World Class Teaching Program Leads Nation in National Board Prep

North Mississippi teachers in UM program make up largest group seeking national board certification

Julie Gatlin, a Lafayette Lower Elementary School teacher and national board candidate, joined the World Class Teaching Program in August and hopes to pass her boards by the end of June.

Julie Gatlin, a Lafayette Lower Elementary School teacher and national board candidate, joined the World Class Teaching Program in August and hopes to pass her boards by the end of June.

OXFORD, Miss. – With a record group of 409 K-12 teachers from north Mississippi, the University of Mississippi chapter of the World Class Teaching Program has become the largest recruitment site for national board certification in the nation.

A continuing education program, the WCTP is designed for educators who seek to become National Board Certified Teachers, or NBCTs, by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, known as NBPTS, in Arlington, Va. The program is housed within the UM School of Education.

The program prepares teachers to pass a series of assessments and a portfolio review to earn the credential and a lucrative pay raise – the Mississippi Legislature funds an annual $6,000 salary raise for all K-12 teachers who earn and maintain the certification. UM’s chapter oversees sites operating in Batesville, Clarksdale, Fulton, Senatobia, Southaven, Indianola, Madison, Oxford and Tupelo.

“In the past year, we’ve concentrated on implementing our program within our partner school districts,” said WCTP coordinator Jackie Parker, who has run the program at UM since 2002 and was the 2001 Mississippi Teacher of the Year. “Our sites are being run in classrooms by mentors who already hold their NBCTs. We want the program to be imbedded in the culture of the schools.”

National board certification is a mark of distinction among teachers and research suggests that educators who complete the process produce better results. A Harvard University study found in 2012 that over the course of a school year, students of NBCTs gained the equivalent of two months more instruction in mathematics and one month more instruction in English than students of non-board certified teachers.

According to NBPTS data, the national first-time passage rate for teachers taking national boards is nearly 30 percent. Ole Miss WCTP candidates have a first-time passage rate of more than 50 percent, Parker said.

“The University of Mississippi has done a tremendous job with recruitment in becoming the largest site for teachers pursuing national board certification,” said Michelle Accardi, director of state policy for the NBPTS. “I wish every state would look at what Mississippi is doing with the World Class Teaching Program. If universities across the nation would support national board certification, it would be a better world for teachers and students.”

Throughout the year, Parker and mentors within the WCTP operate twice-monthly workshops or individual meetings for teachers to help prepare them to pass assessments in their subject area, pedagogy, classroom management and more. Within the assessments, teachers must create videos of themselves teaching in the classroom and prepare documents assessing their teaching abilities. Teachers must have at least three years of full-time experience to apply for the certification.

“I feel like this has made me such a better teacher,” said Brittany Furr, an NBCT candidate and sixth-grade language arts teacher at Madison Middle School. “The national boards have taught me how to teach using a variety of formats such as an article, story or video so I can use all these different tools to teach in a variety styles.”

The WCTP program at UM is one of five chapters of in the state. Other chapters are housed at Delta State University, Jackson State University, Mississippi State University and the University of Southern Mississippi.

Since August, all five chapters have worked together on a grant projected funded with $300,000 from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and additional funding from the state Legislature to provide specialized training for both pre-service teachers and early-career teachers interested in national board certification. Mentor NBCTs are meeting with these educators twice a month at 10 sites across the state. The program is funded to continue through 2016.

NBPTS is redesigning the structure of the national board process to implement new research and make the process more accessible to working teachers, Accardi said . The redesign will be complete by 2017.

“I wanted to do this because I knew it would be challenging,” said Myra Cox, an information and communication technology teacher at Tupelo Middle School who has been working toward her NBCT certification since September. “The process forces you to really analyze yourself as a teacher and provides valuable information for me to bring back to the classroom and my students.”

National Teacher of the Year Jeff Charbonneau to Visit UM

Expert science teacher from Washington to discuss effective teaching


Jeffery Charbonneau

OXFORD, Miss. – Jeffrey Charbonneau, the 2013 National Teacher of the Year, will visit the University of Mississippi Wednesday (April 15) to address Ole Miss teacher candidates and faculty members on the importance of effective teaching.

