Veteran pilots performed a flyover during the national anthem Friday night, helping observe Saturday’s 20th anniversary of the World Trade Center attack.
Then, the second-ranked Owasso Rams’ potent offense took the field. Junior quarterback Austin Havens threw two touchdown passes to Hakelan Carney and a third to Jaray Austin covering 91 yards — all in the first half — and had four in the game.
The Rams backed up their offense by putting constant pressure on Broken Arrow quarterback Griffin Stieber, who completed just 4-of-20 passes after going 31-for-40 in his first two games.
It added up to a third consecutive Patriot Bowl win for the Rams over the Tigers, 42-3 on Friday night before a standing-room-only crowd of about 12,000 in Owasso Stadium.
In a father-son coaching matchup of mammoth proportions, Owasso’s Bill Blankenship won the first meeting against his son, Josh, the former Union High All-State quarterback in his first year as Broken Arrow’s head coach.
“He said he loved me and I told him the same thing,” Bill Blankenship said of his son after notching his 265th win over 27 high school coaching seasons.
“You have to live this life to understand what it’s like to win and lose, and you have a lot of empathy (for the other guy) when you win,” he said.
Havens went 13-for-15 for 224 yards in the first half and finished 17-for-20 for 285. He now has 929 yards in three games and his four TD passes give him 12 for the season.
His biggest play was probably the 91-yard pass to Jaray on the Rams’ second possession, already leading 7-0 on a 25-yard pass over the middle to a wide open Carney to cap the first drive.
Stieber’s 46-yard punt pinned the Rams deep. But on second-and-12 from the Rams’ 9, Austin beat the defense again over the middle, caught Havens around the 50 and outran Marion Horn, the Tigers’ only defender with a chance to catch him.
Horn lunged and got Austin around the ankles at the 20, but couldn’t hold on and it was 14-0. Havens teamed with Carney again and it was 21-0.
“Very explosive,” Bill Blankenship said of the offense which produced a straight-up 500 yards on 54 plays from scrimmage. “We have a lot of guys who can make big plays and spread it around. We’ve got a chance to be pretty good.”
Owasso, a state semifinalist last year, improved to 3-0 and may or may not be ranked atop Class 6A Division I on Monday. There’s a spot open because No. 3 Jenks knocked off No. 1 Union 22-0 Friday night.
The Rams have next week off before opening 6AI-2 competition at Union on Sept. 24.
Broken Arrow, which lost to Union last week, fell to 1-2 and also has next week off. The Tigers open District 6AI-1 competition at Westmoore on Sept. 23 before hosting Jenks on Oct. 1.
Six Rams caught passes, led by Austin with two catches for 101 yards, Cole Adams with six for 74 yards and Carney with five for 63.
Even second-team and wildcat quarterback Mason Willingham got into the act, scoring on a 6-yard run and throwing a 31-yard TD pass to Anthony Hills.
About the only thing the Rams did wrong was commit too many penalties — 10 for 105 yards. They might have had a shutout, but a pair of personal fouls late in the second quarter when BA seemed content to run out the clock set up Hunter Martens’ 38-yard field goal.
OWASSO 42, BROKEN ARROW 3
O: Carney 25 pass from Havens (Jake Adams kick)
O: Austin 91 pass from Havens (Adams kick)
O: Carney 13 pass from Havens (Adams kick)
B: FG, Martens 38
O: Thomas 40 pass from Havens (Adams kick)
O: Willingham 6 run (Adams kick)
O: Hills 31 pass from Willingham (Adams kick)
A Tulsa World analysis found summertime teacher retirements are up nearly 38% year-over-year, in yet another sign that Oklahoma’s teacher shortage is worsening.
Many newly retired educators from area school districts say the pandemic pushed them past the brink for one reason or another, and in a lot of cases, years sooner than they might have left the classroom otherwise.
“This past year was just tough. I think people got to the point where they had enough,” said longtime Collinsville Superintendent Lance West, who at just 54 years old also just retired from the public school system. “I don’t think it’s just about money anymore. It’s the demands of our society — our society has changed.
“If people don’t think there’s any correlation between teachers leaving and that, they’re not paying attention to the data.”
According to data from the Oklahoma Teachers’ Retirement System, retirements the previous two summers were relatively level at 1,622 during the months of May through August in 2019 and 1,600 during the same peak retirement period in 2020.
During the same summer months this year, 2,205 Oklahoma teachers retired.
