CELI Helps Delta Elementary School Rise to A Rating

Literacy instruction center provides resources for Tunica teachers

CELI literacy specialist Olivia Pasterchick explains a literacy workstation to a Dundee Elementary student.

CELI literacy specialist Olivia Pasterchick explains a literacy workstation to a Dundee Elementary student.

OXFORD, Miss. – With support from the University of Mississippi’s Center for Excellence in Literacy Instruction, or CELI, Dundee Elementary School in Tunica has earned an A rating from the Mississippi Department of Education, making it the highest-rated school in the Tunica County School District.

The latest MDE data shows third- through fifth-graders at Dundee achieved significant academic growth this year, especially in reading. The school reported that 94.4 percent of students improved in reading and nearly 67 percent of students are reading above the 80th percentile for their grade; more than 10 points higher than the state average.

This upturn has helped Dundee, which has 216 children in grades P-5, rise from B to A status in 2014, and Principal Natasha Bates attributes much of this success to ongoing curriculum support from CELI.

“A lot of the strategies that we’ve put in place in reading are a result of our ongoing partnership with CELI,” said Bates, who earned a specialist degree in educational leadership from UM in 2010. “They work with our teachers to identify areas for growth and provide strategies for our teachers to use in the classroom.”

Established in 2007, CELI provides professional development, research and service to reading teachers throughout Mississippi. It is also an official affiliate of the Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling organization, which provides continuing education for literacy teachers nationwide.

“When you can help a child learn to read, you help improve their life trajectory,” said Angela Rutherford, CELI director and founder. “We’re happy to see our ongoing partnership with Dundee is having a positive impact on children and educators.”

At Dundee, CELI specialists work primarily with recently hired teachers. They offer resources to help faculty make data-based decisions and set paths for improved professional performance and student outcomes by utilizing the latest research-based practices for literacy educators. One example includes helping implement individualized workstations for students, allowing them to improve in reading based on their skill level. The center has worked with the Mississippi Delta school since 2008.

“The teachers at Dundee are very driven and really want to see their students excel, and I think that makes the difference,” CELI literacy specialist Angie Caldwell said. “We work with Dundee teachers to help them constantly evaluate how they can improve. Every strategy we recommend is based on data and research.”

Third-grade teacher Suzanne Wheeler, who received an elementary education degree from UM in 2006, noted that CELI literacy specialists provide not only teaching resources, but also valuable feedback on how she can improve her craft and align lessons with Common Core state standards.

“Right now (CELI specialists) are helping me create a writers’ workshop for my students,” she explained. “We’ve set a schedule and identified benchmarks and the types of prompts we can use to help children practice the types of writing they will be tested on. They’ve been a fabulous resource.”

Bates hopes Dundee will continue to be a model for student success in her district and hopes to continue the partnership with CELI.

“At Dundee, our goal is to cater to the whole student, whether that’s emotionally or academically,” she said. “We’re here to mold productive citizens and we thank CELI for its help in making sure our students are prepared to succeed at the next level.”

Mississippi Teacher Corps Helps Transform a School Culture

North Panola High School raises graduation rate by more than 21 percent

With 14 current or former Mississippi Teacher Corps instructors on faculty, the program has played a key role in North Panola High School's academic turnaround. Pictured (left to right): MTC Co-Founder Andrew Mullins, Emily Herrick, Kelly King, Chelsea Brock, Daniel Hart, Ryan Eshleman, Whitney Cilch, Noah Tobak, Emily Fyda, "Coach" Derek King, Hanna Olivier and Bill Darden

The Mississippi Teacher Corps has played a key role in an academic turnaround at North Panola High School, where 14 faculty members are graduates of the program. Pictured (left to right): MTC co-founder Andrew Mullins, Emily Herrick, Kelly King, Chelsea Brock, Daniel Hart, Ryan Eshleman, Whitney Cilch, Noah Tobak, Emily Fyda, ‘Coach’ Derek King, Hanna Olivier and Bill Darden.

SARDIS, Miss. – At North Panola High School in Sardis, teachers lead class with an air of confidence, a majority of seniors plan to graduate this year and, with six wins already, the Cougars are having one of the best football seasons in the small town’s recent history.

Adding to this positive energy is the Mississippi Department of Education‘s release of state test scores. As of Oct. 17, North Panola, which has 392 students, has officially risen in status from a C school to a B school. For an institution that was near failing in 2009, the result is a significant milestone in a district that came out of conservatorship in July 2014.

