program. Obviously their relationship made an impact, because Thompson now serves as OSRHE's Director of Teacher Education and the Oklahoma Teacher Connection. 


OSRHE Director of Teacher Education,

Goldie Thompson


Goldie Thompson is the first African American and the youngest individual to hold the position.

As the director, she oversees teacher education policy, as well as state and federal grants, designed to recruit, retain, and place teachers in Oklahoma's public schools.

"In my role, my vision is so much greater than my job. I would like to affect change in the lives of Oklahoma students and teachers, providing them with opportunities to seek out their dreams and have the necessary support to do so.

Thompson, a second generation college graduate, operates in the fast lane, coming from a lineage of educators, namely her mother, Dr. Gloria Pollard, a retired vocational educator, and her cousin, Joyce Henderson, a well-known and respected retired Oklahoma City Public Schools administrator.

Thompson expressed that she learned at an early age about the importance of education from her family and the community in which she lived, where educational attainment was valued and celebrated.  

"It is important that the youth of today recognize the terrain of sacrifice their predecessors forged, so that they may have the benefits of an education. I am obligated to make sure they understand the implications of such efforts and the future expectation we have for them - that they can do even greater things!," she said.



Toll Gate 2: Oklahoma's Colleges of Teacher Education


Oral Roberts University

Dean of Teacher Education


DR. KIM BOYD: 2010 to the present.



ORU Dean of Education,

Dr. Kim Boyd

As the Dean for the College of Education at Oral Roberts University, Dr. Kim Boyd, is the first African American to provide leadership, a natural accelerated progression at the same institution, where she earned her elementary education degree.


Boyd also serves as the Vice Chairperson for the Oklahoma Commission for Teacher Preparation (OCTP), and she works tirelessly with the National Continuous Improvement Commission (NCIC) for the Council for the Accreditation of Education Preparation (CAEP).


"As an African American female in an administrative role, you have no choice other than to serve as a role model for not only other African American young people, who are coming through the pipeline, but I serve as a role model for all people," Boyd said.


As a leader, Boyd emphasized that professionalism is the standard. She is academically prepared. Her interpersonal skills permit her to not only interact and relate to people of color, but she is also able to carry out high levels of exchange among culturally diverse populations globally.


"I feel a sense of responsibility when I see my African American students struggling and not making it through the teacher education program. I am mindful of that, and I meet with them to find out what I can do to help them. I also make sure that I help our faculty members understand that we have an obligation to work with all of our teacher candidates. We want to make sure that all of them are prepared to work with African American P-12 students no matter where they come from," Boyd said.


According to Boyd, the civil rights movement has proven itself to be most effective primarily because of the simple fact that she currently serves as a  university dean.


"I was able to receive finances to secure my undergraduate degree, a direct benefit of the civil rights movement. Financial aid allowed me to go to school, funding that was not always available. I also received state level funding to help me pay for my doctorate as well," Boyd said.


Boyd strongly advocates that she does not allow people to make excuses. "You don't get to tell me because you are African American or you come from a single parent home that you do not have the ability to succeed. You don't get to let your past dictate your present or your future. That's huge. I am adamant about excuses no matter who it is. I encourage all our students to do their best regardless if someone else is paying for his college, or if they are paying for it. Money spent to fund an education is money well spent. It's an investment," Boyd said.


Boyd professes that it is her faith in God that sustains her, helping her to prosper personally as well as professionally.


"God is my driving force in my life. He is role model," she said.


Northeastern State University

John and Hazel Eddings Endowed Chair for Urban Education, Outreach,

and Research

DR. ALLYSON WATSON: 2003 to the present.


Dr. Allyson L. Watson, the John and Hazel Eddings Endowed Chair for Urban Education, Outreach, and Research at Northeastern State University (NSU), is the first African American Endow ed Education Chair in the institution's history.


John and Hazel Eddings Endowed Chair,

Dr. Allyson Watson



A groundbreaker, Watson, is the founder of the Teaching & Urban Reform Network (TURN), a program to prepare pre-service teachers in  urban education to encourage effective pedagogical practices. TURN is also a platform to drive and impact of grants, research presentations,  journal articles, and a book chapter.


