UM Faculty Help Mississippi Students ‘Fuel to Learn’

Pilot curriculum integrates nutrition knowledge into math and language arts

Thirteen fourth-grade teachers from north Mississippi are taking part in UM’s Fuel to Learn pilot program, which integrates nutrition with mathematics and English language arts. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – Several north Mississippi fourth-grade teachers are taking part in a University of Mississippi study that aims to help children learn more about nutrition while also learning mathematics and English language arts.

Called “Fuel to Learn,” the project is funded by a grant from the Mississippi Center for Obesity Research at the UM Medical Center in Jackson and led by Ole Miss faculty, including Melinda Valliant and Kathy Knight of the School of Applied Sciences, and Alicia Stapp of the School of Education.

“The vision is that this will become a statewide curriculum,” said Stapp, an assistant professor of health and physical education. “We are starting this very, very small, which is how we want to start, but we hope to have a regional presence and then a statewide presence.

“We see no reason why there can’t be a curriculum for the whole state.”

Thirteen teachers are participating in the pilot program. In each lesson, students will learn a math or English language arts skill while also learning about healthy eating. For example, one lesson requires students to measure the grams of sugar in multiple beverages and then break that number down into milligrams.

The lessons are centered on five “key messages”: hydration, portion size, fruits and vegetables, dairy, and healthy snacks.

“These five key messages are the big things that can have a snowball effect and make a big difference,” said Valliant, an associate professor of nutrition. “This is an outstanding curriculum, and I think it will really help children have a better understanding of what a healthy diet looks like.”

During a meeting July 24 at Ole Miss, Knight, Stapp, Valliant and recent UM graduate Sarah Howell trained the teachers – who hail from Myrtle, New Albany and Potts Camp – to implement the curriculum, which provides ready-to-go lesson plans.

The pilot curriculum includes 10 lessons in math and 10 in English language arts. Each teacher received a kit of teaching materials for their classrooms, as well.

Each lesson is aligned with Mississippi College and Career Readiness Standards as well as learning objectives in individual subject areas. Developers hope that besides helping students learn, an increased literacy in nutrition will improve long-term educational outcomes.

“The relationship between academic performance and diet cannot be understated,” said Knight, an associate professor of nutrition. “Most of the beginning research in this area started in the ’60s and ’70s and showed that children who were malnourished did not learn as well (as children who were).”

During the event, Knight also explained that research concerning school breakfast programs show that children who eat full breakfasts perform better academically.

From September through January, the 13 teachers will implement the pilot with a pacing guide that requires them to use a minimum of two lesson plans per month in their classrooms and upload their results to an online portal.

“I think it’s great because it fits into the curriculum that I already teach and goes right along with state assessment,” said Kristi Cox of Myrtle Attendance Center.

Between lessons, the teachers took “Brain Breaks,” where they got to know one other better and participated in active movement exercises, which they can use in their own classrooms. The teachers also got a tour of the Olivia and Archie Manning Athletics Performance Center.

“They are not just giving us the lesson plans; they are teaching us how to integrate these lessons into what we are already doing,” said Farrah Speck of New Albany Middle School. “This is really valuable to me as a teacher.”

Willie Price Lab School Earns National Accreditation

UM pre-K facility recognized among best in the nation

Parents and children work together at Willie Price’s Learning Garden. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – Willie Price Lab School at the University of Mississippi has been accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, a prestigious designation that recognizes top standards in early childhood education.

To earn NAEYC accreditation, Willie Price, which serves local 3- and 4-year-old children, went through an extensive self-study and quality-improvement process, followed by an on-site visit by accessors. The renewable accreditation lasts five years.

“Earning this accreditation takes away any blurred lines about what is best for children,” said Sarah Langley, Willie Price director. “When you go through this process, and you have to do everything the right way, it means that you are doing what’s best for children at the very highest level.”

Less than 10 percent of programs nationwide  – roughly 7,000 institutions – hold this accreditation, according NAEYC data. In Mississippi, 24 programs are accredited.