A science teacher at Zilliah High School in Zilliah, Wash., Charbonneau was appointed to his position by President Barack Obama on April 23, 2013, after being named Washington Teacher of the Year. He has spent the past year touring the country, sharing his experiences and personal philosophies on teaching with educators and students from a variety of backgrounds.

Charbonneau will lead a forum with UM student teachers at 11 a.m. at the Jackson Avenue Center. Mississippi Teacher of the Year and UM alumnus Josh Lindsey, an English teacher from Hancock High School, will give opening remarks at the event. An open session for students, educators and UM faculty and staff will follow at 2 p.m.

On Wednesday (April 16), Charbonneau will visit students and faculty at the UM DeSoto Center.

The National Teacher of the Year visit to UM has been a tradition at the School of Education since 2011 to support a goal of exposing aspiring teachers to innovative and successful educators from different parts of the country. This year, freshmen fellows from both the UM and Mississippi State University chapters of the Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program will attend the event.

“Our student teachers will be leading their own classrooms in the near future, and this offers them the chance to meet and interact with one of the best teachers in the nation,” said David Rock, UM education school dean. ”This is an incredible opportunity for our candidates and educators across the region.”

Charbonneau teaches high school-level science, including chemistry, engineering and physics. During his 12 years at Zilliah High School, he has increased participation in the sciences among students,  resulting in a 20 percent increase in available courses, including 24 courses offered with college credit. Since 2008, he has directed a free high school robotics challenge, which has exposed more than 1,000 Washington state children to a variety of STEM-based skills and principles.

Charbonneau is a graduate of Central Washington University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in biology with honors and a master’s degree in teaching. He also holds a national board certificate in Adolescence and Young Adult Sciences from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

The National Teacher of the Year Program started in 1952 and is a national honors program focusing public attention on teaching excellence. Each year, the national teacher is chosen from among state teachers of the year by a selection committee representing the major national education organizations, and is introduced by the president, according to the Council of Chief State School Officers.

For more information about the National Teacher of the Year program, visit

Former Teacher, Education Student Lauded at Annual T.P. Vinson Banquet

Lindy Hopkins, Samantha Carothers honored for dedication to service

T.P. Vinson scholarship recipient Samantha Carothers (left) and educator award winner Lidy Hopkins (right) met Jacquline Vinson (center) during the eighth annual T.P. Vinson Memorial Scholarship Banquet on March 29.

T.P. Vinson scholarship recipient Samantha Carothers (left) and educator award winner Lindy Hopkins (right) met Jacquline Vinson (center) during the eighth annual T.P. Vinson Memorial Scholarship Banquet on March 29.

OXFORD, Miss. – A retired Saltillo teacher and a University of Mississippi education student were honored for their dedication to teaching during the ninth annual T.P. Vinson Memorial Scholarship Banquet on March 29.

UM alumna Lindy Hopkins, a 30-year teaching veteran of the Lee County School District and the 2005 Mississippi Teacher of the Year, received the 2014 T.P. Vinson Educator Award. Samantha Carothers, a senior elementary education major from Taylor, received the annual $1,000 scholarship, also given in Vinson’s name.

“Lindy and Samantha both represent the qualities Thea stood for as an educator and leader,” said Jacquline Vinson, widow of Theopolis Pride Vinson, former assistant dean of the UM School of Education for whom the scholarship and award are named. “I’m proud that we can honor both career and beginning teachers who share Thea’s humility and dedication to impacting students.”

Since 2003, the scholarship – the first to be endowed after an African-American professor at UM – has been awarded to a junior or senior African-American education student. The educator award, which was established in 2011, is given each year to a Mississippi educator who displays excellence in education and leadership within his or her community.