Adding to her inventory of leadership, teaching, and research awards and honors, NSU nominated the Gates Millennium Scholarship alumnus and past president for the NSU Circle of Excellence in all three areas of research, teaching, and service.


Pulling out ahead at age 25, Watson is the youngest  African American to graduate with a PhD in Educational Leadership from the University of Oklahoma. Both her master's and doctorate degrees are in educational administration, curriculum, and supervision, and she earned an elementary education degree from Cookman University.


"I am responsible for creating and culminating partnerships surrounding the area of urban education, as well as presenting research that is current and viable in teacher education preparation. I also have a huge responsibility for outreach in the community," Watson said.


Watson stated that people have told her, and she confesses that she is extremely passionate about educating all children. "I want children of color to have an exceptional education no matter where they live, no matter where they are from, and no matter what their background. I have spent my entire life, my entire professional career trying to make education equitable across the board," she said.


Watson stressed she feels as if she was born to become an educator. "I can walk into any classroom across the country, and I can have the same passion and desire for those kids to be exceptional," she said.


Watson commented that her parents lived through the civil rights movement. "My dad is from the southern parts of the country, and my mother is from the east coast. As a child, I would ask them to tell me stories about things that had had happened to them that was not right, because of their race, origin, or where they lived. I would dream about how it would change for me, not that it would not happen, but how I could make an impact on my community."


Watson commented she never had the opportunity to meet Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher, but she read about how she integrated OU. "Fisher's legacy alone helped me to be who I am. Not knowing this woman, and never being able to meet her, I thought to myself oh my goodness this lady paved the way for me, because I too faced challenges at OU. For me to have completed my doctorate at the University of Oklahoma at age 25 as an African American woman, I first thank God. Not ever knowing this woman, not ever being able to meet her, I thanked her, because I could feel what she went through many more years before I was there," she said.


Watson stated Fisher was an overcomer. "Fisher bore it for me, and I am a product of educational excellence and being an overcomer just because of her specifically," she said. 

The NSU Endowed Chair said she travels the country and speaks to children as young as first grade, those in high school, college, graduate school, as well as younger women, who consider her to be their mentor, and the message she shares is this.


"Yes, there is inequality. Yes, there will be times when you are judged by your outer appearance before you even open your mouth. But this is what I tell them. When you have the knowledge, the attainment, the skills, and the credentials behind your name, people have to listen. They have to listen. I am judged every day; however, when I open my mouth, and I know what I am talking about, and I have the research to back it up, and because of my educational attainment, then I can make changes for others, and you can too," Watson said. 

Langston University

Assistant Professor

DR. MARSHA HERRON: 2013 to the present.


Dr. Marsha Herron provides service in elementary and special education within the School of Education and Behavioral Sciences at Langston University, teaching both undergraduate and graduate courses in special education. Her focus and her specialty areas are emotional and behavioral disorders.



Langston University Assistant Professor,

Dr. Marsha Herron

 "Once I knew there were strides made for me to have a better future than that of past generations, I understood that my repayment was to seek out and take advantage of every opportunity I could to make sure my quality of life and my family's quality of life would be better than our ancestors," Herron said.


This is the same message Herron says she shares with her students, reminding them of their duty to serve. "I am demonstrating to my students that anything is possible. I remind them of their duty to serve and their obligation to improve the quality of life for the children they will one day have in their classroom, regardless of their race, socioeconomic status, or differences," she said.


Herron stressed that ultimately quality education should not be about race or socioeconomic status, but instead quality education should be about the access to opportunities and resources.


"Never sleep or settle for a substandard education, because knowledge is power, and power can provide a way out of circumstances. I plan to continue speaking for, working for, and lobbying for the rights of all students, especially those with disabilities," she said.


University of Central Oklahoma

Professor of Advanced Professional and Special Services

DR. TERRY SPIGNER: 1997 to the present.



