TeachLINK Revised
Making the Connections
Issue: 14
Spring 2016
The Oklahoma Teacher Connection 
 A Division of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education

Direct from the Editor's Desk

African American Educators Project Authenticity 
Greetings Colleagues!
Welcome to the TeachLINK's third annual Black History Month (BHM) edition. The Oklahoma Teacher Connection considers it a privilege and an honor to bring to you another snapshot from the past, while drawing the parallels directly into today's classrooms.
In this year's BHM TeachLINK issue, African Americans teachers are projecting their authentic brand, working tirelessly within black, white, and multicultural communities for the sole purpose of leveraging the social, emotional, and academic outcomes of today's marginalized learners.
A caring and supportive disposition is the heart of a self-motivated and committed teacher regardless of his/ her race - Enjoy!
Making the Connections,
Deena V. Thomas, Editor

Celebrating Black History Month

African American Educators Teach Who They Are 
Teacher Shortages and Wages Do Not Hinder Goals for Students
The posts which have held up the African American community have been the church, the home, and the school.
One leader who has led the crusade to improve the quality of life for black people and their children has been - the black teacher.
The selfless directive to educate and empower the black community was ignited when Senate Bill One was approved on December 18, 1907, which was also known as the coach law and the state's first Jim Crow law.
"Senate bill one began the process of segregating every facet of life for African Americans. Because we were limited and restricted in certain areas, we as a people, had to begin creating resources to accommodate and meet our needs," Bruce Fisher said.
Bruce Fisher
Retired Administrative Program Officer for the Oklahoma Historical Society
Fisher is the retired administrative program officer for the Oklahoma Historical Society. He is the son of the late Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher, the civil rights icon, who fought and won the right to attend Oklahoma University's (OU) law school and later served as an OU Regent.
 "To achieve our goals, we had to create our own community of professionals - the doctors and the lawyers. The same holds true with education. We all lived together in one neighborhood - the maids, chauffeurs, bus boys, cooks, nannies, as well as the doctors, lawyers, and teachers. We all helped each other," Fisher said.  
Blacks were only allowed to pursue higher education degrees in medicine, law, and education. Many Oklahoma black attorneys had to obtain a Juris Doctor degree from an out of state institution until Fisher integrated OU, the historian stated.
By 1907, African American teachers blended their efforts statewide and formed the Oklahoma Association for Negro Teachers (OANT). Their purpose was to expand its membership, develop leaders, and advance their knowledge base within black communities, as well as fine tune their professional in-service training.
"The black teachers were held in high regard and were respected and honored within our neighborhoods. The Oklahoma Association for Negro Teachers was the brain trust of the African American community," Fisher said. "However, the decline of OANT came after the landmark case of Brown vs. Board of Education," Fisher said.
Defining a livable wage
After the onset of integration, the pool of African American teachers enlarged; however, compensation remained an issue until Emma Lee Freeman, an Oklahoma City Public Schools teacher, single handedly took on the challenge by suing the district for equal compensation for service equal to whites.
"Roscoe Dunjee, the legendary newspaper publisher of the Black Dispatch and one of Oklahoma's most prominent civil right leaders, who spearheaded many state and national landmark cases that swept the country supported Freeman. Also, the local and national NAACP backed her when she filed the lawsuit in federal district court against Oklahoma County's Excise Board and against the Oklahoma City Public Schools' Board of Education. At that time, black teachers were receiving 20 percent less than their white counterparts, which equates to white teachers being paid $300 more than black teachers' salaries," Eugene DePriest Jones, III said.
Eugene DePriest Jones, III
Retired Hospital Executive/Oklahoma County Manager - Grandnephew of Emma Lee Freeman
In the March 13, 1943 issue of the Black Dispatch, the newspaper reported that Thurgood Marshall would serve as the lead NAACP attorney for the Freeman case, but local attorneys, Robert L. Carter and Amos T. Hall, filed the case in federal court.
In the October 17, 1948 issue of the Daily Oklahoman reported Edgar S. Vaught, U.S. District Judge handed down a ruling as a result of the case brought by Emma Lee Freeman. The Freeman case was dismissed after pay scales were equalized. However, Hall asked for the ruling as a guide for future cases. The ruling stated teachers must be equally qualified to draw equal pay. Additionally, the ruling said it was unlawful under the 14th Amendment for any of the defendants to discriminate as to salaries between teachers in the majority schools and teachers in the separate schools on account of race.   
