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.

McClelland Named Chair of Teacher Education at UM

Educational leadership expert to continue role on permanent basis

After serving more than two years in an interim capacity, Susan McClelland will has been named chair of teacher education at UM.

After serving more than two years in an interim capacity, Susan McClelland will has been named chair of teacher education at UM.

OXFORD, Miss. – After serving more than two years as interim chair, Susan S. McClelland has been selected to serve as chair of the University of Mississippi Department of Teacher Education.

McClelland’s appointment begins July 1 and marks her third major move at UM. With more than 1,000 students and more than 40 full-time faculty in the areas of elementary, literacy, secondary, special and early childhood education, the department is one of the university’s largest individual academic units.

“As the flagship university in Mississippi, it’s our job to ensure we are preparing pre-service teachers to meet the demands of educating the children in our state,” said McClelland, who also serves as an associate professor of educational leadership. “In Mississippi, we face challenges like low literacy rates and high poverty rates and we must constantly look at how we can improve our programs to better prepare our pre-service teachers to be effective, innovative educators.”

During McClelland’s tenure as interim chair, the department has grown to include new programs such as the Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program, an all-inclusive four-year scholarship and teacher preparation program for top-performing students. The program has an average incoming ACT score of 29.

The department also offers new coursework in early childhood education as well as a new doctorate in special education. An emphasis in health and physical activity for elementary education majors is also in the planning stages. McClelland’s vision for the department includes a two-year plan to revise the unit’s undergraduate curriculum and a reevaluation of its master’s and doctoral programs.

“Dr. McClelland is an excellent educational leader who has been instrumental in the development of new programs at the School of Education,” said David Rock, UM education dean. “She has both the experience and the understanding of educational issues in our state to help us prepare highly effective educators. I am excited to have Dr. McClelland continue her leadership and work as the chair of teacher education at Ole Miss.”

Before serving as chair, McClelland was the founding director of the Principal Corps, a highly selective educational leadership program with a 99 percent success rate in placing outstanding Mississippi educators into K-12 leadership positions. She was hired at UM in 2005 as an assistant professor of educational leadership to design the program after the School of Education received a $2 million startup grant from the Jim and Donna Barksdale Foundation.

A 21-year veteran of public K-12 education in Mississippi, McClelland has served in a variety of educational leadership positions in north Mississippi, including stints as assistant superintendent of the New Albany School District, principal of New Albany High School and vice principal of Oxford High School. She holds a doctorate and master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from UM, as well as a bachelor’s degree in English education from Blue Mountain College.

“Our department should continue to be a community that both challenges and provides resources for faculty and students,” McClelland said. “The School of Education’s teacher education program should be a place where faculty feel supported and students go on to become influential educators and leaders who transform education in Mississippi and beyond.”

Peralta Named Mississippi’s First Knowles Teaching Fellow

STEM teaching fellowship to provide up to $175,000 for Ole Miss alumna

Peralta

Mooreville native Jessica Peralta is the first Mississippian to receive a highly competitive Knowles Science Teaching Foundation fellowship worth $175,000 over five years.

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi graduate student Jessica Fancher Peralta doesn’t begin her first year of teaching until this fall, but she has already landed a sizable bonus. The Mooreville native is the first Mississippian to receive a Knowles Science Teaching Foundation Fellowship worth $175,000.

A five-year fellowship for early-career STEM teachers across the country, the program will offer financial support to assist Peralta with a variety of grants for classroom materials, professional development, networking opportunities, travel to national conferences and more.

“The thing I like most about the fellowship is the community of educators all across the country,” said Peralta, who will begin teaching mathematics at Oxford High School in August. “It’s a network of current fellows and past fellows. I will be able to connect with teachers all around the country to share experiences and seek out ideas.”

Founded in 2002, KSTF teaching fellowships are designed to attract and retain high school STEM teachers who demonstrate a high level of content knowledge, effective teaching methods and show potential to become an influential teacher leader who will make a career of teaching.