To earn the accreditation, schools must meet 10 research-based standards, which range from instructional techniques to safety, nutrition, staffing and community engagement. Throughout the process, Willie Price staff worked to meet and document hundreds of criteria within these standards and received support from the university’s Graduate Center for the Study of Early Learning to work with an accreditation consultant.

“We literally had to break down our school into pieces and build it back stronger,” said Alyce Krouse, Willie Price assistant director. “We sometimes get referred to as a ‘day care,’ but we are so much more than that. We are an accredited school for young children.”

One result from this process is that Willie Price staff began keeping an individual portfolio to assess and document the development of each child. The school serves more than 70 children.

In-depth assessments of children’s work provide not only a window into the developing minds of children, but can help educators and parents identify needs for enrichment or intervention earlier than before.

“There are two monthly samples of work in each portfolio,” Langley explained. “This might include a name-writing sample and an illustration.

Learning centers at Willie Price are aligned with developmental standards. Submitted Photo

“By the end of the year, you can see scribbles start to look like letters and then next thing you know, there are uppercase letters at the front of their names. It’s a nice way to observe the development and celebrate with parents.”

Staff at Willie Price meet with parents at least three times a year to go over children’s portfolios. After leaving Willie Price, portfolios can later be handed off parents and/or a kindergarten program.

As part of the accreditation process, parents from Willie Price also completed surveys and provided feedback to staff on the school’s performance and offerings.

Learning centers at Willie Price also were aligned with best practices for early learning and are put on a rotation throughout classrooms. All lessons taught by Willie Price teachers fit into a strategic curriculum that supports developmental learning standards.

The layout of Willie Price classrooms are designed to promote optimal learning for all children. Instead of providing traditional whole-group activities, classrooms are designed to let children self-select different learning centers.

Research shows this method of teaching young children allows for greater independence and engagement in a structured learning environment.

Willie Price also serves as a learning facility for education majors at the UM School of Education, allowing Ole Miss undergraduates to gain hands-on experience in an accredited school.

“We want our students to go to a school that is accredited to see best practices,” said Kenya Wolff, UM assistant professor of early childhood education. “This allows our students to be able to go out into the world and know the right way to do things.

“We’re confident that we can send students to Willie Price and they will see and learn what’s best for young children.”

Willie Price operates 10 months per year on the Ole Miss campus. For more information about enrollment and the school’s curriculum visit http://willieprice.olemiss.edu/.

Professor Studies Public Education’s YouTube Portrayal

Study of video-sharing site finds negative depiction of public education

Burhanettin Keskin, UM associate professor of early childhood education, has published a paper examining how public education is portrayed on YouTube. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – YouTube is the second most popular website in the world, nestled right behind Google and ahead of sites such as Facebook, Baidu (a Chinese language internet search engine) and Wikipedia.

The video-sharing site states it has more than a billion users worldwide – almost one-third of all people on the internet – and every day those users watch a billion hours of video.

But what exactly is all that video watching telling viewers about the world, specifically when it comes to public education? That’s a topic recently explored by Burhanettin Keskin, a University of Mississippi associate professor of early childhood education. The result is his paper, “What Do YouTube Videos Say About Public Education?” which was published as an Editor’s Choice article in SAGE, a leading independent, academic and professional publisher of innovative, high-quality content.

Keskin’s study shows that the content of selected, English-language YouTube videos examined portray public education in a mostly negative light.

“As an educator, I’m worried about the future of public education and how it is portrayed in media,” he said. “Oftentimes I see blunt attacks on public education. I will be the first to say that public education is not perfect. I will say that, but I think it is something we need to protect.”

For his study, Keskin typed the term “public education” into the YouTube search bar and analyzed the top 60 search results provided by the site. (YouTube uses a non-disclosed algorithm to display its user-generated content.)