“We will have more detailed information in October when we receive our actuarial report,” said Sarah Green, the new executive director for Oklahoma TRS.
For a decade, the state’s public schools have grown increasingly reliant on filling teaching vacancies with nonaccredited teachers.
School superintendents certify to the state that no certified candidates were available to fill a position they wish to fill with someone who needs an emergency certification. Emergency certifications allow individuals with a bachelor’s degree to be employed as teachers for up to three years before they complete the education or training requirements for regular or alternative certification.
The Oklahoma State Board of Education has approved nearly 2,700 emergency certificates since June 1, nearing the full-year total of 2,801 for all of the 2020-21 academic year.
Locally, Tulsa Public Schools went into the fall semester with warnings to the community that severe shortages in teachers and substitutes could hamstring the district’s ability to operate normally if the current COVID-19 surge doesn’t subside soon.
One of those vacancies was created when 54-year-old Lynette Shouse left Grissom Elementary School, where she was the longtime gifted and talented coordinator.
Just six years ago, Shouse was TPS Teacher of the Year and was showered with gifts from local businesses and surprised with a classroom makeover by a local architecture firm.
Today, she’s working at a private Christian school at the church she attends because life there, she said, is a bit simpler.
“It is just a different atmosphere. I feel like there are more demands on the public school system to provide some things that might be less of a need here,” said Shouse. “Probably without the pandemic, I would have spent a few more years. I think the pandemic pushed some of us over the edge. Teachers my age and older — we’re not digital natives.”
Shouse added that her decision to try her hand at teaching in a private school for a few more years has confounded friends who also recently retired from public schools.
“But I don’t really feel like I’m completely finished teaching. I feel like I had given what I needed to give to public education — I had given them three decades of my life,” she said. “I feel like an athlete; I left it all on the field, but I still have a little bit more in me.
“Like Michael Jordan trying baseball, I’m going to see how I do in a private school.”
Rebecca Harris, 63, spent her entire career at TPS and figures she could have taught another five years.
New demands and challenges presented by the students she was serving of late combined with inadequate resources to support them left her defeated and drained. Then the pandemic hit, and she said she gained 30 pounds from stress eating while trying to “do school” via a computer screen with her students in 2020-21.
“The final sign came in December 2020 when a student’s parent flipped me the bird in a Zoom class. I said, ‘Thank you, God.’ That was the final sign,” she said, shaking her head. “I don’t blame the district or administrators. The warriors in TPS beat the odds every single day, but it’s not a classroom anymore. It’s not an academic setting.”
Harris said she has already lost weight and is focusing her early retirement days on simple pleasures like gardening and taking flowers to people she encounters in doctor’s offices or restaurants who are kind to her.
“My doctor wanted to prescribe me an antidepressant,” she recalled. “I said, ‘I have a better prescription: I put in for retirement!’”
Both West, the former Collinsville superintendent, and Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association President Shawna Mott-Wright said the pandemic brought into laser focus how much parents and the economy as a whole rely on school teachers for child care.
They said they’ve seen firsthand how teachers who see themselves as educators first have had to reconcile that.
“Teachers have been blamed for every problem and ill of society like it’s all our fault. If teaching is so easy, why do we have this massive shortage of epic proportion?” Mott-Wright said. “It was made abundantly clear that we are here to serve as servants. Like, ‘Why aren’t you doing this for me? Move your butts, Cinderella.’
“They see us as servants, as a lower class to ‘handle’ their kids so they can do whatever they want or need to do. And I don’t mean parents — I mean society.”
West said Collinsville fared better than most districts in maintaining in-person instruction for students throughout 2020-21.
“We had to go out very little because of COVID quarantining numbers, but even for the small number of times we did that, what I learned is a large group of our people really just look at us as babysitters,” West said. “I didn’t get a lot of ‘Oh, my gosh! My kid is going to be so far behind.’ I got a lot of ‘When are we going to be able to play basketball again?’
“I don’t know that we ever had that in our face before, but we all did a lot last year.”
Union Public Schools had about 30 retirements among its 100 teacher exits since last school year, which is about three times the normal number of retirements there, said district spokesman Chris Payne.
The district had braced for greater turnover, in part because last year was the third year since public school teachers received a significant raise and the last three years of a teacher’s career are critical to how retirement pay is determined.
But other pandemic stressors seemed to drive much of the churn.
“We are finding that many people are moving out of state, and many of these are with spouses,” said Payne. “We think it’s due to many companies experiencing changes post-pandemic, which maybe created new opportunities.”