North Panola’s four-year principal Jamone Edwards is quick to praise his staff, especially teachers hailing from the University of Mississippi’s Mississippi Teacher Corps. More than one-third of North Panola’s 35 teachers are current or former members of the Teacher Corps, including three of the school’s instructional coaches in English, science and social studies.

“The Teacher Corps’ impact can’t be understated at North Panola,” said Edwards, who received a master’s degree in educational leadership from UM in 2010. “Every one of our subjects that are tested by MDE is staffed by the Teacher Corps. They do a fantastic job of sending us new teachers. If you bring us a new teacher who has strong content knowledge and passion, we can teach them the rest.”

While significant and lasting change often comes slowly in education, veteran teachers at the school say North Panola is a dramatically different place than it was four years ago.

Since May 2010, the graduation rate has risen from 49 percent to nearly 72 percent. In subjects such as Algebra I and U.S. History, students’ test scores surpass state averages and they’re not far behind state averages in areas such as English II and Biology I. Last year, North Panola graduates received college scholarships valued at more than $2.2 million, up dramatically from $200,000 in 2010.

Teacher Corps alumna Hannah Olivier is a five-year science teacher at North Panola. In her time, she’s witnessed a rejuvenation of the school, especially in students’ attitudes.

“Students take school very seriously now,” said Olivier, the school’s science instructional coach. “Students are interested to try new things. A lot of kids are asking questions about colleges. It’s a very different culture here then when I started. It’s really great to see kids encourage each other and compete with each other to try and break into the top 10 or top 20 spots in their class.”

Teambuilding and retaining quality teachers have been a key parts of North Panola’s advancement, Edwards said. This means setting up accountability models, supporting good teachers and creating a productive learning environment.

“In my first year here, I was a lead teacher and I saw what was and wasn’t working. … I saw that the teachers did not feel supported, student behavior and teacher practices needed addressing” he explained. “The first thing I did as principal was to draw a hard line on what is and what isn’t acceptable for teachers and students. We have to make sure the environment is conducive to teaching and learning.”

Tactically, North Panola has built itself up by establishing a series of “safety nets.” From freshman year, students identified as at-risk in reading in junior high are enrolled in an extra 40-minute remediation period during the school day. On Mondays and Wednesdays, the school offers afternoon tutoring.

Once a semester, classes are paused for a parents’ visit day to ensure that every parent has a chance to sit down with North Panola teachers. This fall, more than 200 parents came to meet with faculty on Oct. 20.

When a student fails a required test for graduation, they are enrolled in a 50-minute remediation class called Learning Strategies to focus on a particular content area. For example, when 17 students failed to pass their state English II exams in 2011, the school recruited head football coach Derek King, a Teacher Corps alumnus, to lead the remediation period. As a result, 15 advanced to pass their exams.

Founded in 1989, the Mississippi Teacher Corps is supported by the state Legislature and provides some of Mississippi’s most demanding secondary classrooms with new teachers every year. Over a quarter of a century, the program has fine-tuned a process for training college graduates to teach and succeed in critical-needs settings where high teacher turnover can be the norm.

For the last two years, the program has placed record groups of 32 new teachers into schools throughout Mississippi. To date, the program has trained more than 600 teachers, most of whom are still involved in education across nation.

The Teacher Corps has placed teachers at North Panola for the last eight years; however, the relationship between the school and program has improved greatly in the last four. The Teacher Corps’ administration seeks to place groups of teachers within schools they believe have supportive principals.

“Nothing works in a school unless you have a principal who supports teachers,” explained Teacher Corps co-founder Andrew Mullins. “That means visiting their classrooms, giving advice and backing them up. Jamone has done an excellent job in seeking out our teachers and supporting them. For first-year teachers, every day is a learning experience.”

An alternate route program, the Teacher Corps is a two-year commitment that culminates in a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from UM. Acceptance into the program is highly competitive and includes a full-time teaching job at a critical needs school and full tuition to UM.

A self-described data-driven leader, Edwards provides no guesswork as to his vision for the future of North Panola High School: the school’s B ranking is a step toward becoming an A school. He hopes to continue his relationship with the Mississippi Teacher Corps.

