Josh Magruder Named Counselor of the Year

State association honors UM professor for service

Joshua Magruder

OXFORD, Miss. – Joshua Magruder, a clinical assistant professor at the University of Mississippi School of Educationhas been named Counselor of the Year by the Mississippi Licensed Professional Counselor Association, a division of the Mississippi Counseling Association and the American Mental Health Counselors Association.

Magruder, interim clinical coordinator at UM’s Clinic for Outreach and Personal Enrichment, or COPE, will be honored in November at the association’s annual conference in Tupelo.

“Josh is a dedicated counselor who spends much of his professional and personal time working to help students and professional counselors,” said Morgan Bryant, the association’s president. “The skills and qualities that make him a fabulous counselor are also the skills and qualities that make him a fabulous professor.

“Joshua has worked tirelessly in the field of counseling, and this is why we chose him for the honor.”

Magruder was selected for the award for his past service to the association, which includes serving as its president and providing board supervision training for counselors, a service that allows early career counselors to earn their independent licenses.

“For me, this is all about service,” said Magruder, a native of Florence, South Carolina. “I am happy that my service has paid off to the point where I’m being honored, but I am more happy that there are good things happening in the world of counseling, and it’s good to be part of that.”

Magruder’s specialties include trauma, psychosis and play therapy, and he is working toward becoming a Registered Play Therapist. Play therapy is a form of mental health counseling that allows children to express their emotions constructively in a playroom setting.

At COPE, he serves as the clinical and administrative leader for the unit that provides a variety of mental health services for community members and training experience for UM counseling students. The clinic serves hundreds of clients from the Lafayette County-Oxford-University community each month.

“I am fortunate to work with great colleagues.” he said. “I love the day-to-day process of training counselors. That’s why I entered the professorate: to help aspiring counselors learn how to develop their skills.”

Magruder holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, a master’s degree in counseling and a doctorate in counselor education, all from the UM School of Education. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor in Mississippi and is a National Certified Counselor of the National Board for Certified Counselors.

Willie Price Students Plant New Learning Garden at UM

Partnerships, volunteers help shape real food curriculum

Parent and volunteer Tess Johnson helps Willie Price Lab School students sow seeds at the school’s new learning garden. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The seeds are planted for a new learning garden at the University of Mississippi’s Willie Price Lab School, which will allow the pre-K facility to integrate gardening and an understanding of food sources into its curriculum.

Several 3- and 4-year-olds at Willie Price, part of the UM School of Education, recently planted radishes, lettuce, carrots and garlic with the help of FoodCorps service member and parent Tess Johnson and others.

Sarah Langley, director of Willie Price, also partnered with preschool parents, UM Landscape Services, the Office of Sustainability and the Mississippi Farm to School Network to reinstall the garden, which had previously been part of the school’s curriculum.

“Tess became involved with FoodCorps and she approached us about revitalizing the space and has volunteered to lead a parent committee and organize all of the planting and harvesting events for our Willie Price students,” Langley said. “Before, the garden was an amazing space with tomatoes, blackberries, carrots and herbs everywhere, and the children were out there all the time.

“They were working with two gardeners, but for budget reasons, from what I understand, the space became neglected and we were no longer able to maintain that partnership.”

Johnson said that it was her work with Oxford Elementary School students that inspired her to help bring gardening back to Willie Price.

“I’m always blown away when I ask even fourth- or fifth-graders, ‘What’s your favorite food?’ and, if they say French fries, they think they came from McDonald’s or the grocery store,” Johnson said. “They have no idea that someone grew those potatoes and that’s how their food got there.”

Johnson also helped Willie Price students make a healthy snack of homemade hummus with pita chips and carrots on the day of the planting.

“It’s just so important for kids to be outside with fresh air, green space and to know where their food comes from,” she said.

In addition to enthusiastic parents, Willie Price also received a $500 grant from the Mississippi Farm to School Network to reopen the garden.

“We are interested in reaching out to more early child care programs with our school garden grants because we know that the earlier we can reach kids with good produce, fruits and vegetables, the more likely they will be interested in those foods when they are older,” said Sunny Young Baker, co-director of the Mississippi Farm to School Network.

 Langley said she feels there’s a bright future for Willie Price’s garden.

“We are partnering with landscape services, which is awesome because we have the most beautiful campus in the country,” Langley said. “They’ve been coming over to help us and just do as much as they can to help us protect the space.”