University of Central Oklahoma Professor of Advanced Professional & Special Services, Dr. Terry Spigner


His area of expertise is special education, facilitating instruction in mild to moderate disabilities, which includes learning disabilities, emotionally disturbed, mental retardation, as well as a few language classes.


Dr. Terry Spigner is the only African American male who is a full professor on University of Central Oklahoma's campus.


The 17 year tenured professor says, "It is good to look a multicultural perspective of children with special needs and disabilities. We need to understand that so many of our kids are more apt to be identified and placed in courses of special needs. I always tell people on our campus that we have the option to march in academic regalia for graduation, or to put on a suit and tie and usher. To me, it is important to see that there is hope. If you really want a degree, you too, can walk down that aisle as well," Spigner said.


Spigner stated that African American students come to predominately white schools, thinking that there is no one present to mentor or assist them along their educational journey.


"Oftentimes, black students just flounder around, not realizing what's going on. I can remember Dr. Anthony Blouit from OU's campus saying 'it is one thing to get a degree, but it is another thing to reach back. Therefore, I am hoping in my position that I am able to reach back and help someone and bring them forward. We need more of us in the academic arena, doing good research, doing presentations, and teaching and training. Every university is required to show diversity. Faculty across the state realizes it is a diverse world out there and not everyone is going to teach at Deer Creek," Spigner said.


Spigner said the civil rights movements positioned him to matriculate through the University of Oklahoma.


"African Americans have stood on the backs of the McLaurins and the Fishers, who paved the way for us to get into those programs and the dormitories. We owe it to Prentice Gautt for being able to go to OU's football games. Gautt said, 'yes we can'. Now, I share those facts, that history. My white counterparts do understand that there were things that did happen. We, as African Americans, want to avoid, at all cost, not accepting second class citizenship of any kind in this country ever again," Spigner said.


Spigner explained the fish lesson, stating if you teach someone to fish, then they will live.


"You cannot survive in this world without an education, and you need to get all the education you can. My former pastor, the late Rev. W.K. Jackson, used to say, 'there is not enough education in world where you cannot get more'," he said.


Toll Gate 3: The Integration and the Progression of Common Education


Oklahoma City Public Schools (OKCPS)

Finger Plan Committee Member

Joe Simmons: 1972-1993


Eighteen years after the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court landmark case, Brown v. the Topeka, Kansas Board of Education, which ruled that school segregation was unconstitutional, Oklahoma City Public Schools integrated.

In September 1972, the Finger Plan court ordered a busing plan formulated by  


Former OKCPS teacher and Finger Plan Committee Member, Joe Simmons


formulated by Dr. John Finger, a noted educator. The Finger plan was designed to desegregate OKCPS, forcing thousands of students out of their neighborhood schools, busing them across town to attend class.


Joe Simmons, an OKCPS physical education teacher and a former student of 103 year old teacher, Lola Dean, served on the Finger plan committee.

"The Finger plan was a well thought out plan to alleviate segregation in OKCPS, creating busing assignments for students, teachers, and principals to achieve racial balance within the schools. It was a turbulent time for students, parents, and educators," he said.

Simmons explained that the bi-racial committee kept the court abreast of the plan's progress.

"The committee monitored the plan in hopes of strengthening the educational opportunities for all races," Simmons said.

Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent

Dr. Betty G. Mason: 1992-1995


From 1992-1995, the individual who managed and oversaw Oklahoma's largest school district, an urban village, was Dr. Betty G. Mason - Oklahoma City Public Schools' first female African American superintendent.


The instructional leader traveled, making gathering, packing, and unpacking 40 years of educational experience as a successful school secretary, classroom teacher, reading specialist, assistant director of Title One schools, assistant principal, principal, assistant personnel director, director of elementary schools, director of high schools and adult education, assistant superintendent, and superintendent. Mason's navigation tools guided her, crisscrossing the U. S., allowing her to make educational headway while driving reform. stops in Texas, Kansas, Missouri, California, Indiana, and Oklahoma.