“Superintendent Cedric Richardson has brought great stability to North Panola,” Edwards said. “My goal for North Panola High School is to have a 100 percent graduation rate, and a 100 percent passage rate on our state exams and to be an A school.”

Professor to Design Program in Wellness and Physical Activity

UM health and physical education expert developing emphasis for education majors

Alicia Stapp joins the UM School of Education faculty to lead the school's new emphasis in wellness and physical activity for education majors.

Alicia Stapp joins the UM School of Education faculty to lead the school’s new emphasis in wellness and physical activity for education majors.

OXFORD, Miss. – Health and physical education expert Alicia Stapp will lead the University of Mississippi School of Education‘s effort to implement a new emphasis in wellness and physical activity for elementary education majors starting in fall 2015.

The new focus on wellness and physical activity is the result of a $1.2 million grant awarded to the School of Education last fall by the Bower Foundation of Ridgeland. The emphasis will train future elementary teachers to integrate physical activity in the classroom to support academic achievement.

“I’m very excited to join an institution as innovative and forward-thinking as the Ole Miss School of Education,” said Stapp, a Florida native who comes to UM from the University of Central Florida. “We have an excellent opportunity to make an impact on not only in the way we train teachers, but on the unknown number of children our future graduates can positively impact in Mississippi schools.”

Stapp, an assistant professor of elementary education and wellness and physical activity, is designing the new curriculum, which is expected to include four specialized courses totaling 12 credits. The proposed coursework could cover research showing how active lifestyles positively affect learning in children, pedagogical theories, wellness integration strategies (i.e., introducing music and movement into lessons) and multiple, hands-on learning experiences allowing teacher candidates to observe working educators as part of class.

David Rock, UM education dean, originally approached the Bower Foundation about the new emphasis after he collaborated with the Move to Learn organization, also supported by Bower, which visits schools around the state showing how to implement fun and engaging physical activity into the classroom. The organization’s efforts are grounded in Mississippi-based research showing a direct correlation between improved test achievement, student behavior and physical activity levels.

“All the research out there shows that if you can stimulate physical activity of children, it can reduce absences and increases academic learning,” Rock explained. “Dr. Stapp is extremely dynamic and has an amazing passion for children and exercise.”

Stapp hopes to have the emphasis on the UM books by next fall. Another goal for the program is to work with the Mississippi Department of Education to create a new license endorsement in wellness and physical activity that could be acquired by completing the UM program.

“Dr. Stapp will teach pre-service teachers how to integrate wellness and physical activity into their existing curriculum,” said Susan McClelland, UM chair of teacher education. “This approach will help transform the general education classroom, ensuring increased opportunities for all children to experience success.”

Long-term, the new program will seek to place multiple graduates within individual schools to help make active learning and wellness an integral part of the culture within schools.

Before joining UM, Stapp taught in Florida public schools for 10 years and was an adjunct professor at UCF, where she taught courses on integrating arts and movement into classroom curricula. She holds a doctorate in instructional leadership from Nova Southeastern University, a master’s degree in physical education from Florida State University and a bachelor’s degree in social science education from UCF.

UM Admits 17 into Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program

Second cohort of elite education scholarship shows marked growth

The second cohort of UM's Mississippi Excellence in Teaching program hails from eight states and possesses an average ACT score of 29.1.

The second cohort of UM’s Mississippi Excellence in Teaching program hails from eight states and possesses an average ACT score of 29.1.

OXFORD, Miss. – Seventeen college freshmen gathered at the University of Mississippi’s Lyceum building recently to begin a life-changing college experience as new fellows in the Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program.

The METP offers an elite scholarship for top-performing students who seek to become secondary English or mathematics teachers in Mississippi. This group marks the program’s second cohort, hails from eight states and boasts an average ACT score of 29.1.

The program’s inaugural cohort was admitted in August 2013 and included 15 students from three states, with an average ACT of 28.5. The Ole Miss METP chapter has a 100 percent retention rate.

“I’d like to thank each of you for choosing to be part of this program and our university,” Chancellor Dan Jones told the group during the Aug. 22 event. “As teachers, you’re not only going to make a positive difference in the lives of the students you will teach but also in the future of our state as a whole.”

The most valuable education scholarship ever offered in Mississippi, METP was established in January 2012 as a joint venture with Mississippi State University after the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation awarded the two institutions a $12.95 million grant to build the program. METP offers four years of full tuition, room and board, a technology stipend, professional development, study abroad and more. All fellows make a five-year commitment to teach in Mississippi public schools after graduation.