Langley also partnered with the UM Office of Sustainability to obtain compost from the university’s compost program for the garden.

Before the installation of the garden, Willie Price students learned about nutritious food and healthy living in a two-week unit on health that concluded with planting seeds in the reopened garden.

The Willie Price Lab School is a preschool facility on the UM campus. It provides opportunities for Ole Miss students and faculty to provide services and conduct research.

CELI, Local Groups Help Little Free Library Program Grow

Partners add six new book exchanges in Lafayette County

Charline Hubbard (center), director of the Mary Cathey Head Start Center, cuts the ribbon on a Little Free Library at the center as Meridith Wulff (left), youth specialist at the Lafayette County and Oxford Public Library, and several students at the center watch. Also on hard are Angela Rutherford (third from right), director of the Center for Excellence in Literacy Instruction; Suzanne Ryals, head of the LOU Reads Coalition; and Nancy Opalko, the library’s children’s librarian. Photo by David Brown/First Regional Library

OXFORD, Miss. – The Lafayette County and Oxford Public Library has teamed up with the University of Mississippi Center for Excellence in Literacy Instruction and the LOU Reads Coalition to install six new Little Free Libraries in Lafayette County.

The small book exchanges, which operate on a “take a book, return a book” basis, are at Lafayette County fire stations in Harmontown and Paris and on Highway 30 East, as well as at Mary Cathey Head Start Center, Gordon Community and Cultural Center in Abbeville and in the Community Green neighborhood.

While three other officially registered Little Free Libraries have been set up in Oxford, including those at Avent Park and the Stone Center, several unofficial libraries exist in town. That’s why the Lafayette County and Oxford Public Library, CELI and LOU Reads chose to focus their efforts on communities in the county.

“We know that it can be much harder for those who live in the outer reaches of the county to make it to the public library, and Little Free Libraries allow us to take a bit of the library to them,” said Nancy Opalko, children’s librarian and assistant branch manager at the Lafayette County and Oxford Public Library.

The libraries were built by Oxford resident and Ole Miss student Harriman Abernathy with materials donated by Elliott Lumber Co. Each library is overseen by an individual steward in that community who checks it weekly to ensure it is stocked and in good repair.

“We are so excited to have a Little Free Library here,” says Harmontown resident and First Regional Library staff member Randie Cotton, who serves as steward of the Little Free Library there.

“People can just grab a book for themselves or their kids on their way to and from work or church and bring them back when they’re done. It doesn’t get much easier than that!”

The libraries are stocked with books for both children and adults. Putting books in the hands of children is a priority for the library, CELI and LOU Reads. All three organizations are part of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, a nationwide effort that focuses on grade-level reading by the end of third grade, an important predictor of school success and high school graduation.

One of the community’s newest Little Free Libraries is at Mary Cathey Head Start Center. Photo by David Brown/First Regional Library

In Mississippi, 74 percent of fourth-graders and 80 percent of eighth-graders scored below proficient in reading on the 2015 National Assessment of Education Progress.

“The Little Free Libraries make it easy for parents and caregivers to make reading and early literacy skills a fun part of everyday life starting at birth, which is critical to their children’s early development and how they do in school,” said Angela Rutherford, CELI director.

Besides books, the libraries contain information for parents and caregivers about how to use books and other resources to develop children’s early learning skills.

“This library really supplements all we do to promote family literacy every day by putting more books in the hands of our students and their caregivers,” said Charline Hubbard, director of the Mary Cathey Head Start Center. “They love having it here so they can just pick up or bring back a book as they come and go every day.”

Little Free Libraries are a global phenomenon, with more than 36,000 around the world in 70 countries. The Little Free Library nonprofit organization has been honored by the Library of Congress, the National Book Foundation and the American Library Association. Each year, nearly 10 million books are shared in Little Free Libraries.

To learn more, visit https://littlefreelibrary.org/.

State Higher Education Literacy Council Advances Teacher Preparation

Kellogg, Hardin grants fund training for elementary reading educators

Guyton Hall houses the Center for Excellence in Literacy Instruction. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Members of Mississippi’s Higher Education Literacy Council, a group of college and university literacy professors, are part of a statewide effort to help new teachers use cognitive and educational research in the classroom.

The project is funded by a $725,450 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek, Michigan, and a $60,000 grant from the Phil Hardin Foundation of Meridian.