Keskin and a graduate student then independently coded the videos (59 were evaluated because one video repeated itself in the search results) as portraying public education as negative, neutral or positive. The videos were coded on the thumbnail cover image, title and content, which involved Keskin watching enough YouTube videos to give him “dreams at night of YouTube.”

When Keskin and the graduate student disagreed on nine videos, an opinion from a third coder – a professor from another university – was obtained.

The study showed that 67.8 percent of the selected videos’ content portrayed public education negatively, 22 percent of the cover images portrayed public education negatively (64.4 percent were found neutral) and 45.8 percent of the titles were negative (44.1 percent were neutral).

“I was troubled by the findings of Dr. Keskin’s research,” said Susan McClelland, UM chair of teacher education. “Public perception is important to any career as it often reflects the level of respect and value the public places on that career.

“Today, public education is under an increasing amount of public scrutiny, which places educational systems in a position to create effective school public relations campaigns. … I do believe positive perceptions begin at the local level, and teachers and administrators must learn to be action-oriented in sharing positive information about themselves, the successes of all children and the impact education is having on their communities – a role perhaps we have not been comfortable doing.”

Some of the titles from Keskin’s May 31, 2016, search (8.2 million videos were found) were bluntly, if not outrageously negative, of public education, with titles such as “Public ‘Education’ Has Become Indoctrination and Distraction” and “Common Core: UN Agenda 21, Communitarianism & The Public Education Plan to Destroy America.”

While some videos only had a few thousand views, others had been viewed more than a million times.

“Perception in recent years regarding public education is down,” said David Rock, dean of the School of Education. “Unfortunately, negative stories fuel strong sentiment, especially on social media and therefore seem to be heard like a roar. This fire can spread into an ugly fight at times on social media.

“Positive successes are shared but seem to be heard like a normal, friendly conversation. We seem to be more likely to share positive news in a friendly manner.”

With many educators using YouTube in their classrooms, Keskin points out that the danger is that both reputable and impartial sources, and untrustworthy and biased sources share the same platform with YouTube. Also, anyone can upload videos to YouTube, and some of the unreliable videos are professionally rendered, which is confusing to children and teens, who are a large YouTube audience.

A May survey from the Pew Research Center on teens, social media and technology reports that 85 percent of U.S. teens ages 13 to 17 say they use YouTube, more than Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.

Since YouTube is a teaching tool in today’s classrooms, young children might think all YouTube videos are credible, especially subjective material placed at the top of search results.

“Pretty much anyone can post anything,” said Keskin, who joined the UM faculty in 2013. “Some academics, some doctors, some professionals can post it. So can someone who has some really bad intentions. They can just post it and bend truths.

“The danger is (YouTube) is a mixture of things. For a young mind, it might be really hard to distinguish if this is reputable, especially if you are not very good with media.”

Even after viewing the results of his research, though, Keskin, who has a personal YouTube cooking channel called KeskinCookin, said YouTube can be a valuable teaching tool. Others agree.

“I certainly believe YouTube videos are an effective tool for teaching,” said McClelland, who also serves as an associate professor of leadership and counselor education. “You can learn to do just about anything by watching a YouTube video – from tying a bow tie to changing a tire to improving your writing skills, YouTube has videos on how to be successful.

“YouTube is a powerful source of information – all the more reason we need images and videos reflecting the positive, innovative and successful work public school educators are doing.”

The study also reinforces the importance of teaching critical thinking, especially when it comes to social media, Keskin said.

“When you teach critical thinking to students – young students or college students or the general public – then you have a better chance of not falling into the hands of the people who are posting very negative, false information out there,” he said. “Informed citizens is what we want. Who can think for themselves. Who can look for things to find out if the information is true or not.”

Jessica Muñoz Receives Andrew P. Mullins Scholarship

Mississippi Teacher Corps alumna pursues doctorate in Spanish at UM

Andrew P. Mullins Jr. (left) with Jessica Muñoz, who is the recipient of the Andrew P. Mullins Jr. Mississippi Teacher Corps Alumni Scholarship. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Jessica Muñoz, a 2018 graduate of the University of Mississippi, is the third recipient of the Andrew P. Mullins Jr. Mississippi Teacher Corps Alumni Scholarship.

