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Avedis Provides Tuition Assistance Grant for OBU Alternative Certification Education Program

January 5, 2023

Talk of resolutions is annually abundant in January.

However, commitments have a lot more staying power than resolutions.

The Avedis Foundation is beginning 2023 with a firm commitment to K-12 teachers and students as it partners with Oklahoma Baptist University's new alternative teaching certificate program to offer tuition assistance for 50 teachers working in local school districts who are seeking alternative teaching certification. Teachers serving in Pottawatomie County public schools as well as Meeker, Chandler, Prague, Little Axe, and Seminole public school districts are eligible to apply for the tuition assistance program.

January 23 is one of three starting points for the program throughout the coming year. The others begin in June and August.

OBU’s program, Alternative Certification and Credentialing for Elementary and Secondary Schools, or “ACCESS,” is designed for professionals seeking to become alternatively certified teachers in the state of Oklahoma.

Dr. Liz Justice, chair of OBU’s McCabe Family School of Education and associate professor of education, and Annie Keehn, assistant professor of education, serve as co-directors of the ACCESS program.

“Research is clear that teacher quality is the most influential factor in student success,” said Keehn, who before joining the OBU faculty in 2021, served in local public schools as both a teacher and administrator.

This commitment represents a “half-price” tuition assistance for qualifying teachers. That translates a substantial investment by the Avedis Foundation of $3,375 in assistance per teacher for those completing the full certificate program.

The partnership between the Avedis Foundation and OBU will increase the number of fully certified teachers in classrooms across local school districts. There is a significant need for this program, and OBU has responded with a situation-changing answer.

During the 2021-22 school year, Oklahoma classrooms were staffed with 3,863 emergency certified teachers. Emergency certification is a teaching certificate issued for one year to someone who has not yet met the certification qualifications of a state-approved program. Districts may request emergency certification for a specific candidate only after exhausting every option to find an appropriately certified person for the open position.

The ACCESS program includes one year of 18 hours of coursework completed through six graduate level courses, all taught fully online, for professionals seeking alternative certification to teach in the elementary or secondary classroom. The coursework focuses on education fundamentals including classroom management, pedagogy and child development.

“Avedis Foundation is honored and pleased to partner with Oklahoma Baptist University to fund this project,” said Kathy Laster, Ph.D., President and CEO of Avedis Foundation. “This innovative approach to assist school districts with the burden of the teacher shortages within the communities that we serve is an investment in education for all.”

While the courses provide important knowledge and skills for professionals as they meet the requirements for alternative certification set by the Oklahoma State Department of Education, the program also prepares individuals to successfully pass the necessary certification exams to become licensed teachers within the state.

OBU’s undergraduate teacher education candidates have a 95% pass rate on their culminating certification exams, and the ACCESS program seeks to help alternatively certified teachers experience similar success.

Resolutions are sometimes easily broken – true commitments are not. The vision statement of Avedis Foundation says it all, “Our vision is to measurably improve the health, wellness and quality of life for our state. We’re here for good.”

To enroll in the ACCESS program, apply for tuition assistance or find out more information, visit

Photo caption: The Avedis Foundation is partnering with Oklahoma Baptist University’s program, Alternative Certification and Credentialing for Elementary and Secondary Schools (ACCESS) to provide substantial tuition assistance. Those gathering on the OBU campus for the announcement of this significant effort included:  Front row, Tracy Meeuwsen, from left, Dr. Larinee Dennis, Dr. Kathy Laster, Dr. Heath Thomas, Dr. Elizabeth Justice, Tina Hanna, Audrey Seeliger; Second row, Sarah Steely, from left, Jeff Madison, Jill Spencer, Mark Finley, Annie Keehn, Josh Trimble.