Emma Lee Freeman sued OKCPS for equal wages for black teachers
"The irony of all this is Freeman, who is my grand-aunt, is the great-grand aunt of the honorable U.S. Federal Magistrate Judge, Bernard M. Jones, who serves in the same 10th circuit court, where she had filed her lawsuit in 1947. Bernard is her great-grandnephew," Jones said.
The Honorable U.S. Federal Magistrate Judge, Bernard Jones
According to Jones, teacher salaries were equalized almost overnight from across the state.
Oklahoma ranks 49th in the nation for teacher pay. According to a January 14, 2016 Journal Record article entitled Prosperity Policy: Teacher Shortage a Growing Problem, stated the average teacher with five years of experience earns $34,000 today compared with $36,000 nine years ago, measured in 2015 dollars. Oklahoma teacher salaries are about 16 percent lower than in Texas and 28 percent lower than median salaries for similar workers in Oklahoma's private sector.
Change Seldom Alters Trends
Today, all educators share some of the same struggles - low pay and teacher shortages. However, the current difference is there are fewer black and other teachers of color populating Oklahoma and the nation's classrooms.  
The real test is attempting to get more teachers in classrooms who look like the students they teach.
A Local and National Cultural Rift
In Oklahoma, there is a racial teacher and student divide, according the Oklahoma Watch's article With Teachers and Students, A Racial Divide, published on December 21, 2015.
The article stated school leaders and education experts say a more diverse teacher corps is needed to establish positive role models for students and to better ensure teachers connect culturally with students. In 2012-2013, Oklahoma City Public Schools (OKCPS) had only 25 percent of teachers that are black, Hispanic, Asian or American Indian with 80 percent of students of color. Within the same school year, Tulsa Public Schools had 21 percent of teachers who were from minority groups, compared with its 64 percent of the student population of color.
Robyn Miller, the Oklahoma State Department of Education's deputy superintendent for educator effectiveness and policy research told the Oklahoma Watch that teachers of color are leaving at a higher rate than white teachers.
The Oklahoma Watch reported the numbers of Hispanic children are growing in OKCPS, and according to OKCPS spokesman, Mark Myers, "it's important for students from large urban districts to have teachers from similar backgrounds they can connect with," he said.
Currently, 47 percent of the OKCPS district's population is Hispanic the Oklahoma Watch reported.
In the February 17, 2016 issue of Education Week published the article Black Male Teachers a Dwindling Demographic, shared a report tagged, "The State of Teacher Diversity in American Education". Within the article appeared the2015 Albert Shanker Institute, report which stated nationally, nonwhite teachers are being hired at a higher rate proportional rate than other teachers, but they're also leaving the profession at a higher rate.
Socioeconomic Segregation
"Nationwide, there is a disconnect between supply and demand for teachers. The number of Oklahoma teacher candidates has declined by about 24 percent over the last eight years, and the teachers serving in high poverty, minority students are in less desirable workplaces," Miller told the Oklahoma Watch.
The Oklahoma Watch's article went on to say that one result of the trend: The least experienced teachers tend to work in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa metropolitan area districts, which generally have higher levels of students of a low socioeconomic status, according to a report the Oklahoma Department of Education released this year.
In addition, Education Week reported across the nation, nonwhite teachers tend to be concentrated in schools serving high-poverty communities, often in high-stakes environments where demands to raise test scores can trump other needs such as culturally responsive curriculum and social-emotional learning.
"During the days of integration, the more experienced African American teachers were reassigned to prominently white schools, and the less experienced white teachers were assigned to the African American schools, a practice that is perpetuated today," according to Jones.
Many school administrators agree that diversity within Oklahoma schools is necessary to reach all children.
"Being blessed with a diverse community, it is important to have as a goal to create a diverse staff within our school. The school personnel should indicate the community itself. Such a staff is able to model and demonstrate how different people can care for one another and work as a unit. Our students see themselves reflected in the faces and voices of the staff. That fact is powerful for the students," Janalyn Taylor, principal of Nance Elementary School in Clinton.
Dr. Tanisha Billingslea, Frederick Douglass High School Librarian/Teacher with Oklahoma City Public Schools
An African American teacher/librarian answers the call
Local and national headlines tell a story that the number of teachers of color is being depleted in epidemic proportions.