Former OKCPS Superintendent,

Dr. Betty Mason


The Oklahoma Educators Hall of Famer said, "I was blessed with the responsibility of overseeing the education of some 45,000 Oklahoma City Public Schools students. The strength of the superintendent is determined by the number of issues taken to the school board for approval," she said.


Prior to the board's approval, Mason shared that she spent time reviewing and approving all components of the district in order to make the determination as to whether or not to move forward on any and every aspect of the district's development and enhancement.


"We wanted to pass an $89 million bond issue in order to put air conditions in all our schools. It was my job to 'get out the vote,' she said. Voters approved Oklahoma's largest school bond issue of its time.  


Having lived through the civil rights era, Mason said, "I learned without fear of contradiction, what Fredrick Douglass said many years ago - we African Americans must 'stick our plow down deeper than the rest.' No matter how many degrees we earned or how many positions we held, we were expected to be the best. We were taught that we were standing on the shoulders of African Americans who had gone before us, and we had to be stronger and better, so that our children could stand even taller," she said.


As a lifelong learner, Mason says current African American educators must work hard at being good listeners and never assume that the jobs they occupy are guaranteed.


"Learning to listen is a major lesson to learn! We learn by doing. Keep yourself in a position where your contributions to any issue will be relevant, beneficial, and necessary," she said.


OKCPS, Past Frederick Douglass High School Principal




At first glance, his first and middle names mirror that of the African American orator and statesman, Frederick Douglass. However, after closer inspection, Frederick Douglass and Dr. Frederick Douglass Moon not only shared the same first and middle names, but they facilitated a mutual mission - to secure the educational attainment for African American students.


Former OKCPS Principal,

Dr. Frederick Douglass Moon


Moon became Oklahoma City Public Schools' first African American Board member, and today, F. D. Moon Academy, an OKCPS elementary school, is named in his honor.


Over his 50 year career, Moon continuously sought out avenues for education reform as a teacher, principal, community and civic leader. Known as the "dean of black education," Moon ended his career as principal at Frederick Douglass High School in Oklahoma City.


Albert Johnson Sr. ,the former Lawton Public Schools duty superintendent said, "Moon set the standard for black administrators in this state. He also was an exceptional role model for our children. He took pride in our schools, instructing the students to keep the building clean and only accepted academic excellence from all students."


Moon was inducted into the Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame and the Oklahoma African American Hall of Fame. He died in 1975.


Moon personified Frederick Douglass' quote, "If there is no struggle, there is no progress."


OKCPS, Star Spencer High School Principal

CHRISTOPHER GARDNER: 1996 to the present.


Star Spencer's instructional leader says his goal is simple, "I want our students to receive a quality education in order to be academically competitive in high school and beyond," Christopher Gardner said.


He believes his students are more than capable of achieving academic success, because he did. Gardner is a 1990 graduate of Star Spencer High school, and he returned to his alma mater to make a difference in the community and school that prepared and helped him achieve academic excellence.


Star Spencer High School Principal,

Christopher Gardner



"There were many individuals that motivated me to pursue a career in education, in particular Joyce Henderson. I hope to be that same motivation for our students. Hopefully, someday one of my students will be principal at Star Spencer," he said.


Gardner says the most important responsibility of his career is ensuring that Star's students receive highly effective instruction from highly effective teachers. In addition, he focuses on providing his instructional staff with innovative professional development, managing school finances and staff allocations, as well as operating a safe and orderly school environment.


"As an African American male educator, I feel that I bring an understanding of the struggles of today's youth. Although there are barriers, educators must work hard to remove these barriers by having high expectations for all students to ensure academic success for our future generations," Gardner said.


Gardner continues to travel a familiar path toward educational attainment; however, during the road trip, he is transporting Star Spencer student passengers with him as many that will come along.  


OKCPS Board Member, U.S. Grant Counselor and Teacher

THELMA R. PARKS: 1950 - 2010


After having served 60 years in public education, Thelma R. Parks has a message - "Get knowledge and along with knowledge, you get power, and along with power, you have responsibility," she said.



