Professional Development Platform Now Open for Teachers of English Learners Statewide

Professional Development Platform Now Open for Teachers of English Learners Statewide

An online professional development platform for Teachers of English Learners created by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence has completed its pilot phase and is now open for teachers statewide on the Oklahoma State Department of Education Oklahoma EDGE website at

As part of its Teacher Professional Development programs, the foundation created the Teachers of English Learners Pilot Project to address a critical need for classroom teachers and their English Learner students. The project uses an online learning platform developed by NextThought to provide professional development, networking and support for classroom teachers in schools with a high enrollment of English Learner students. 

“Nearly 60,000 students in Oklahoma’s public schools do not speak English as their first language, presenting a challenge for classroom teachers who often do not have the training or resources to effectively integrate English Learner students into their classroom activities,” said OFE Executive Director Emily Stratton.

When the foundation launched its Teachers of English Learners Pilot Project in February, it had 17 schools with approximately 360 teachers registered to participate. Today, some 759 teachers from 95 districts are utilizing the online platform, thanks to the addition of a popular new ESL Certification Prep Course and opportunities to network with other EL teachers.

In September, facilitators added the free English as a Second Language Prep Course created by veteran ESL teachers Ellen Kraft and Marcie Levy of Norman. The course readings, videos, activities, and quizzes are tied to six state standards and keyed to 14 competencies addressed in the state certification exam. Sixty-nine educators have already completed the prep course and received $80 exam fee vouchers to be used at the time of registration for the ESL certification exam. A limited number of vouchers are available to be awarded on a first-come basis to teachers who complete the course.

The Teachers of English Learners Pilot Project was developed by advisory and content committees made up of Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence trustees and English Learner specialists from school districts and colleges. In addition, six ESL-certified teachers serve as virtual facilitators for the pilot project to answer questions and provide resources for participants. The project has provided a valuable Professional Learning Community for EL teachers across Oklahoma.

“The project has provided a platform to unite EL teachers who desire collaboration with others working in our subject area,” said Payne County EL teacher Anastasia Mendoza. “Many EL teachers are the only one in their school or district. The online project has given teachers from across the state a common place to collaborate, build relationships and learn from each other.”

Prep course author Ellen Kraft adds that the Professional Learning Community developed through the Pilot Project can help teachers address the unique needs of their EL students and families. “Coming together as a group of professional educators would provide a better idea of common concerns that we could bring to the attention of education policy makers,” she added.

Organizers have completed the pilot phase and will be doing assessment of the project this spring. They are planning a statewide roll-out in partnership with the Oklahoma State Department of Education in fall 2021.

Sponsors of the Teachers of English Learners Pilot Project are Sarkeys Foundation, BancFirst, The Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation, Home Creations, Gene Rainbolt, Bar S Foods, Cherokee Strip Community Foundation, Dillingham Foundation, The Joullian Foundation, the Office of Education Quality and Accountability, ARVEST Bank of Tulsa and Oklahoma City, Lopez Foods, Kirk and Sue Morris, Junior Welfare Leagues of Enid, Stephen and Sherrel Jones, Central Machine and Tool LLC, Dick Sias, Lisa Pryor, Oklahoma Bank & Trust Co., Cheryl & GW Lowry Jr., and Dick Ebrey.

For more information, email Project Director Lisa Pryor at