Roxane and Ben Strickling’s gift is setting up future leaders for immediate success.
Roxane Strickling knows a thing or two about the life of a teacher. She understands the struggle.
As she stood on stage Monday next to her husband addressing the students, faculty, staff and leadership from Texas Tech University and the College of Education, she laid out some of the challenges she faced as a student teacher and early in her career as an educator.
“I just remember during my student teaching, I was cutting and pasting and gluing and making lesson plans and spending a fortune on the little cutie things,” Roxane explained to the audience. “But I was making the bulletin boards and everything, and it took my whole allowance. I had to call my mom and ask for more.”
Monday's gathering was to announce the Strickling Senior Leaders program, a gift from the Stricklings to students in the College of Education that will give every teacher candidate in the college a $1,000 scholarship.
“This gift underscores the profound impact education has on shaping the future of this region, our state and the nation,” said Texas Tech President Lawrence Schovanec. “We extend our deepest gratitude to Ben and Roxane for their unwavering commitment to education and their belief in the potential of our students.”
The impact on the lives of the students will be immediate, with current teacher candidates in the College of Education the first beneficiaries of the program.
“Student teaching is a year-long deal, and not getting paid while doing it has been really hard financially,” said College of Education senior Braeley Krautsch. “And because we're also college students, doing the full-time job and the 13-plus hours of college courses, about 80% of the College of Ed TechTeach students are having to get a second job, working nights after teaching and doing schoolwork.
“So, it's really just the biggest blessing ever because it takes a lot of financial burden off of our backs.”
The connection to students, lending a hand to those future community leaders with something immediately impactful, is exactly what the Stricklings wanted.
“That's why we both liked it,” Ben said. “We can capture every one of the students right now.”
Over the next four years, the gift will help more than 1,000 Texas Tech students, giving them a financial boost and a connection to a family that wants to see them succeed.
“Their gift is really two things,” said Vice President for University Advancement Byron Kennedy. “It's a personal connection directly to students. They want to know them, connecting person to person. That's one part.
“The second part, I think, is the fact that it's an immediate impact. There are a lot of students who need help right now and have expenses beyond their tuition and fees. Roxane knows that because of her time in the classroom, and they specifically wanted to help those teachers now. Having a family history in education, they know that teachers change lives.”
While the impact of the gift will be immediate, it will have a lasting effect across the state and region.
Not only will the gift benefit current students financially, it could also make the difference in the decision or ability of a student to pursue teaching as a profession.
“I know how hard I worked right before I student-taught and during my student teaching,” Roxane said. “I didn't have a great deal of money, and to make all those little Mickey Mouse things you have to make and do your lesson plans and do all those kinds of things, I just thought if we helped them with a boost that it would help a lot. I know it would have helped me.
“We are in such hard times right now with teachers, and education right now is really a worrisome thing. I think we are just hoping to make it easier for more teachers.”
Texas Tech's College of Education prides itself on producing the best-trained teachers in the state, but that education requires student teaching. Working with teachers across the state, along with professors at Texas Tech who act as mentors, graduates from the College of Education are ready to step directly into the classroom.
Each graduating class represents another cohort of educators, and thanks to the boost from the Stricklings, they'll have the opportunity to enter the workforce on better financial footing.
“Their last year, the students are taken in a one-year residency, assigned to a school district, and many of them are not paid to do that,” College of Education Dean Jesse Perez Mendez explained. “This gift covers a little bit of their expenditures and makes life a little easier for them.
“It's called the leadership scholarship on purpose. I think we sometimes just think of teachers as teachers. Well, if there's one thing we've learned from COVID, it's that teachers are community leaders as well. They are the people that keep the fabric of society together.”
While their gift will have the largest scholarship impact by a single donor on an annual basis in Texas Tech history, the Stricklings hope it's just the start.
“We're kind of hoping this is a force multiplier,” Ben said. “If we do the senior leaders, maybe somebody else will look at this and say, ‘We'll do the juniors,' or ‘We'll do the sophomores' or ‘We'll do the graduate students.' Because these things have a tendency to catch on, especially when it is an immediate impact item.”