The three-year project, which commences this fall, focuses on improving the quality of pre-service content and instruction at the college and university level. Goals include reducing the cost of retraining teachers after they enter an elementary classroom and of retaining teachers over time.

“The Higher Education Literacy Council’s full involvement in this project places Mississippi ahead of other states by acknowledging the challenges associated with teacher preparation,” said Angela Rutherford, the council’s president and director of the University of Mississippi’s Center for Excellence in Literacy Instruction.

“This grant will enable us to build a replicable model for transforming teacher preparation in early literacy instruction. We are already getting calls from other states about our work here.”

Like all elementary teachers serving in K-3 classrooms, Mississippi elementary education professors also will receive training in Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling. The Kellogg grant complements the LETRS training by providing campus-based coaching and seminars specifically designed for this higher education audience.

The Legislature has taken steps in recent years to improve children’s reading achievement in Mississippi.

“The grants provided by the Kellogg Foundation and the Hardin Foundation will make a tremendous difference in our state by helping to transform teacher preparation and improve literacy,” said Glenn Boyce, commissioner of higher education. “There is no doubt that early literacy instruction builds the foundation for all learning as children continue to progress through school.

“This project demonstrates the Higher Education Literacy Council’s commitment to ensuring all children are provided this foundation.”

“We are all very pleased to learn of the grant support provided by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to undergird the state’s commitment to increase literacy outcomes for Mississippi children,” said Ann Blackwell, recently retired education dean at the University of Southern Mississippi.

Blackwell and Thea Williams Black, of Tougaloo College, co-chaired a Governor’s Task Force Working Group that inspired the idea for professional development for early literacy professors.

Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program Admits 29 UM Freshmen

Unique scholarship funding extended for five more years, draws students from nine states

METP’s fifth cohort hails from nine states and has an ACT average of 29.7. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The fifth cohort of the Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program at the University of Mississippi consists of 29 outstanding freshmen from nine states. With an average ACT score of 29.7, the group sets a high standard for the elite scholarship.

The program, originally designed for secondary education majors, expanded to include special education and elementary education last year following a $28 million investment from the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation in Jackson, which agreed to fund the teaching scholarship for five more years.

“METP is one of a kind,” said Ryan Niemeyer, METP director. “There are similar programs, but there’s not really another one in the country that is on this level that receives funding from a private foundation. METP focuses on a broader picture and preparing high-quality students to teach our state.”

The freshman recently attended the program’s orientation in the Lyceum, where they met faculty and administrators. Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter and David Rock, Ole Miss education dean, provided advice and encouragement during their prepared remarks.

The new class brings the METP scholarship recipients to 104, with the first cohort graduating last May.

The new cohort includes six secondary education math majors, 12 secondary education English majors, three secondary education science majors, five elementary education majors and three special education majors.

The incoming freshmen are: Eleanor Atkinson of Memphis, Tennessee; Ally Blomberg of Belleville, Illinois; Kaylynn Buskirk of Brandon; Brady Cairns of Lake in the Hills, Illinois; Zady Carden of Chickamauga, Georgia; Christian Clark of Collierville, Tennessee; Sa’mya Clayton of Oxford; Lauren Colliau of Austin, Texas; Dylan Dowty of Booneville; Hannah Farnlacher of Birmingham, Alabama; Olivia Flowers of Scottsboro, Alabama; Hunter Hardy of Madison; Hali-Ana Harvey of Waynesboro; Alyssa Hetterich of Hamilton, Ohio; Virgina James of Lexington, Kentucky; Rebecca Junkin of Summit; Mackenzie Ladewig of Horn Lake; Levi Manos of Senatobia; Kennedy Moore of Purvis; Jessie Norris of Grady, Alabama; Willow Olier of Pascagoula; Reann Parker of Gulfport; Madeleine Porter of Jackson; Chyna Quarles of Oxford; Bonnie Smith of Florence, Alabama; Cory Tune of Chester, New Jersey; Mary Frances Ward of Jasper, Alabama; Brianna Whiteside of Senatobia and Hanna Wilson of Laurel.

Established in 2012 with nearly $13 million from the Hearin Foundation, the METP scholarship covers up to four years of tuition, housing and living expenses, study abroad and more.

The program is designed to help stimulate Mississippi’s economy by recruiting top-performing students into Mississippi’s education workforce.

After graduation, METP fellows must teach in a public school in Mississippi for five years immediately after graduation. However, this can be postponed for up to three years if graduates wish to pursue a master’s degree.

