IRIS in Oklahoma: Boot Camps to Address Teacher Shortages
Jill Hilst is a professional development specialist at the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) within the Special Education Services Division. Some 16% of Oklahoma’s approximately 700,000 students receive special education services. Like many states, Oklahoma faces a critical shortage of certified special education teachers.
We are filling classrooms with qualified, well-trained special educators in hard-to-sell positions throughout Oklahoma with Boot Camp graduates. They are committed to delivering high-quality instruction every day to students and taking a leadership role within districts.
Following a legislative request, OSDE was tasked with developing a program to help combat this teacher shortage. And from this, Oklahoma Boot Camp was born. Boot Camp is a nine-week course that uses a blended learning format to include both traditional on-site experiences and online virtual learning. Participants are required to complete 120 instructional hours and 30 hours of field experience. As the manager and instructor of Oklahoma Boot Camp, Jill plays a key role in this non-traditional route to special education certification for participants.
When Jill first transitioned to her role, a Boot Camp curriculum had already been developed. As she began reviewing materials and researching the latest high-quality instructional resources to update the curriculum, Jill noted that IRIS Center resources were already well represented. As she continued to search for quality material, Jill kept coming back to IRIS, as it not only offered quality modules and activities on relevant topics like IEPs, behavior management, accommodations, transitions, and MTSS, but also pointed her in the right direction to find other related resources.
Once I found the IRIS Center, the resources you pointed to, often included a video or stories or an association that added additional value. So all my searching led back to the IRIS Center. There was an intention to just see what else was available, and in the end, IRIS resources really became my search engine.
Across the state of Oklahoma, a total of almost 2,000 Boot Camp graduates have completed the program, earned their provisional special education certification, and stepped into classrooms that greatly need them. And the journey for graduates doesn’t stop there: Boot Camp graduates have three years to work toward their Master’s in special education to earn their standard teaching certification in the area of special education.
After successfully training thousands of special education teachers, Oklahoma Boot Camp continues to thrive. With growing numbers of participants and an ever-expanding wait list, seven districts in Oklahoma have replicated OSDE’s Boot Camp program to address local teachers shortages, using the same IRIS-infused curriculum.
As Oklahoma Boot Camps grow in number, IRIS is excited to continue partnering with Jill and the Oklahoma State Department of Education.
In the video below, Jill Hilst explains more about the Oklahoma Boot Camps and how IRIS resources play a key role in tackling the critical shortage of special education teachers in her state (time: 2:45).