“This is probably the most signature, high-quality undergraduate teacher preparation program in the nation right now,” said David Rock, dean of the UM School of Education. “METP fellows are not just here for a full scholarship; they’re here for much more. Most education majors don’t start training until their junior year of college, but our fellows start right away.”

The select group includes Mary Kathryn Barry of Charlotte, North Carolina; Ryley Blomberg of Belleville, Illinois; Meaghan Combs of Englewood, Ohio; Marjorie Cox of Tallulah, Louisiana; Rachel Ford of Siloam Springs, Arkansas; Drew Hall of Pearland, Texas; Taylor Huey of Long Beach; Shelby Joyner of Horn Lake; Charlie Kemp of Sarah; Paula Mettler of Hernando; Dillon Moore of Gautier; Elijah Peters of Hernando; Lindsay Raybourn of Long Beach; Laurel Reeves of Birmingham, Alabama; Abygail Thorpe of Gulfport; Anna Traylor of Brandon; and Gabrielle Vogt of Metairie, Louisiana.

Nine of the fellows will study English education and eight will study mathematics education. The program’s initial focus on English and mathematics was designed to meet the demands of the Common Core State Standards. The program also hopes to help change the perception of teaching as a career choice for the best and brightest incoming freshmen with the valuable scholarship.

“Our second cohort is an exceptional bunch and we’re excited to have them join our program,” said Ryan Niemeyer, the university’s METP director. “Our goal is to make METP a nationally competitive scholarship that brings the very best students to our university and to public education in Mississippi.”

Up to 20 fellows can be selected annually, but only the best incoming students are chosen at UM. Competition to gain admission into the program is expected to become increasingly fierce in coming years, Niemeyer said.

“The thing that attracted me to METP was the fact that this scholarship was specifically designed for future teachers,” Reeves said. “There aren’t many programs that give full scholarships to aspiring teachers. Becoming a fellow means that I have to set high standards for myself and be willing to achieve those standards when I become a teacher in Mississippi.”

While most education students begin teacher education coursework and field experiences after sophomore year, METP fellows are immersed in educational issues and theories from their first semester with specialized seminars. Also, METP students from both Ole Miss and MSU come together each semester for cross-campus learning activities at both campuses, allowing them to learn from faculty at both institutions. This spring, UM’s first cohort will take a special trip to Washington, D.C., to tour the White House, U.S. Department of Education and meet members of Congress.

“I’ve always wanted to give back to my community and to change people’s lives for the better,” Moore said. “I have had some amazing teachers, teachers who have shown me that being a good teacher can change the lives of hundreds for the better. A lot of people say ‘It only takes one person who cares.’ It’s my aspiration to be that one person who makes others better by caring and teaching them.”

Robinson Receives Inaugural Provost Fellowship at UM Center

Education professor using video to make new interdisciplinary teaching resource

UM teacher education professor Nichelle Robinson will serve at the first provost fellow in the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.

UM teacher education professor Nichelle Robinson will serve at the first provost fellow in the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.

OXFORD, Miss. – Nichelle Robinson, an associate professor of teacher education at the University of Mississippi, will serve as the university’s first provost fellow in the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, or CETL.

During the one-year fellowship, Robinson will begin building a video database focusing on interdisciplinary inquiry and discussion. The videos will tap into UM’s expert faculty resources on a variety of issues.

“I’m envisioning a TED Talks format where two to three instructors discuss a topic within 15 to 30 minutes, with one instructor serving as a moderator,” she said. “Think about Brown v. Board of Education. I know what I think about it from an education perspective, but what would someone in the political science department have to say about it? What about a faculty member in history?”

Starting in August, Robinson will begin creating such videos within the School of Education as part of an elementary education social studies course in the fall and a special education law course in the spring. The videos will provide an interdisciplinary view of different issues related to these courses by incorporating other UM faculty into classes.

The video database will be hosted on the CETL website and be organized by topic so users can find them online. After the first year, she hopes to expand the project by collaborating with other UM academic units in 2015.

“For example, a huge interest of mine is the civil rights movement and its impact on the state of Mississippi and our university,” Robinson explained. “A conversation I would love to participate in and share with my students would involve me, someone from the William Winter Institute and a third participant from African-American studies, history or political science.”

