Heather Cody

Heather Cody

Citizens along the 110-mile route from Tulsa to Oklahoma City that striking teachers marched last spring brought breakfast – donuts bagels, home-made muffins, even omelets – to school gymnasiums where teachers slept on wood floors or, on lucky nights, wrestling mats. Heather Cody, a third-grade teacher, single mother and march organizer, found herself suddenly leading a mobile movement attracting national attention. Being teachers, they sorted into walking groups: Cheetahs, Foxes and Turtles. “We called ourselves ‘The Zookeepers,’” Cody said of those who each night labored over logistics. A volunteer doctor “worked on people’s feet. The blisters, he popped them and wrapped them.” Tulsa teachers reached the Capitol in seven days, their anger at a decade of funding cuts making headlines. While Cody was defiant on CNN, deals were struck. A show of force ended in a whimper. Average pay rose slightly (Cody’s monthly take home to $2,200 from $1,900). Schools got a few dollars. But key issues went unaddressed. “A lot of teachers felt defeated,” she said. The stresses of the job – performance demands, low pay, scant support for students with serious needs, the burden of buying class supplies – are seeding unrest around the country. Oklahoma is quiet now. But, says Cody, “We promise that the fight is not over.”

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