According to KSTF data, more than half of all U.S. STEM teachers have less than five years’ experience in teaching. The fellowship program, which has a 95 percent retention rate with its fellows, includes more than 250 fellows in 42 states across the nation.

“Jessica exhibits all of the things you want from a teacher leader,” said Allan Bellman, associate professor of mathematics education and the faculty member who encouraged Peralta to apply. “Teachers who receive Knowles Fellowships are exceptional educators. They have strong promise of staying in education and spreading a wide influence.”

Three times a year, KTSF fellows gather at conferences for professional development – with their cohort in the fall and spring and with all current fellows in the summer. Over five years, fellows advance through three phases of development focusing on different amounts of content knowledge, teaching practice and leadership qualities.

Upon finishing the program, fellows are dubbed Senior Fellows and are provided support to continue involvement in the program by leading professional development sessions. They also can apply for select grants and can receive up to $2,000 in support to pursue national board certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

Peralta received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics education from the UM School of Education in 2013 and is a graduate research fellow at the UM Center for Mathematics and Science Education. She plans to finish a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction part-time over the next few years.

“There can be a negative association to studying math, and I want to help change that,” Peralta said. “Mathematics should be taught as problem-solving, critical thinking and logical reasoning. I think that helping students develop those things is going to help them in anything that they do.”

‘Lazy Daisy, Cranky Frankie’ Wins CELI Read Aloud Book Award

Mississippi teachers help UM literacy center award children's book honor

Preschool teacher Sarah Siebert reads "Lazy Daisy, Cranky Frankie" to children at UM's Willie Price Lab School.

Preschool teacher Sarah Siebert reads “Lazy Daisy, Cranky Frankie” to children at UM’s Willie Price Lab School.

OXFORD, Miss. – A children’s tale about lazy cows, dancing chickens and cranky canines is the winner of the 2014 Read Aloud Book Award given annually by the University of Mississippi’s Center for Excellence in Literacy Instruction.

The annual award from CELI, which offers professional development and curriculum support in literacy for Mississippi teachers, was given to Australian writer Mary Ellen Jordan and illustrator Andrew Weldon, who co-created “Lazy Daisy, Cranky Frankie” (Albert Whitman & Co., 2013), a rhyme-saturated book about farm animals.

“Each of our committee members said their children kept asking to read ‘Lazy, Daisy, Cranky Frankie’ over and over again,” said CELI literacy specialist Angie Caldwell. “We’ve had teachers from pre-school to third grade read this book to their students and all found it to be a great resource for their classrooms.”

This year’s winner was selected from 45 submitted titles. Since January, a group of nine north Mississippi literacy teachers have read submitted books to young children and recorded their reactions using a rubric designed by CELI.

The plot of the “Lazy Daisy, Cranky Frankie” outlines the day-to-day life of farm animals whose personalities break away from social norms – such as a pig named Nancy, who dislikes mud because she’s just too fancy.

“This book is great to teach lessons about farming or about diversity,” said Kim Homan, first-grade teacher at Pontotoc Elementary School in Pontotoc. “The rhyming makes it fun to read aloud, and the different animals provide a way to discuss with children how we all have different personalities and it’s OK to be different.”

Established in 2010, the award is designed to recognize the author and illustrator of books for children ages 3 through 10. The program is partially supported from a grant from the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation. The goal is to promote reading aloud to young children as a way to teach literacy, reinforce a love of reading and help children understand the deeper meaning behind books. Winning books receive the right to be published with CELI’s Read Aloud award seal on the cover.

Participating teachers were asked to evaluate how well the texts stretch children’s imaginations, capture interest and utilize a rich vocabulary. Upon turning in results, a committee of UM faculty, staff and literacy teachers selected the winner. All books are later donated to teachers at critical-needs elementary schools in north Mississippi.

“My students loved this book!” said Katie Murphy, a first-grade teacher at Green Hill Elementary School in Sardis. “They enjoy the rhyming patterns, and they enjoy predicting what silly thing might be on the next page. The illustrations also fit the story so well and made reading something to look forward to.”