Lawmaker Receives Lesson in Classroom ; the Former Teacher Pitches in, Too, While Learning about the Need for Education Reform

Article excerpt

Shadowing public school teachers is giving local legislators an opportunity to contrast ideas that go into policy decisions against classroom realities.

"It is really important to see the effects of legislation that has been passed and to get feedback about what's working and what's not," said state Rep. Katie Henke, R-Tulsa. "You wouldn't build a building without an architect's input, so we should be talking to teachers about education reform."

Henke was one of a host of lawmakers participating in the Oklahoma Education Association's Giving Legislators an Education Experience Week, which runs through Friday.

Henke was only recently sworn in to represent Tulsa's District 71, but she's no stranger to classrooms, having taught previously at Tulsa's Little Light House, Undercroft Montessori and Riverfield Country Day School.

So when Eliot Elementary School's Internet and phone service went out and the co-teacher of her host, third-grade teacher Stefani Bartholomew, called in sick for the day, Henke didn't flinch.

She swooped in to read chapters of "Where the Red Fern Grows" and helped one class of students line up so another could be ushered into Bartholomew's class.

"Because she's been a teacher, she understands the difficulties today," a harried Bartholomew said, with a laugh. "At the same time, she taught in private schools, and I want her to see our diversity and the real needs of public schools."

Bartholomew said she was eager to impress upon Henke the need for greater flexibility within state laws and regulations.

"I have math books stacked to the ceiling because the Legislature mandated one textbook for every student, but I don't need a book per pupil," she said. "I use software on the Smart Board, handouts and chart paper - things that are more interactive because that's what my students need.

"If they had asked for more teacher input - I think that's what's most important. …