The program also includes a study abroad trip. Last summer, students visited Canada to study education outside the United States. Rising juniors also have an opportunity to study American education from a policy perspective in Washington, D.C.

“Not only does METP help me financially, but it also provides me with a unique opportunity during my time in college to learn from the best to become a successful teacher,” said Farnlacher, an elementary education major.

“Knowing that I will be entering the field of teaching with all that knowledge and experience I can possibly receive will really be beneficial and give me the confidence I might not have otherwise.”

For more information on programs in the School of Education, go to http://education.olemiss.edu/.

UM Creates Department of Higher Education

Interim chair Neal Hutchens plans to launch a new minor and increase campus partnerships

Faculty members serving in the new UM Department of Higher Education Faculty are (from left) Phillis George, Whitney Webb, Brandi Hephner LaBanc, John Holleman, Amy Wells Dolan, K.B. Melear, Neal Hutchens and George McClellan. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Education is home to a new Department of Higher Education, with legal scholar Neal Hutchens as its interim chair and professor.

The new department, which has eight full-time faculty members, several affiliate faculty throughout the university and more than 200 graduate students, was previously part of the university’s Department of Leadership and Counselor Education. It will function as an independent unit within the School of Education.

“To be part of creating a new department is a rare and unique opportunity,” Hutchens said. “We have built a vibrant and expanding team of higher education faculty and students, and this department allows us to be a visible part of the university community and establish an identity in terms of how we serve the university, the state and beyond.”

The creation of a new department at the School of Education follows the recent growth of new online and hybrid degree programs designed for working higher education practitioners.

The department offers four graduate programs including online and traditional master’s degrees in higher education/student personnel, as well as Ph.D. and a hybrid Ed.D., which is a professional doctorate that combines online and face-to-face learning for higher education professionals.

“We are extremely excited to launch our new Department of Higher Education,” said David Rock, UM education dean. “The growth of our new professional doctorate and master’s degrees for working professionals supports the need for this new organizational unit. 

“We are also creating new possibilities for undergraduate courses in the higher education arena that may even expand into a minor in higher education for the entire campus.”

The department serves as the academic unit overseeing multiple undergraduate courses, including EDHE 105, a course taken by hundreds of Ole Miss undergraduates each year and a collaboration with the university’s Division of Student Affairs.

As interim chair, Hutchens hopes to launch an undergraduate minor in higher education, strengthen and build new partnerships with units throughout campus, and implement an outreach and engagement plan to highlight the accomplishments of faculty, students and alumni.

An expert in first amendment and free speech issues, Hutchens joined UM in 2016 after serving as the professor in charge of higher education at Pennsylvania State University. He also held faculty positions at the University of Kentucky and Barry University.

Hutchens earned a Ph.D. in higher education policy from the University of Maryland, a law degree from the University of Alabama, a master’s degree from Auburn University at Montgomery and a bachelor’s degree from Samford University.

“We have a really strong collection of individuals among our full-time and affiliate faculty,” Hutchens said. “They are strong scholars and just really good people. It is an honor to be part of this team and to serve as our new department’s interim chair going forward.”

Math and Science Center Moves into Renovated Facility

Jackson Avenue Center space will allow CMSE to operate more efficiently

The staff of the CMSE is happy to reclaim its offices in the renovated facility. Left to right: E. Paige Gillentine, Julie James, Amanda Pham, Audra Polk, Mannie Lowe, Meredith Miller, Alice Steimle, Whitney Jackson, Ashley Masinelli, April Kilpatrick and Justin Ragland. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi Center for Mathematics and Science Education has moved back into its renovated facility at the Jackson Avenue Center.

The CMSE’s offices were updated over four months after part of the building was damaged in February. The renovated office is upgraded from the original cinder block wall facility and is specially designed for the STEM education center.

“The CMSE has visitors from K-12 schools and universities around the state, nation and occasionally, the world,” said John O’Haver, the center’s director. “At least part of the perception of any organization is its physical appearance.

“The CMSE has grown so much from its origins, adding professional development, robotics and chess outreach and other activities. Having space that can be more efficiently utilized will help the center operate more smoothly.”

The CMSE’s renovations, in addition to improved aesthetics, will provide better sound management with a mix of solid walls and cubicles for individual offices. The new office space also features enhanced lighting with more access to natural light and upgraded heating, cooling and ventilation.

