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To stay or not to stay? A question all graduating education majors in Oklahoma must answer

The little red-headed girl who grew up in Sapulpa knew one thing at an early age. She wanted to become a teacher. (KTUL)

Gabby McCracken has a plan. The senior special education major at Northeastern State University plans on sticking to it.

“It’s 'oh, you just want to be a teacher? Are you sure?' I’m like, 'yep',” said McCracken.

Smart. Ambitious. Kind.

The little red-headed girl who grew up in Sapulpa knew one thing at an early age. She wanted to become a teacher.

“Trying to defend a life choice that you made when you know that it’s your passion, and they’ve just crushed it,” said McCracken.

Last year, 61,590 Oklahoma students were taught by an emergency certified teacher. (Special education is not eligible for emergency certification.)

It’s a reaction that happens all the time. People wondering why she would choose to be a teacher.

Oklahoma desperately needs teachers like McCracken and it isn’t getting them. Since 2011, the number of emergency teacher certifications has increased 3,500 percent (yes, you read that correctly), according to data from the University of Oklahoma.

“There are several, several people in the education program who will get their degree here and are planning to move to Arkansas, Texas, to surrounding states,” said McCracken.

After graduation, McCracken knows should could make an extra five to ten thousand dollars just by moving to a different state. It’s becoming harder and harder to justify staying in Oklahoma.

“They know that no matter what the education fund is, whether it’s nonexistent or barely there, that kids still need teachers. So, they’re going to teach in this state not matter what. That’s the problem, so in a way the passion I have is a flaw,” said McCracken.

Challenges and pay aside, her time student-teaching in Sand Springs reiterates exactly why she’s going into special education.

“Some of them have every reason not to be happy and they’re some of the happiest people you’ll ever meet,” said McCracken.

Oklahoma is her home. So whether it’s a passion or a flaw, she’s sticking around.

And McCracken is all about sticking to plans.

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