Former OKCPS Counselor, Teacher, and Board Member,

Thelma R. Parks

During her tenure with Oklahoma City Public Schools, she said she was candid and vocal about the inequalities among black administrators.


"I would walk right into the superintendent's office and ask him why there aren't more black administrators, and he would reply, 'they are not prepared', and I replied, what do you mean they are not prepared. You were not born a superintendent. Someone gave you a chance. Give African Americans a chance," she said.


She grew up in Muskogee and was educated at Manuel Training High School, a good place to live, according to Parks. Therefore, when she moved to Oklahoma City after graduating from Langston University to begin her teaching career with OKCPS, she said she felt compelled to speak up about the disparities within the schools of color.


"A lot of people want to be in places, but they don't want to do the work. If you are going to apply for something, be aware of what your responsibilities are," she said.


During the facilitation of the Finger Plan, Parks worked at Frederick Douglass High school as a counselor, but later was recruited to join the U.S. Grant high school staff.


"I didn't want to go to U.S. Grant, and I told the principal that. I said I like my position here at Douglass. I ended up loving my tenure at U.S. Grant, and I loved the students I served. I know I made an impact on the kids," she said.


Parks remained at Grant until her retirement in 1966, but later returning to OKCPS as a board member, an uncontested position she held since 1988. In 2010, Parks was defeated by the newcomer Ruth Veales.


Oklahoma City's MAPS for Kids initiative constructed the Thelma R. Reece elementary school in 1997 in the heart of district 5, where she served as a board member. At 91 years old, Parks can be found reading to the children who attend the school that was named in her honor.


Parks was inducted into the Oklahoma African American Hall of Fame.


OKCPS, Star Spencer High School Counselor

PETRA WOODARD: 2004 to the present.


The 1987 John Marshall High School graduate, Petra Woodard, began her career


Star Spencer High School Counselor,

Petra Woodard

 with OKCPS as a Spanish teacher at Northeast Academy, but later changing lanes, taking the wheel as  Star Spencer's counselor in 2009.


Woodard is the counselor for grades 9 - 12, which is comprised of 430 students, providing academic, personal,  college and career advisement, as well as state testing.


"I am very diverse, and I have experience in writing, allowing me to share with our students. I have had poems published. I have written a book, and I enjoy music. I participated in a number of things in college, and I am able to share those experiences with students," she said.


Woodard's knowledge, energetic disposition sparks the interest of Star Spencer's students and as a result, she has been successful in developing relationships with her students. The bonds formed have granted Woodard the opportunity to reach the kids where they are to elevate them higher academically and emotionally.


"Education is available. A number of people fought for African Americans to have the privilege to obtain an education, and students today should take advantage of those opportunities. After they earn their education, they should return and help those who are coming behind them. I make it a point to tell our students that high school is just a transitional phase; therefore, keep going," she said.


OKCPS Education Pioneers

Teachers, Nancy Randolph Davis and Clara Mae Shepard Luper




Trailblazers, Nancy Randolph Davis and Clara Luper took public service learning to a whole new level.


The list of accolades for their contributions to civil rights for these two


Trailblazer and former OKCPS Teacher,

Nancy Randolph Davis

Langston University roommates can be summed up in one word - Determination!


In 1949, Davis enrolled as the first black graduate student at Oklahoma State University, graduating in 1952 with a Master of Science degree from the College of Human Sciences. In 2001, OSU named a residence hall in her honor, and in 1991, she was the recipient of the "Distinguished Alumna" award. Davis has a myriad of awards and honors from state governors, legislators, and various community service organizations.


Davis is committed to her profession - teaching. She taught home economics and child care in the segregated Dunjee High School for 20 years, and she taught 23 years at desegregated Star Spencer High School, dedicating a total of 43 years to public education.


Davis remains an education advocate for all children.




Clara Luper, the proactive pioneer, who led 14 children, ages 7 to 15 on August 19, 1958 in the historic, non-violent Sit-In movement, protesting the desegregation of the Katz Drug Stores, ignited the civil rights movement in downtown Oklahoma City and other establishments in Oklahoma and across the


Civil Rights Champion and former OKCPS Teacher, Clara Mae Luper



Clyde Taylor, a former Dungee graduate and a retired teacher said, "Clara Luper taught her students more than subject content, she taught us about life."