Irene Castell left what she described as her “dream job,” teaching prekindergarten at Zarrow International School for the past eight years of her 25-year teaching career.
She said she had wonderful students and got to watch them grow up as they progressed through the school. And their parents’ support for material needs in the classroom, as well as their undying gratitude and encouragement to teachers, is unmatched, she said.
But trying to conduct preschool for 4-year-olds in the manner she has known and excelled at was suddenly stripped away in spring 2020.
“When COVID hit and we were put online virtually, I thought: If school’s going to be like this, I need to retire. I didn’t go into this to teach through a computer screen,” Castell said.
Even after her school reopened in November, every Wednesday’s classes were conducted via Zoom from home. And some of Castell’s students remained at home because of parent choice, so she had to juggle both in-person and online remote instruction.
“TPS uses a platform called Canvas that was designed for secondary and college. It does not translate well into early childhood,” she said. “I had to make up two reading and math assignments per day for them to be marked present. That was more pencil and paper than I’ve ever done in my career because at 4 and 5, they don’t learn that way. It should be mostly hands-on, game-based.”
To keep up with all of the online teaching demands, Castell’s workdays grew from nine or 10 hours to 12 hours a day plus weekends.
“Every good teacher spends extra time out of the classroom, but I was exhausted, and it was just like the joy was being sucked out,” she said. “We had to try to keep students in pods, separated. A lot of the things that were fun and enjoyable just stopped. It was just sad. It’s no one’s fault. It’s just COVID.”
At 64, Castell abandoned her plans to teach “until at least 66 or 67.” She has expanded her garden and is spending more time with her husband and eight grandchildren.
She has also taken on a twice-a-year assignment for Union Public Schools, screening students who may need English language services. On those limited work days, she goes in at 8 a.m. and leaves at 2 p.m. with no work to take home.
She gets wistful only when she mentions the students she left behind at Zarrow.
“One day this summer, I went up to the school when the kids were there eating lunch, and I felt like a rock star. They saw me and were like, “Senora Castell!” she said.
“I loved my school. I loved my team, and I loved the kids — I really miss the kids.”
Patriotism was on full display at the Tulsa Tech-Lemley Memorial campus Friday thanks in part to the hardworking efforts of two Owasso students.
Ashton Piche and Isaiah Edwards are among about two dozen Masonry and Introduction to Construction students who have spent the last two weeks building a tribute wall at the central Tulsa school honoring the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Piche and Edwards collaborated with their fellow students to design, plan and create the wall as part of their semester curriculum commemorating the 20th anniversary of the national tragedy.
“It brings me enjoyment to see everything that we created over the last few weeks,” said Piche, a senior, who worked on the project’s centerpiece, a representation of the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
Edwards, a junior, who laid and leveled much of the wall’s brick, added, “I enjoyed seeing it all be put together for something for people to look at and remember 9/11.”
The monument sits in the center of one of the school’s workshops, and pays homage to the World Trade Center’s north and south towers in New York City, as well as the Pentagon and Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania.
Each unique element of the project — comprised of candles, a flowing water stream, a neon outline of the twin towers and 20 small American flags — is dedicated to honoring not only the victims of the attacks, but all the police and fire crews and first responders involved in the disaster.
Now in its 18th year, Tulsa Tech’s iconic wall memorial was spearheaded by masonry instructor Chauncey Kila, who guided students like Piche and Edwards through pieces of the wall’s development.
“This project is about a history lesson. They’re learning not only about masonry, but there’s some emotional learning that goes on,” Kila said. “I have them think about how meaningful this project’s going to be. The process of them building it, they don’t realize the impact it makes.”
Both Owasso students said they gained insightful, firsthand knowledge through their experiences constructing the wall.
“A lot of us, especially me, I came in not knowing how to do much of anything,” Piche said. “I learned how to lay bricks and how to keep it level and how to make it flat and in line to make it uniform.”
Edwards added, “All the bricks on top, I helped lay those out. Drilled holes through the back to get the electricity through it and plug it in. I helped sand all the bottom of the Pentagon.”
His workshop now serving as a patriotic memorial, Kila can rest assured knowing his students — and those of other classes — will walk away after seeing his pupils’ handiwork be put to good use.
“For me, 9/11 was a mile marker in my life,” Kila said. “And for my students, building this project is sort of a mile marker for their lives, because every time 9/11 rolls around now, they’ll always remember working on the wall.”