The black community no longer resembles the neighborhoods during segregation when the African American professionals lived among their domestic neighbors. Instead, there are demographic, socioeconomic, and cultural disparities that exist within the black community, which for the most part, only a black teacher can understand, according Dr. Tanisha Billingslea.
Acting on her commitment to serve the underserved, the children who look like her, a former Cameron University instructor, Dr. Tanisha Billingslea, made the conscious decision to leave higher education and return to common education.
Her rationale to leave higher education to work at Frederick education to work at Frederick Douglass High School with Oklahoma City Public to work schools as a teacher and librarian is explained in dissertation, entitled Souls Look Back in Wonder: A Critical Journey Towards Authentic Selves and Pedagogy. Billingslea was awarded a Doctor of Philosophy from Oklahoma State University in 2013.
"Authentic self is your true being. How you view yourself, not how others describe you. It is not the definitions that others impose upon you. In terms of my study, my authentic self in terms as a black female educator. All the participants were African American females," Billingslea said.
The Douglass High School teacher/librarian stated there were two Lawton elementary teachers and one administrator, who took part in the study.
The schools where the participants served were predominately white in terms of students, as well as faculty. In addition, how race affected the workplace surfaced in her study. At the beginning of the study, Billingslea says she was not sure if the participants had a true grasp of their authentic self.
"During the initial interviews, two of the participants really didn't look at their role as black female educators and their impact on their students. I really didn't find the true meaning of being a black educator until we began going through the readings. One of the participants described the importance as role model as a black educator. The image she presented to her black students and for her white students was paramount," she said.
Billingslea stated the study focused on being a black female; however, she said the terms 'black' and 'female' are terms society has given them, but she says ultimately our goal is to be viewed as a whole human being.
"The biggest takeaway and the most importance aspect of being black educators are to be a role models to our black students first. We want them to see a positive image, because they do not necessarily see black people depicted in a positive light. Our children need to see something to counter the negatives that they see in media or in their own environments around them," Billingslea said.
She said one of the participants spoke of sharing a positive image of a black female with her white students.
"White students are getting their ideas of who we are based on what they see or the lack of what they see in the media. As a result, they are formulating ideas out of nowhere. There are not a lot of positives for us," Billingslea said.
The final findings and the common thread among the participants was that all shared the common purpose of being advocates for their students, particularly the oppressed, low-income students.
"We found that we were the other mother, the protector, especially for the underserved minority students. When the participants were asked to define themselves, they all said they were mothers and they were mothers to their own children and their students. So the mothering aspect was carried over into the classrooms," she said.
The Black Feminist Though: Controlling Images and Self-Definitions mammies, matriarchs and other controlling images in Black feminist thought: Knowledge consciousness, and the politics of empowerment by P.H. Collins, was explored in Billingslea's study.
In the study, the reading talked about many of the stereotypes placed on black females.
"For example, the study talked being the angry black woman or the mammie," Billingslea said.
She explained black educators all agreed there were additional expectations placed upon them when they worked in white schools.
"There are a lot of expectations placed on black female educators especially when you are in a predominately white building. We had an extra workload. We are always expected to be the go between with black students and their parents. If the white teachers were having a problem, we were expected to have all the answers. That's added pressure," she said. 
However, when the participants examined and discussed the mammie's role within the reading as compared with the needs of their students, the African American educators decided that a mammie is a caretaker - a positive role model.  
"I left higher education, because you hear teachers talking about they want to make a difference. However, most people are selective on where they want to teach. They want to teach those who are easy to teach. Well, those kids don't need you. They are going to get it on their own, or they will get it from home. Most teachers don't want to teach in a school like Douglass unless they are going to do it for a couple of years and move on. That's too much turnover for our babies," Billingslea said. Billingslea stated the biggest part of my research was self-discovery.
"I had to get to a point where I was not so much concerned about others accepting what I said or did. I had to do what was best for my students. As a result, I may or may not be approved by the outside. But I do know what the measures I take come from my heart, and I will continue to do what is best for my students, especially the black, underserved students, who need me the most," Billingslea said.
The Oklahoma Teacher Connection TeachLINK
The Oklahoma Teacher Connection, a division of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, will electronically publish the TeachLINK E-newsletter three times 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
African American Educators Teach Who They Are
Editor's Note