Hopkins, who holds a master’s degree in elementary education from UM, was selected by the school’s faculty for her accomplishments both before and after retirement in 2008, when she then founded the Teacher Resource Center, a tutoring service and preschool in Saltillo. Housed in a former frame shop, the center offers tutoring and educational programs for more than 100 children each week, as well as professional development and resources for working teachers.

“I’m honored to be recognized for my love of teaching and children,” she said. “Whenever I see a need in our community, I try to fill it with the very best teachers around. I’m touched that someone has reached out to honor me for my work with students. I don’t think I will ever be done with teaching.”

Carothers is student teaching this semester at Davidson Elementary School in Water Valley and will graduate cum laude in May. She was selected for her academic record and her performance during field experiences and service with the UM chapter of Teachers of Tomorrow and summer camps offered for children through the UM Center for Mathematics and Science Education.

“This scholarship has helped me this year because money can be tight as a student,” she explained. “I enjoyed learning about Dr. Vinson and what a kind person he was; how he was someone who could always help friends work through problems. I’m very grateful for what this scholarship has given me.”

Besides serving as assistant dean of education, Vinson was a pastor at Philadelphia M.B. Church. The T.P. Vinson Scholarship Fund was established by his wife and three children and accepts ongoing donations through the UM Foundation to support and recognize students of education and Mississippi teachers.

UM Doctoral Student Develops Common Core Project for Oxford Teachers

Class project by UM education students provides resources for Oxford teachers

Oxford Elementary students Brianna Lyons (left) and Makenzie Robinson (right) work with Jessica Simpson on a grammar center aligned with Common Core State Standards.

Oxford Elementary students Brianna Lyons (left) and Makenzie Robinson (right) work with Jessica Simpson on a grammar center aligned with Common Core State Standards.

OXFORD, Miss. – Two large trunks packed with binders and hand-crafted games may seem like an unlikely donation, but at least two teachers at Oxford Elementary School couldn’t be happier about the delivery.

University of Mississippi doctoral student Jessica Simpson, of Oxford, and UM School of Education faculty members Denise Soares and Susan McClelland recently donated more than 150 new teaching tools, or “centers,” developed by UM education students to help third-grade teachers directly address Common Core State Standards in reading, grammar and writing. The donation on Feb. 19 was a gesture of appreciation for the Oxford school, which supports field experiences for UM teacher candidates.

“As a grade school teacher in Tennessee, I experienced the shift in lesson plan alignment with Common Core State Standards,” said Simpson, a graduate instructor and Ph.D. student in teacher education who spearheaded the project. “I thought gearing this project toward making that transition easier for a few Oxford teachers would be a great thing. We have partnerships with schools and it’s important that we find ways to support each other.”

Common Core State Standards are exactly as they sound. In each grade and subject area, Mississippi has adopted national benchmarks. For example, by the end of third grade, students should be able to “determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, distinguishing literal from nonliteral language,” according to Teachers throughout the state are working to align their lessons to help students meet the standards.

“The centers were designed perfectly to help the students dig deeper into their own understanding of the subject matter,” said Chasity Arbuckle, third-grade teacher at OES and the 2014 district teacher of the year. “Several students have asked if they can just do ‘this’ all day. When children willingly share what they’ve learned by doing a center, I know they are worth their weight in gold to me as the teacher.”

Each center donated to the Oxford teachers was designed to directly address one specific third-grade standard and comes with instructions and a rubric, or answer key, allowing instructors and students to evaluate performance. The project also allowed UM students the opportunity to gain a better understanding of Common Core Standards.

“This project began as a service internship project but quickly blossomed into a connection between our undergraduates, graduate students and community schools,” said Soares, an assistant professor and program coordinator at UM. “Jessica did a fabulous job anticipating a need in the third-grade classrooms and planned a project to meet those needs.”

With the success of the project, UM faculty members are planning to create similar resources for other partner schools.

“The centers are great deal of help in that they are a supplement for worksheets,” said Jacqueline Leopard, third-grade teacher at OES. “The money and time I will save because of these centers is unimaginable. It is a blessing to have them at an arm’s reach. As a classroom teacher today, we have so many irons in the fire that the small things like having the time to create a center sometimes fall to the side.”