Like Davis, Luper made it her life's mission to educate children, serving Oklahoma City Public Schools for nearly 50 years. At her funeral, a former student told the estimated crowd of 2000 at the Cox Convention Center that Luper would conduct history lessons from state to state as they traveled by bus to annual NAACP conventions and other educational and church events.


Luper, the civil rights activist, writer, and teacher died at age 88 on June 8, 2011.





OKCPS, Roosevelt Middle School Teacher

FELIX LINDEN: 2010 to the present.


Principal, Barry Thomas at Roosevelt Middle School says, "Felix Linden is my superstar! Send me 10 more just like him."


Linden, a Language Arts teacher, brings a fresh approach to teaching, in that he takes his students outside of the classroom to learn more about literature and civil engagement. And too, as an African American male educator, Linden says, "I bring an understanding. Being a product of OKCPS, having gone through the K-12 system, knowing what it is like to be a student, and knowing and seeing that the struggle hasn't changed much for the students gives me a clear advantage. I bring that knowledge to the position, which gives me greater insight to know this is what these kids will need."


"Youth today need to understand that access to a quality education is the only thing that cannot be taken away from them.  As Americans, we live in an

OKCPS Teacher, Felix Linden

ownership society, so if you can own your education awareness of how things can affect you. You can take what you've learned and marry that with proactiveness, allowing you can do great things," Linden said.


Linden stated that a person does not have to serve in an elective position to make a difference. Instead he said, "You can educate yourself. You can become more educated for your family, and you can become more involved with your community."


Linden said that as a parent and as a teacher, he tries to keep abreast about the developments that affect children, his own kids, as well as those he teaches.


The OSU grad says he raises money to take his students on out of state field trips, surveying other states, cultures, and environments to expose and give them other opportunities to experience.


Linden said if one believes the cliché, action speaks louder than words, then his contribution to education can be defined by his students' perspective of education after having had him as a teacher, "When my students see me, and they see my dedication, they will remember that. They will say I want to be like Mr. Linden, because he is here every day. He has something new for us every day, and that's how I keep my message that education is valuable, and my message will keep going," he said.


At the end of the road, the user fees have been paid, and the boarded passengers have come to the end of their journey. A generation of passengers will move through the toll gates and travel toward the destination of quality, and equitable educational attainment.


As the new generation of learners travel through traffic, Dr. Melvin Todd, former OSRHE Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, had this final message to share.

"There are a few relevant issues pertinent today as they were during the civil rights era. I'd like to make this recommendation during African American history month, especially among educators and that is people are people. They are human beings, and they have certain basic fundamental human rights. They are significant. They are not invisible, nor should they be. These people have feelings, emotions, and a sense of purpose. And if they don't have that then, we have a problem. If they don't have a purpose, then it is entrusted to educators to assist in providing them that sense of purpose. I have never met anybody who was ignorant and wanted to stay ignorant if they knew they were ignorant. Ignorant means to me that we just don't know. Now, stupidity means something else. If you are an educator, then you are involved in learning," Todd said.

Take the scenic route toward educational attainment, for creative, enriched teaching and learning will prepare all students to pass the test of life.


Oklahoma Teacher Connection's TeachLINK Policy


The Oklahoma Teacher Connection, a division of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, will electronically publish the TeachLINK E-newsletter twice time a year.


The purpose of the E-Newsletter is to promote, market, and showcase news stories, creative features, curricular highlights, research data, and technological updates, which impact Oklahoma's Colleges of Teacher Education, common education, higher education faculty, students, and communities.


We welcome all comments, opinions, and/or concerns. Please forward your remarks to Deena Thomas at dthomas@osrhe.edu.

In This Issue
Direct from the Editor's Desk
Oklahoma's African American Educators Lift as They Climb
OTC's TeachLINK Editorial Policy