OKCPS educator awarded grant for innovative teaching idea

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – An Oklahoma City schools educator was awarded a $2,000 grant for winning a national competition with her innovative idea to teach kids literacy.

It’s a big boost for Mariah Ousley, a administrative intern at Prairie Queen Elementary School in the Oklahoma City Public School District. She is the only Oklahoman and is among 50 others across the country to receive the award.

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Ousley said she is living out her childhood dream. She read a book to a class Monday morning about 10 years after starting her career in education within the same district.

“I’ve been doing a lot of hands-on stuff at the school,” she said.

Her hard work is now paying off, quite literally. She was recently awarded a $2,000 grant from Voya Financial as part of their unsung heroes competition.

“It’s just very heartwarming and humble to be able to get this and give it back to the school,” she said.

The award is for her innovative idea called “closing the gap.” It’s a way to improve students learning around letters, handwriting and basic sentences with confidence. Ousley said it’s something she created as the world has seen students fall behind in the classroom since the pandemic.

“To get us back on track and to get Oklahoma City and Oklahoma and the world back on track,” she said.

She plans to put the money toward the handwriting without tears program. That’s a curriculum where kids systematically learn handwriting and how to form letters.

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“I think $2,000 will at least get some curriculum for one grade level,” Ousley said.

The opportunity sets this educator up to achieve a dream, and potentially the dreams of others as well.

“This is my way of giving back to the kids and giving back to the district that I love so dearly,” Ousley said.

Ousley’s journey doesn’t end here. She’s now set up to compete against other finalists for additional $5,000, $10,000, and $25,000 prizes. She said if she’s able to do that she hopes to bring the curriculum to multiple grade levels in the school.

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