The center, housed within the School of Education, was established in 2006 to improve science and math education in the state but it has grown to be much more. Funded through grants and donations, the CMSE works with schools in the state to promote STEM fields to children through critical thinking activities.

The CMSE also hosts professional development for teachers in STEM fields, offers scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students and hosts camps and competitions for middle and high school students, such as the FIRST Tech Challenge Robotics Competition, MATHCOUNTS, Catapult Competition and more.

During the four months of renovation, the staff occupied a classroom and a conference room in the Jackson Avenue Center.

LOU Community Named All-America City Finalist by Reading Group

Results of literacy collaboration draw national recognition

LOU Reads volunteers deliver free books to children during summer learning activities. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The Lafayette County, Oxford and University of Mississippi community is among 27 places across the nation designated as an All-America City Finalist by the National Civic League and the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, a national organization dedicated to improving reading proficiency among low-income children.

The finalists were honored in June at the campaign’s national awards ceremony in Denver. Also, 15 other cities were named All-American Cities, an honor that will be awarded again in 2020.

LOU’s designation is the result of work from multiple local leaders within the LOU Reads Coalition, a collaboration established in 2015 that works to improve outcomes for low-income children in four areas: grade-level reading (measure of outcomes), school readiness (measure of preparedness), school attendance and summer learning opportunities.

“Literacy is a measure of a community’s prosperity,” said Suzanne Ryals, the new LOU director of early childhood and reading development and leader of LOU Reads. “We have a lot of great resources and through LOU Reads, we are no longer working in isolation.”

Ryals, formerly principal at Bramlett Elementary School in Oxford, attributes LOU’s success to the work of several local educators and community leaders. In her new role, she hopes to help improve literacy outcomes for children via data collection, assessment and continued parent engagement and workforce development.

The LOU community has some hard numbers to back up its recent honor.

The number of children in the Oxford School District who have the reading skills needed to start kindergarten has risen from 29 percent in 2014 to 50 percent in 2016, according to data from the Mississippi Department of Education.

Some 95 percent of Oxford-area children are reading proficiently by third grade.

“I think there is a lot to be learned from the LOU community,” said Ashley Parker Sheils, director of the Mississippi Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, which works with nine affiliated communities. “The LOU community has really brought people together and formed powerful subgroups around all four of the campaign focus areas.”

One example of the LOU community meeting the grade-level reading challenge can be seen in the attendance category. LOU Reads leaders have built relationships with local parents through outreach programs such as “Breakfast at the Bus Stop,” where LOU leaders bring breakfast foods to children and parents in the morning to discuss chronic absenteeism at local bus stop locations.

By building relationships and community partnerships, the impact for children has been a positive one. Some 47 percent of local second-grade students missed 10 or more days in 2011-15, but this number was reduced to 17 percent in 2016, according to locally collected data.

“(LOU Reads) has definitely moved the needle for outcomes for children in our community,” said Angela Rutherford, director of UM’s Center for Excellence in Literacy Instruction, one of multiple Ole Miss entities that is part of the organization.

“We want to do whatever we can to support LOU Reads’ goal of increasing literacy achievement. In 2020, we want to be an All-American City.”

UM organizations that are members of LOU Reads include: CELI, College Corps, Dr. Maxine Harper Center for Educational Research and Evaluation, Horizons, Jumpstart and the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement.

Other community member organizations include: Boys & Girls Club of North Mississippi, Excel by 5, Lafayette County Literacy Council, Lafayette Country School District, Lafayette County and Oxford Public Library, Leap Frog, LOU-Home, North Mississippi VISTA Project, Oxford Park Commission, Oxford School District, Oxford University School, United Way of Oxford and the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council.

“This is a community that values literacy and values its children and is actively working to provide the best opportunities it can for its youngest members,” Ryals said.

‘This Book is Not About Dragons’ Wins 2017 CELI Read Aloud Book Award

Teachers help choose winner of UM children's book award

CELI Literacy Specialist Angie Caldwell reads ‘This Book is Not About Dragons’ to children at Willie Price Lab School. Photo by Andrew Abernathy

OXFORD, Miss. – Spoiler Alert: “This Book is Not About Dragons,” by Shelly Moore Thomas, is actually jam-packed with fire-breathing monsters. It’s also the 2017 winner of the University of Mississippi’s CELI Read Aloud Book Award.

Presented annually by the Center for Excellence in Literacy Instruction at the UM School of Education, the annual award honors books designed for children ages 3 to 10. Established in 2010, this is the seventh time the award has been given by CELI, a center that provides curriculum support and training for Mississippi reading teachers.