CETL was established in 2007 to enhance student learning by improving teaching at university. The center provides all UM faculty, including adjuncts, teaching assistants and graduate instructors, with resources and assistance in teaching.

“We are pleased that Dr. Robinson is our inaugural Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning provost fellow,” said Noel Wilkin, UM associate provost. “She is a dynamic educator who is enthusiastic about using technology to improve collaborative teaching and enhancing the content of the topics offered in the classroom. Her project has the potential to advance collaboration among faculty and between departments for the purpose of enhancing instruction.”

Robinson holds three degrees from UM, including a bachelor’s degree in business administration, a master’s degree in special education and a doctorate in elementary education. She worked as a special education teacher in Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee for more than eight years before returning to UM as a doctoral student in 1999, and previously held faculty positions at the University of Memphis.

Education Faculty Recognized by Honor Society

UM professors hailed by Kappa Delta Pi for member recruitment success

UM Grenada graduates Tiffany Goff, Kasey Hammett, Jenney Dukes, Angela Rushing and Suzanne Shaw were among the 141 seniors inducted into Kappa Delta Pi in 2014.

UM Grenada graduates Tiffany Goff, Kasey Hammett, Jenney Dukes, Angela Rushing and Suzanne Shaw were among the 141 seniors inducted into Kappa Delta Pi in 2014.

OXFORD, Miss. – The Kappa Delta Pi international honor society in education has honored its University of Mississippi chapter with the 2014 Education Excellence Award for membership recruitment

The award was presented to UM faculty members Fannye Love and Virginia J. Moore, who helped initiate 141 students and five faculty members into the society last spring. Love, the chapter counselor, is a professor of teacher education at the DeSoto Center-Southaven regional campus. Moore, the chapter associate counselor, is an assistant professor of elementary education at the Tupelo regional campus.

Founded in 1911, Kappa Delta Pi is an international honor society for students and faculty in education. Green and purple cords worn during graduation signify membership. To be invited into Kappa Delta Pi, undergraduates must hold a GPA above a 3.0. Graduate students must possess a GPA of above 3.25. Faculty are admitted for leadership attributes.

“When our Kappa Delta Pi inductees receive green and purple graduation cords and their families see them join the honor society, it makes them feel special,” Moore said. “I strongly encourage our regional campus inductees to attend graduation in Oxford and show off the cords they worked so hard for.”

The officers of the UM chapter wanted to make sure that initiation into the society was a special event for students at regional campuses. Many nontraditional students, who return to school later in life, make up this group, so the UM chapter hosted three separate induction ceremonies at different campuses in late April.

“In the past, we held one ceremony,” Moore explained. “But with having our students travel so far, it didn’t feel much like an honor at the end of the day. So we decided to cover all five campuses in three induction ceremonies. We had one in Tupelo, one in Southaven and one here in Oxford.”

Many students expressed gratitude for Moore’s efforts with these ceremonies.

“I witnessed Dr. Moore recruiting my fellow classmates in the most genuine and sincere manner,” said Thierry Beard, a 2014 UM graduate and society member. “Her enthusiasm inspired me to volunteer and help with induction ceremonies. She stressed to me, on a personal level, that she was surprisingly pleased with the increase in applications and new initiates.”

Five UM faculty members were inducted last spring. The group includes Amber Carpenter-McCullough, assistant professor of teacher education; Renee Cunningham, assistant professor of mathematics education; Susan Bennett, assistant professor of teacher education; Karen Davidson-Smith, clinical assistant professor of teacher education; and Stacy Britton, assistant professor of secondary education.

Another main player in recruitment was UM elementary education professor Nichelle Boyd-Robinson, who traveled between campuses to recruit and distribute applications. Thea Williams-Black, associate professor of education, and Nancy Douglass, clinical assistant professor of special education, also helped with recruitment.

“We put a lot of thought into our induction ceremonies,” Boyd-Robinson said. “We want our all of our students to know that this is a real honor and they deserve to be recognized for hard work.”

With new Kappa Delta Pi faculty members on each UM campus, the officers said they hope to have ceremonies at all five campuses next year.

Kirkland to Lead World Class Teaching Program

Ole Miss alumna returns to campus as director

New Albany resident Tammy Kirkland will serve as the new director of the UM World Class Teaching Program.

New Albany resident Tammy Kirkland will serve as the new director of the UM World Class Teaching Program.