Many of the tools are also adjustable in scope, allowing teachers to change the learning activity to meet the student’s achievement level. Each one was developed by students under supervision by Simpson.

“Once I started a conversation with these teachers, we identified areas where there was a need and an opportunity for us to help,” said Simpson, who taught eight years in Shelby County Schools. “I think the project turned out better than I anticipated.”

NIUST Makes Deep-Sea Challenges Fun in the Classroom

UM-based research center shares robot technology with fourth-grade classes

Regents School fourth-graders Olivia Mogridge (left), James Leister and Natalie Prather test their model ROV in a vat of water at the school. Photo by Michelle Edwards

Regents School fourth-graders Olivia Mogridge (left), James Leister and Natalie Prather test their model ROV in a vat of water at the school. Photo by Michelle Edwards

OXFORD, Miss. – Nothing excites kids like robots, except maybe getting to build and operate one. That’s exactly what lucky fourth-graders at Regents School of Oxford enjoyed recently when specialists from the National Institute for Undersea Science and Technology visited their classroom.

NIUST is a collaboration between the University of Mississippi and the University of Southern Mississippi that studies the deep sea using advanced technologies. NIUST teamed up with the national RETINA educational program, which provides opportunities for K-6 grade students to learn about the ocean through the technologies that make these studies possible.

The activity at Regents School centered on a hands-on experience for the kids. After learning about the Deepwater Horizon incident and deep-sea corals, the young explorers were exposed to ROVs, remotely operated vehicles, used for undersea applications. Teams of four students built an ROV using parts supplied by NIUST. After working together on their designs, students chose parts from bins that held different lengths of PVC pipes, PVC fittings and floats for the ROV frame.

“The fourth-grade students at Regents School of Oxford had a blast working in groups creating and building remote operational vehicles,” said Tracy Knox, fourth-grade teacher at Regents. “Their enthusiasm in learning about the corals in the Gulf and how these filter feeders were affected by the oil spill was only the beginning of an afternoon of fun activity. The students were able to remotely operate their created vehicles in a huge tank of water and their sense of accomplishment in watching their ROVs roam through the water was amazing.

“As a teacher, this is the kind of engagement in learning that we aspire to achieve. I am so thankful our fourth-graders were able to participate in this program.”

Once the frame was built, students attached three battery-powered thrusters to propel their ROVs. After attaching the batteries, they were off to the tubs of water to see how their designs worked. Could they turn right and left, and could they go up and down in the water?

The room was filled with shouts, laughter, splashing and reworking of designs, but mostly, the students were learning while having a lot of fun

“We like to introduce kids to science and engineering,” said Geoff Wheat, NIUST director. “These are two fields that need more graduates. Our approach is to get the kids involved in real-world experiences through hands-on, team-building experiences with technology-based problems. The kids really light up with hands-on problem-solving activities.”

The UM Center for Mathematics and Science Education helped with the event, which fits perfectly with the center’s mission to improve mathematics and science education in Mississippi and promoting interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields, said Susan Peterson, the center’s K-12 STEM outreach coordinator.

“When we were asked to help coordinate this event, we were more than willing to jump on board,” Peterson said. “This was our first exposure to this particular type of robotic activity. It is a perfect fit for our mission, and we are excited to be of assistance in the future.”

For information on booking this program for your fourth-grade class, contact Michelle Edwards, NIUST assistant to the director for marketing and business development, at

“We also want to expose kids of all ages to this activity and to the environment of the deep sea,” Edwards said. “Look for us at the Grove during home football games.”

Funding for this activity was supported by ECOGIG, a consortia funded by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative and headquartered at the UM Field Station.

UM Education Student Aids Haitian Children with Book Donations

San Antonio student plans to begin teaching career in Haiti

Children at the Haiti Children's Rescue Ministry in Gressier received a variety of books and other educational materials donated by the UM School of Education thanks as part of an education program organized by UM graduate student Frances "Cookie" Harris.