“‘This Book Is Not About Dragons’ is an excellent book to read aloud to children,” said Angie Caldwell, CELI literacy specialist who oversees the award process. “This book piques children’s curiosity and creates an engaging reading experience.

“Teachers reported that the children bounced with anticipation, chanted phrases and echoed actions in the book while reading the book aloud. Teachers also stated that the children asked for the book to be read again and again.”

This year’s winner was selected from several titles, which were distributed to teachers at multiple north Mississippi schools, including UM’s Willie Price Lab School. Schools that field-tested the book were awarded free copies of the book.

“My class loved this book,” said Willie Price teacher Chelsea Walters. “They begged me to read it again and again and they talked about it all through lunch.”

The plot of the book follows a mischievous mouse narrator who leads the reader on a tour of a countryside that has obviously been ravaged by a fire-breathing dragon. The book is designed to ignite the interest of young students who can start to pick apart the narrator’s false claims that, amid all of the fire and smoke and destruction, there are actually no dragons hiding the background.

“As a teacher, I find enjoyment in observing my students actively engaged in the read-aloud process,” said Candace Gooch, a teacher at Bramlett Elementary School in Oxford. “While reading ‘This Book is Not About Dragons,’ my students were predicting, inferring and simply enjoying the text. They were excited and asked to have the story reread multiple times.”

The CELI Read Aloud Book Award 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. A committee of UM faculty, staff and literacy teachers considered the results to select the winner.

“This Book is Not About Dragons,” illustrated by Fred Koehler, was published by Boyds Mill Press.

School of Education Honors Practitioners of Distinction

Award recognizes young and mid-career education alumni

The charter class of the School of Education’s Practitioner of Distinction Awards is (from left) Jay Levy, Shelly Clifford, Jessica Ivy and Wanikka Vance. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Education has honored four outstanding alumni as part of its new Practitioner of Distinction Awards.

The school created the award to recognize mid-career educators who demonstrate exemplary work in their field. The 2017 honorees are: Shelley Clifford of Atlanta, Jessica Ivy of Starkville, Jay Levy of Canton and Wanikka Vance of Chicago.

The awards are a counterpart to the School of Education’s Hall of Fame, which honors alumni who have at least 25 years of service in education. The honorees were recognized May 12 at the school’s Hall of Fame ceremony at The Inn at Ole Miss.

Clifford received her bachelor’s degree from Ole Miss in 2003 and was named Graduate Student of the Year in 2004 when she earned her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction. She has served as the head of the lower school at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School for six years in Atlanta.

She previously served as a third-, fifth- and sixth-grade teacher for seven years in Memphis, Tennessee, and Charleston, South Carolina.

“It’s really humbling to be celebrated like this,” Clifford said. “I hope that this will be an opportunity to reconnect with Ole Miss. I would love to come back and spend time with education students.”

Ivy earned three degrees from UM, including a doctorate in math education in 2011. She is an assistant professor of secondary education at Mississippi State University, where she also works with the Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program.

“Receiving this award sends a message that people are starting to recognize the importance of teachers,” Ivy said. “I’m very honored to have received it and been a small part of the mission to support our educators.”

Levy graduated from the UM in 2011 with bachelor’s degree in English education. During his junior year, Levy was in a car accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down, but he did not allow that to prevent him from pursuing his passion of teaching.

During Levy’s first year of teaching at Pisgah High School, not only did his English students earn the highest pass rate in Mississippi on the state subject area test, but he was also selected as teacher of the year.

“I began wondering if the students would still respond to me the same way since I am in a wheelchair,” Levy said. “I think they respected me more after I told them my story and I was open with them and let them ask questions.

“That’s how I always start class on the first day of school, and I always tell them to wear their seatbelt. It gives me a teachable moment to let them know that life is hard, but it’s possible to move on.”

Vance, who received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from UM in 2003, has served as a Chicago elementary school teacher for 10 years. In 2011, she founded a school for pre-K to first-graders called Foundations 4 adVANCEment, which focuses on preparing young learners academically and socially to become college- and career-minded from their earliest stages of growth and development.

“This award is a great honor,” Vance said. “Most of the time when you leave your alma mater, you’re just gone. To know that they have actually been following me professionally is a big surprise to me, but also a great honor to be able to realize that the work I am doing is not in vain.”