OXFORD, Miss. – Veteran educator Tammy Kirkland has joined the University of Mississippi School of Education as director of the UM World Class Teaching Program. The Pine Grove native takes the helm from the program’s previous leader, Jackie Parker, who retired in May 2014.

Designed for working teachers, the WCTP helps Mississippi educators become National Board Certified Teachers, or NBCTs, from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. The credential is a mark of excellence among educators and comes with a $6,000 pay raise funded by the state Legislature. Educators must pass a series of assessment exams and a portfolio review to become a NBCT.

Kirkland, who will also serve as an instructor in teacher education, begins her leadership in the wake of two significant events for the program: last spring, UM led the nation in NBCT recruitment with 409 teachers enrolled in WCTP. Meanwhile, the NBPTS has revamped the process of earning the credential.

“The national board process is going through a revision,” explained Kirkland, who became a NBCT in 2008. “Research conducted by the NBPTS indicated there are two main reasons educators are not participating in or completing the process: time and money. Educators initially are concerned and somewhat hesitant when they hear about the change, but that’s only because they are unfamiliar with the process. It’s my mission to educate them and explain it is being changed for their benefit.”

The new process will be rolled out over a three-year period. As a result, the certification process will temporally require three years rather than one. All components, formally known as entries, have been updated, reducing the number from five to four components. Teachers will be allowed to pay for the components individually, rather than all at once. By 2017, the NBPTS will give educators an option of staying with the three-year layout or completing all the components in a more flexible timeline.

The Ole Miss WCTP boasts a 50 percent first-time passage rate for teachers seeking the credential, 20 percent higher than the national average, according to NBPTS data. Kirkland said continuing this trend and acclimating teachers to the new system is top priority, along with utilizing the already nationally certified teachers.

“Tammy Kirkland has consistently demonstrated effective instruction, student growth and reflective teaching,” said Susan McClelland, UM chair of teacher education. “We believe the WCTP will continue to be the best program in the state under her leadership.”

During the 2013-2014 academic year, the WTCP will prioritize helping teachers understand the new procedures. On Sept. 6, Kirkland will lead a workshop called Standards Saturday at Insight Park, where she will explain the new procedures for board certification. The session is open to all educators.

Kirkland holds a master’s degree in educational leadership and a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from UM. Since 2003, she has taught at New Albany Elementary School. She also has served as a middle childhood generalist mentor for the university’s WCTP.

“I think we’re going to have a great year,” Kirkland said. “I’m very excited and we have a lot of big plans in the works.”

For more information, contact Kirkland at kirkland@olemiss.edu or 662-915-7138.

UM Alumni Margaret and Kat King Celebrate Third Book

Oxford natives hold book launch at Off Square Books

King Book

Margaret and Kat King

OXFORD, Miss. – Oxford authors and Ole Miss alumni Margaret and Kat King will celebrate the publication of their third book, “Our Josephine,” at 5 p.m. Tuesday (July 1) at a book-signing event at Off Square Books.

The identical twins’ most recent publication is a memoir set in Vicksburg in 1957, when the King sisters were sent to stay with their 88-year-old great grandmother for 10 days. The book focuses on the duo’s relationship with a young woman named Josephine, a 16-year-old African-American caregiver to their great-grandmother. In the memoir, Kat and Margaret experience the complexities of race relations in the 1950s South from a 9-year-old white child’s perspective.

“I remember we went into town one day and there were two water fountains: white and colored,” Margaret recalled. “So, I remember that I wanted to drink some colored water. I went over there and thought it was broken. It was just like the water out of the white fountain. We went through a lot of different phases of trying to understand what was going on in the world. We realized our lives were so different from Josephine’s.”

The alumni aren’t looking to turn a profit with the publication of “Our Josephine.” The pair said that if success does come their way, they plan to invest it into the Oxford community. They also hope to help Josephine, who is still alive and well in Vicksburg, build a nice house on her family’s land with profits from the book. Josephine is scheduled to attend the book-signing event.

Graduates of the Ole Miss School of Education, Margaret and Kat have previously published two other works concerning their childhood, the first being “Y’all Twins?” and the second book “Which is Which?” Their debut work, Y’all Twins?” is set in Oxford in the 1950s and paints a picture of their hometown when the Oxford and Ole Miss community was a fraction of its current size.

