Innovative teaching, flexibility, compensation encouraged veteran educator to 'jump' to EPIC
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Before Oklahoma City-area teacher Regina Bell took the leap and became an EPIC Charter School teacher, her day used to be pretty standard-issue for an educator – arriving early, staying late and adhering to the same, strict schedule day in and day out, seeing larger and larger class sizes each year.
Today, however, she spends her days traveling to meet the students on her roster and setting her own schedule. Her students will be hers until they graduate. She’s happier than she’s ever been.
“I would say to anyone looking to find a new, flexible and challenging way to use their teaching skills to jump. Just jump,” she said. “I regret not having made the jump myself four years sooner.”
A blended approach of online curriculum and one-on-one attention from teachers like Bell makes up the bulk of EPIC’s more than 700 teachers who are distributed throughout Oklahoma’s 77 counties, said Bart Banfield, EPIC assistant superintendent. EPIC also employs a smaller group of teachers in its four Blended Learning Centers (BLCs), which are on-site locations in Tulsa and Oklahoma City.
Banfield said EPIC has made the decision to significantly increases its teacher salaries across the board because it wants to continue to recruit the best and brightest for EPIC students.
Beginning with the 2019-2020 school year, EPIC’s one-on-one teachers serving regular education students will see an increase of approximately $5,000 in their average base pay. One-on-one special education teachers will see an increase of just over $4,000. BLC regular education and special education teachers will receive a $10,000 annual increase (from $35,000 to $45,000 and from $40,000 to $50,000, respectively) and will see a $5,000 hike in their annual bonus cap (from $5,000 to $10,000 yearly).
Prior to this recent raise, EPIC teachers were already the state’s highest paid on average. In 2018, the average salary of a full-time EPIC teacher (which does not include benefits, although the school system does pay for benefits and inclusion in the Oklahoma Teachers Retirement System) was $64,005. In the same school year, traditional public school educators made an average of $51,779, including benefits.
Banfield encouraged educators who are compassionate, driven and looking for a new way to teach an increasingly diverse student population to apply at EPIC. He said EPIC’s model is one that embraces the modernity of life and breaks with the “way things have always been done.”
“We at EPIC have a philosophy that school can be different,” Banfield said, adding that the traditional school model simply is not the right fit for every student. “Holding true to this philosophy means, in turn, that teaching must be different, too.”
Bell agrees, saying she spent four years toying with the idea of leaving the traditional school model. She spoke with many EPIC teachers about the transition, meeting them for coffee, asking questions and even going on a ride-along to get a feel for what the life of a virtual public school teacher was all about. “It’s so different from brick and mortar. I really feel like I am truly making a difference. It’s really just so gratifying and that’s something I was missing for probably the last 10 years of my career.”
EPIC Charter Schools is the state’s fifth-largest public school system, serving more than 24,000 students statewide. For more information about becoming a teacher at EPIC and to apply online, visit https://epiccharterschools.org/employment.
This article is sponsored by EPIC Charter Schools.
Epic Charter Schools are an accredited school system that serves students in all Oklahoma counties. The school is proudly sponsored by Rose State College to serve students in Oklahoma and Tulsa Counties. In addition, the school is sponsored by the Oklahoma Virtual Charter School Board to serve students statewide. Read more ›