The award, which is designed to support Teacher Corps alumni who wish to pursue advanced graduate study at UM, will provide $2,000 in financial support for Muñoz, who will begin doctoral studies in Spanish at Ole Miss this fall.

The award was endowed in 2016 by Teacher Corps co-founder Andrew P. Mullins Jr.

“Dr. Mullins has been a really strong influence for me as far as what it means to teach,” said Muñoz, a Grass Valley, California, native. “He’s one of those people I could go to for any problem because he probably can give you advice or the number of someone to call to help.

“I felt like a lucky person to have had him as a teacher and to receive this scholarship now.”

The endowed scholarship is available to Teacher Corps alumni and may be awarded twice to individuals. Recipients may pursue an advanced degree in any field of their choosing on UM’s Oxford campus. The inaugural recipients of the scholarship award were husband-and-wife Derek and Kelly King, who first received the award in 2016.

“I’m glad that Jessica could be the third recipient of this award,” Mullins said. “She was a great teacher and a great student, and this scholarship is designed to help Teacher Corps alumni like her advance their education at the University of Mississippi.”

Throughout her time in the Teacher Corps, Muñoz taught in Panola County, first as a science teacher at North Panola Junior High School and then as a Spanish teacher at South Panola High School.

A graduate of Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, she earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental science and Spanish before joining the Teacher Corps in 2016, a move that literally took her across the country to north Mississippi, sight unseen.

“I didn’t major in education in college, … ,but I knew that I really liked working with kids,” she said. “The Mississippi Teacher Corps really stood out to me because of its mission, vision and its structure, which gives you intensive training in the summer before beginning teaching in the fall.”

Founded in 1989, the Teacher Corps is an alternate-route teaching program that has placed more than 725 new teachers in critical-needs school districts throughout the state. The program is highly competitive and has attracted recruits from 239 colleges and universities around the country.

All participants receive job placement and two years of funding to earn a Master of Arts in Teaching degree from UM. More than half of its alumni are still in education in some way.

The program is training its 29th cohort at Holly Springs High School, where incoming participants are trained by program alumni before entering the classroom.

Muñoz is working as a teacher this summer as part of UM’s Rebel Quest day camps, which provide summer learning for elementary-aged children. In the fall, she will teach undergraduate Spanish courses at UM as part of her graduate assistantship.

She hopes to finish her doctorate in five years and plans to stay in education in some way following graduation.

“I really enjoy teaching high school,” she said. “I imagine that in at least some capacity I will be back in the secondary education world. I am not sure if that’s tutoring or guest speaking or something else, but I am sure I will be involved.”

Scholarship Recipients Display Attitudes of Gratitude

UM Kelly Gene Cook scholars enjoy opportunity to thank donors

The Kelly Gene Cook Charitable Foundation board and Executive Director Katy Pacelli (front, fourth from left) joins Chancellor Jeff Vitter and Sharon Vitter for a spring luncheon to celebrate the Cook and Mikell Scholars. JoAnn Mikell (front, in pink), secretary; Carolyn Bost (front, fifth from right), director; Deborah Rochelle (front, fourth from right), chair; and Ron Page (front, third from right), treasurer; are surrounded by the undergraduate and graduate scholars at Ole Miss. UM photo by Bill Dabney

OXFORD, Miss. – “As I look around this room, it’s hard to not get teary-eyed,” Samantha Brewer told a crowd at a recent luncheon at the University of Mississippi. “Because I know it was you. You all made this possible.

“You all made me possible. You made me being a teacher possible. And I can’t thank you enough. So let me start now. Thank you. Really, thank you.”

These were the sentiments expressed by Brewer when she and fellow Kelly Gene Cook Foundation scholars had an opportunity to meet donors at a recent luncheon hosted by Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter at his home on the Oxford campus.