Children at the Haiti Childrens Rescue Ministry in Gressier received a variety of books and other educational materials donated by the UM School of Education thanks as part of an education program organized by UM graduate student Frances (Cookie) Harris.

OXFORD, Miss. – When most tourists visit island nations in the Caribbean, they pack swimsuits, sunscreen and perhaps a good book. But when Frances “Cookie” Harris went to Haiti in December, she carried a duffel bag jam-packed with 60 pounds of books.

The eight-day visit was the San Antonio native’s second trip to Haiti. It was also the beginning of what the University of Mississippi graduate student hopes will be meaningful education initiatives at two organizations striving to improve the lives of children living in extreme poverty.

With support from UM faculty, Harris has helped teachers at the Haiti Children’s Rescue Ministry, an orphanage and school in the city of Gressier, as well as Respire Haiti, a nonprofit community center and school for more than 500 children, enhance their educational programs. Primarily, she has donated books and classroom materials to both organizations from the UM School of Education’s teaching resource library.

“These books were being phased out and they were just going to be thrown away otherwise,” Harris said. “I thought, ‘What if I could take these books and start an education program at the orphanage?’ There are children there who love to be read to and want to learn, but don’t have the resources.”

In Haiti, only 50 percent of primary school-aged children are enrolled in classes and 60 percent abandon formal education before the sixth grade. Also, nearly 40 percent of adults struggle with literacy, according to data from UNICEF.

Haitians, who speak Creole, learn to read and speak English in schools, many of which struggle with teaching materials and other basic necessities.

“I’m so happy to know we are able to be part of what Cookie is doing in Haiti,” said Sydney Rowland, associate professor of curriculum and instruction and the faculty member who help Harris acquire the materials. “These books are no longer being used by our students because teachers are changing their materials because of Common Core. But they’re books that can mean a lot to people with so little.”

With more than 200 texts and complementary learning materials for students ranging from preschool to eighth grade, Harris delivered organized plans for volunteer teachers who work with children at Haiti Children’s Rescue Ministry to encourage children to learn to read and speak English as a second language.

“Once I had the books and resources, I was able to build lesson plans,” she said. “In schools, the children are taught to speak English, so you have to know a bit of Creole to follow the lessons. You have to connect phrases and words to the pictures. But it’s amazing how well and fast the children learn.”

In previous years, Harris also served on similar missions focused on education in countries in Africa and South America. She recalled the impact of her first visit to Haiti in summer 2013, during a mission trip coordinated through St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in San Antonio.

“That summer completely changed my view of the world and poverty,” Harris said. “Children are living with virtually nothing. Many are sold into slavery. Girls become prostitutes because there is no other option. How can things get better if we don’t start with education?”

For Harris, Haiti has become more than mission work. In May she plans to return as an ESL teacher at Respire after she completes her master’s degree in elementary education.

“No one should grow up without a voice or someone to love them or the opportunity for an education,” she said. “It’s easy to say, ‘Oh, they will figure it out eventually,’ but this is my passion, this is my dream. That’s why I’ve got to go.”

Robots and Their Creators Head to Ole Miss for Weekend Battle

Record group of high school teams set for statewide robotics tournament

FIRST Tech Challenge Kickoff. Teams from all over Mississippi came to see this years challenge course and get the rules and specs for this year.

OXFORD, Miss. – After emerging victorious at qualifying matches throughout Mississippi, 21 teams of high school robot designers travel to the University of Mississippi this weekend for the FIRST Tech Challenge Robotics Tournament hosted by the UM Center for Mathematics and Science Education.

The event begins with inspections and opening ceremonies at 8:30 a.m. Saturday (Feb. 8) at the university’s Jackson Avenue Center, 1111 Jackson Ave. Competitions begin at 10:30 a.m. This is only the second statewide robotics tournament hosted in Mississippi.