During this time, the King sisters had more than one run-in with Nobel Prize-winning author William Faulkner, who lived just down the road. When they weren’t sneaking rides to the corner of their street in the back of Faulkner’s wagon, the two were usually getting into some other sort of trouble or adventure.

Kat, Margaret King Book Cover“I’d be Lucy and she’d be Ethel,” said Kat, speaking in reference to her sister. “Lucy was always the one that got them into trouble. That was pretty much always me.”

Kat, a lifelong educator, is a mathematics instructor at Northwest Mississippi Community College, and Margaret is a retired government employee. The twins built a house together on land in Oxford that their father bought in the mid-1950s. Their writing process consists of the two recalling memories in their living room with one laptop.

“Margaret always insists that we write it together,” Kat said. “If I did it all, I would probably just paint the entire picture to make myself look better.”

The event will be catered by Louisiana Rub Down and will also feature wine, cheese and chocolate chip cookies baked personally by the King twins. The sisters will sign copies of their book that will be available for purchase at the event.

Ole Miss Principal Corps Admits Largest Cohort to Date

P-12 leadership program strengthens ties throughout Mississippi

The sixth cohort of the Principal Corps marks the largest group to date and includes aspiring principals from north, central and south Mississippi. Left to right: Angela Lowery, Teresa McLeod, Candace Henderson, Eric Sumrall, Mary Moak, John Howard, Trena Warren, Clay Garner, Wendi Husley, Marcus Stewart, Carrie Speck, Bryan Giles, Danielle Miller, Kristen Langerman, Tina Temple Moore, Carol Davis Smith, Shamekia Issac and Joshua Lindsey.

The sixth cohort of the Principal Corps marks the largest group to date and includes aspiring principals from north, central and south Mississippi. Left to right: Angela Lowery, Teresa McLeod, Candace Henderson, Eric Sumrall, Mary Moak, John Howard, Trena Warren, Clay Garner, Wendi Husley, Marcus Stewart, Carrie Speck, Bryan Giles, Danielle Miller, Kristen Langerman, Tina Temple Moore, Carol Davis Smith, Shamekia Issac and Joshua Lindsey.

OXFORD, Miss. – Eighteen teachers from across the state gathered Monday (June 2) at the University of Mississippi to embark on a transformational journey toward becoming P-12 school leaders as new recruits of the Principal Corps.

An elite program for aspiring school administrators, all recruits were nominated by their district superintendents and will spend the next 13 months completing the rigorous program involving coursework at the UM School of Education and two full-time internships supervised by accomplished school leaders. The sixth cohort is the largest class to date, growing from 12 recruits last year.

“This program is the beginning of a new professional life for educators,” said Tom Burnham, interim director of the Principal Corps and former state superintendent of education. “Good leaders must see farther down the road than everyone else, and more importantly, not be afraid to make the hard decisions needed to improve schools.”

Only teachers with a demonstrated passion and potential for leadership are admitted into the program. For the second consecutive year, the Principal Corps has attracted educators from north, central and south Mississippi, showing continued growth and influence. From its start in 2009 to 2012, the program’s reach was primarily in north Mississippi.

The group includes: Joshua Lindsey of the Hancock County School District, Teresa McLeod of Covington County Schools, Clay Garner of the Rankin County School District, Bryan Giles of the Petal School District, Candace Henderson of the Lamar County School District, John Howard of the Coahoma County School District, Wendi Husley of the Gulfport School District, Shamekia Issac of the Natchez-Adams School District, Kristen Langerman of the Rankin County School District, Angela Lowery of the South Pike School District, Danielle Miller of the Ocean Springs School District, Mary Moak of the Petal School District, Tina Temple Moore of the South Panola School District, Carol Davis Smith of the DeSoto County School District, Carrie Speck of the DeSoto County School District, Marcus Stewart of the Holmes County School District, Eric Sumrall of Jackson Public Schools and Trena Warren of the Claiborne County School District.

The program has a close-to-perfect success rate in landing its graduates job offers as principals, assistant principals or educational leaders. All graduates make a five-year commitment to stay in Mississippi education and receive a $10,000 bonus upon signing a contract as a principal or assistant principal and beginning work. With 49 graduates, the ranks of Principal Corps alumni could grow to 67 next year.

“I’ve always enjoyed working with students and helping them realize and achieve their goals,” said Lindsey, a UM alumnus and the 2013 Mississippi Teacher of the Year. “My hope is that as an administrator, I will be able to transfer that ability into leading teachers to reach more students, resulting in an exponential growth in success.”