Brewer, a senior elementary education major from Southaven, and her cohorts received a full scholarship to Ole Miss, thanks to the Cook Foundation.

The late Kelly Gene Cook Sr., of French Camp, was a pipeliner for more than three decades who joined Houston Contracting Co. in 1956 and became vice president and general manager for domestic and foreign operations in 1971. In this capacity, he dealt with pipelines throughout the Middle East, Brazil, Trinidad, Ecuador and Nigeria.

In 1976, he and a partner formed Gregory & Cook Inc., a pipeline contracting firm in Houston, Texas.

Cook was active in the industry associations, serving on the boards of the International Pipeline Contractors Association and the American Pipeline Contractors Association. In 1986, he and his wife, Peggy, formed the Kelly Gene Cook Sr. Charitable Foundation Inc., which primarily provides funds to support religious, charitable, scientific and educational organizations in Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.

Cook Foundation representatives at the Ole Miss luncheon were president Deborah Rochelle, of Folsom, Louisiana; treasurer Ron Page, of Houston, Texas; secretary JoAnn Mikell, of Madison; director Carolyn Bost, of Madison; and executive director Katy Pacelli, of Jackson.

“They say teachers are difference-makers,” Brewer told her donors. “That’s true. But you all are difference-makers too. You’ve made a difference in my life.

“Throughout my college education, not once have I had to worry about being able to buy my books or pay my tuition. I’ve never wondered if I’d be able to pay off student loans because I have don’t have any. Because of you, I did not have to shift my focus from school to work just to pay my bills, and that’s incredible because a lot of my friends cannot say the same thing.”

Kayton Hosket, of French Camp, who earned a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from UM in May, echoed Brewer’s comments.

“The investment of the Kelly Cook Foundation in my education has been a life-altering blessing,” she said. “I am grateful for your support of me as a student and a young professional.

“The members of the Cook Foundation have been personable and interested in my life over the past eight years. Your generosity has opened the door for learning opportunities that will be used to impact students and educators both locally and nationally.”

Likewise, Savannah Fairley, of Lucedale, told donors she never imagined how much having the Cook Scholarship would change her life.

“The support from the Kelly Gene Cook Foundation allowed me to devote my efforts to better my mind,” said Fairley, who graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in biological science. “It afforded me the opportunity to spend summers in Germany, taking language classes, and winter breaks doing research in a medicinal chemistry lab, rather than working to make sure I could pay for the books I would need for the upcoming semester.

“I was able to find my passions and dive into them. I was able to network and make connections with some truly amazing people. Being a Cook Scholar gave me the ability to get the most out of my university experience and I will forever be grateful. Thank you so much for the life-changing work that you do.”

The Cook Scholarship is open to entering freshmen from Mississippi who have scored at least a 24 on the ACT and have a GPA of 3.5 or higher. They also must have proven financial need and academic ability.

Rochelle, Cook’s niece, said her uncle was very proud of the way his foundation selected scholars and subsequently offered them stewardship and mentorship.

“He often said our youth are our most precious natural resource and that we should take care of them,” she recalled. “Of course, we want our students to be happy in their fields of study and to become successful members of our society.

“We have been very proud of our Ole Miss students and have had many graduate in various occupations. We also look forward to continuing our partnership with Ole Miss – a partnership that offers scholars donors who keep in touch with them and help them mature into self-assured individuals who graduate with no measurable debt.”

For more information about the Cook Scholarship, go to https://scholarsapp.com/scholarship/kelly-gene-cook-foundation-scholarships/.

Ten UM Freshmen Receive Omicron Delta Kappa Awards

Honor society recognizes outstanding young leaders and community servants

This year’s recipients of the Omicron Delta Kappa Freshman Leader Awards are (back row, from left) Kneeland Gammill, of Memphis; Nicholas Crasta, of Vicksburg; Abby Johnston and Harrison McKinnis, both of Madison; (front row, from left) Bridget McMillan, of Long Beach; Asia Harden, of Greenville; Margaret Baldwin, of Birmingham, Alabama; Swetha Manivannan, of Collierville, Tennessee; and Ariel Williams, of Waynesboro. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Ten University of Mississippi freshmen have been named recipients of Omicron Delta Kappa’s Freshman Leadership Awards.