Part of the UM School of Education, the Center for Mathematics and Science Education, or CMSE, has spearheaded the creation and expansion of middle and high school robotics programs since 2012. The goal is to foster an interest in STEM fields among students. The number of Mississippi schools supporting robotics teams has expanded rapidly from only four in 2012 to 21 in 2013 and to 43 this year.

“Our goal is to help implement a robotics team in every school district in the state,” said CMSE project manager Mannie Lowe, who has spent the last two years recruiting and training 39 of the state’s 43 robotics teams. “Robotics opens up opportunities that may have not been available for students in the past. Students work as a team, learn programming skills and apply math and science concepts toward something that interests them.”

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Darling Honored for Leadership in Early Childhood Education

Education professor recognized for statewide impact on early learning standards

Lynn Darling

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi early childhood education expert Lynn Darling is the recipient of the Marion B. Hamilton Award given annually by the Southern Early Childhood Association, or SECA, for outstanding leadership in pre-K education.

Darling, who is coordinator of early childhood initiatives at the UM School of Education, Mississippi’s largest producer of teachers and educational leaders, was unanimously nominated for the award by the 30-member board of directors of the Mississippi Early Childhood Association, or MsECA. The honor recognizes her more than 15 years of work to improve pre-K education in Mississippi.

“When we traditionally look at education, most think K-12,” said Darling, a Memphis native. “But for years, research has proven that high-quality early learning experiences before kindergarten have positive long-term effects on social, emotional and academic outcomes for children.”

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UM Educational Research Center Named in Honor of Maxine Harper

Lori Wolff leads Dr. Maxine Harper Center for Educational Research and Evaluation

CERE staff Joey Rutherford and Lori Wolff met with Harper's sister Wanda Clark during the dedication of the center at Guyton Hall.

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s Center for Educational Research and Evaluation has been named in honor of its former director, the late Maxine Harper. The designation was announced Friday (Nov. 8) after a memorial service at Paris-Yates Chapel.

Harper, a special education professor, was a quadriplegic whose cerebral palsy confined her to a motorized wheelchair throughout most of her life. She passed away June 11 of pneumonia after more than 13 years of service at UM. She was 57.

Under new leadership from longtime UM faculty member Lori Wolff, the Dr. Maxine Harper Center for Educational Research and Evaluation will continue to provide support services for major contract- and grant-funded education projects at UM and across the state. Besides naming the center after Harper, officials are planning a new endowment in her name.

“Our center will continue to build upon the great work and reputation built by Dr. Harper and others who have supported the efforts of so many at UM and elsewhere,” said Wolff, CERE’s director and a professor of higher education. “This center was such a major a part of Maxine’s life. We seek to honor her legacy of professionalism.”

A full-service center for organizations or individuals seeking or administering grants or contracts, CERE has been housed in the UM School of Education – Mississippi’s largest producer of teachers and educational leaders – since 1999 and provides support for multiple publicly and privately funded programs, including the Tallahatchie Early Learning Alliance funded by the Rock River Foundation, Parents for Public Schools funded by the Kellogg Foundation and multiple programs funded by the National Science Foundation.Read the story …

UM to Incorporate Fitness into Elementary Education Program

New emphasis combines physical activity with learning in the classroom

Junior and senior elementary education majors get up and moving during a special Move to Learn presentation hosted at UM in October.

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi is designing a new curriculum to train future elementary teachers who will specialize in integrating health and physical activity into their classrooms to improve student achievement.

The project is being completed with $1.2 million in external support from The Bower Foundation of Ridgeland.

With 740 undergraduates, elementary education is one of the largest majors at Ole Miss. The UM School of Education, Mississippi’s largest producer of teachers and educational leaders, will hire new faculty next year, and students will have the option to enroll in the new emphasis as early as fall 2015.

“This new curriculum acts on the proven correlation between fitness and improved test scores, a benefit to students and the state as a whole,” UM Chancellor Dan Jones said. “The university is committed to making a difference at the local, national and international level, and this program is just one example of that commitment in action. I am grateful to The Bower Foundation for their support of this program and for their leadership in Mississippi.”

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