Above all, the Principal Corps focuses on learning through experience. During full-time internships, recruits work closely with mentor administrators, often acting as the de facto assistant principal at his or her placement site. Many recruits receive job offers from one of their internship sites before graduation.

As one of the most valuable educational leadership scholarships ever offered in Mississippi, the program includes full tuition, books and fees, as well as housing and living expenses while completing coursework at UM. The Principal Corps also provides funding to help recruits maintain their salary during their time in the program.

“For me, this is an amazing opportunity to become an administrator,” McLeod said. “I want to be involved in transforming schools and transforming the lives of students to be successful in a globally competitive environment. I believe the sky is the limit.”

This summer, recruits will complete coursework at the Oxford campus before reporting to their first internship site in the fall and a second site in the spring. Each principal-in-training also attends classes at Ole Miss one weekend a month during the academic year. All students return for final coursework next June and finish the requirements for either a master’s or specialist degree in educational leadership.

Originally funded with $2 million in startup money from the Jim and Donna Barksdale Foundation in 2009, the program received additional funding in October 2012, when the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation awarded Principal Corps $1.5 million in new funding to expand placements across Mississippi and increase its cohort size.

“When you leave our program, you become part of a new generation of leaders charged with improving schools,” Burnham explained. “If you graduate and you haven’t changed the way you make decisions, then we have not succeeded. Our goal is that whenever people see outstanding new principals in Mississippi, they say ‘he or she must be a graduate of the Principal Corps.'”

UM Launches Early Childhood Education Curriculum

Program leads to state license endorsement for pre-K teachers

Dr. Lynn Darling visited Willie Price Daycare recently.  Dr. Darling has received a regional award for her work setting early childhood curricula standards for the entire state.

Dr. Lynn Darling is one of three expert early childhood education faculty members hired at UM in 2013 to develop new curricula to prepare pre-K teachers.

OXFORD, Miss. – To meet the demand for qualified pre-K teachers across the state, a new curriculum offered by the University of Mississippi allows students to specialize in early childhood education and obtain a license endorsement in the field from the Mississippi Department of Education.

The curriculum, which is offered online this summer, will be provided in a traditional format during the 2014-2015 academic year and is designed to be completed over two semesters as part of the School of Education’s elementary education program. Working educators can also complete the program to obtain an endorsement from MDE.

“One problem we’re facing in Mississippi is that many teachers haven’t had the specialized training to teach pre-K,” said Burhanettin Keskin, UM associate professor and coordinator of early childhood education. “Some people believe that teaching early childhood is just kindergarten and first grade watered down, but it’s a completely different and very important field.”

According to the National Institute for Early Education Research, many studies show quality preschool programs can produce long-term gains in academic achievement, including gains in reading and mathematics, and can support positive social-emotional development. Studies also show an estimated 7-to-1 return on investment dollars in public pre-K education in the form of long-term cost savings.

Mississippi does not support universal pre-K education in public schools and there is no standard assessment for students entering kindergarten.

The Ole Miss curriculum was designed by three expert early childhood education faculty hired at the university last year after the School of Education received a $1.1 million grant from the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation in Jackson to build the program. UM’s early childhood faculty includes Keskin, as well as assistant professors Beverly Alford and Lynn Darling.

“Our faculty have worked tirelessly to create a valuable program leading to a state-issued endorsement in early childhood education,” said Susan McClelland, UM chair of teacher education. “Elementary education is our largest program, and our hope is we can drastically increase the number of new teachers with specialized training in early childhood education who can make an impact in schools across the state.”

The curriculum comprises four courses (12 credits):

Early Childhood Methods, an introduction to methods and theories in pre-k instruction and early learning.

Child Development, an examination of cognitive, affective, psychomotor and social development requiring at least 10 hours of specialized field experience.

Special Education for Early Childhood Development, an examination of early intervention for young children with delays, disabilities or exceptionalities.

Early Language and Literacy, an exploration of the function of play in early childhood learning as it relates to cognitive, socio-emotional and physical development.

The new undergraduate emphasis is the first of what will be two major pushes to expand early childhood education programs at UM. In 2015, Ole Miss plans to also offer an online master’s degree in the field for educators and researchers who seek advanced specialization in early childhood learning.