The annual ODK Freshman Leadership Awards, which identify outstanding freshman leaders and community servants, were presented at the organization’s annual induction ceremony in April. Previous recipients have gone on to serve in roles such as Associated Student Body president and Student Activities Association director, and to be inducted into the university’s student Hall of Fame.

This year’s recipients of the ODK Freshman Leadership Awards are: Margaret Baldwin, of Birmingham, Alabama; Nicholas Crasta, of Vicksburg; Jacob Fanning, of Philadelphia; Kneeland Gammill, of Memphis; Asia Harden, of Greenville; Abby Johnston, of Madison; Swetha Manivannan, of Collierville, Tennessee; Harrison McKinnis, of Madison; Bridget McMillan, of Long Beach; and Ariel Williams, of Waynesboro.

“We created this award in 2010 to recognize the future leaders on our campus and to encourage their continued engagement in campus and community activities,” said Ryan Upshaw, ODK adviser and assistant dean for student services in the School of Engineering. “Each year, the selection process becomes more difficult as the university attracts student leaders from all over the country.

“Our society is excited to be able to recognize their outstanding contributions during their first year on campus. We also look forward to their potential membership in our society later in their college career.”

McKinnis, a chemical engineering major and graduate of Madison Central High School, said he is honored to be a recipient of the award.

“I was very excited when I found out I would receive this award,” McKinnis said. “To be recognized alongside such talented student leaders is truly an honor. I hope more than anything that my actions here on campus will make the lives of students more enjoyable and that they will see Ole Miss with the same love that I do.”

Baldwin, a chemistry major, is a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, where she received the Parker Memorial Scholarship. As an incoming freshman, she attended the MPOWER Leadership Conference, and she is a member of the Student Activities Association, Ole Miss Running Club and the Baptist Student Union.

Crasta, a Provost Scholar, is studying biology and political science. He attended the MPOWER Leadership Conference and served as a legislative aide for the Associated Student Body Senate. He is a member of Men of Excellence, the Black Student Union and Lambda Sigma. He is serving as an orientation leader this summer.

A biology and political science major, Fanning is a Provost Scholar and member of the Chancellor’s Leadership Class. He serves on the Ole Miss Mock Trial Team and is a member of ASB Freshman Forum. He is serving as an orientation leader this summer.

Gammill, a business and public policy leadership major, is a Provost Scholar and member of the Center for Manufacturing Excellence and the Lott Leadership Institute. He is a member of ASB Freshman Forum, the Ole Miss Cycling Team, Alpha Lambda Delta and Lambda Sigma.

Harden is a member of the Honors College and is studying integrated marketing communication. She attended the MPOWER Leadership Conference and is a member of ASB Freshman Council. She was a team leader for the Big Event and is a staff writer for the Ole Miss yearbook and a member of the Chancellor’s Leadership Class and Lambda Sigma.

A member of the Honors College, Johnston is studying public policy leadership as part of the Lott Leadership Institute and the Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program. She is an ASB senator and an ambassador for the Lott Institute. She also serves as a pre-college programs counselor for the Office of Outreach and a member of the Chancellor’s Leadership Class.

Manivannan is an international studies and Spanish major as part of the Honors College and Croft Institute. She serves as secretary of the Residential College Cabinet and the UM Collegiate DECA chapter. She is also a member of the Model United Nations team, the Indian Students Association and the ASB Freshman Council.

McKinnis is a member of the Honors College and the recipient of the Stamps Foundation Scholarship. He attended the MPOWER Leadership conference and is a member of the ASB Freshman Council, Lambda Sigma and the Chancellor’s Leadership Class. He is serving as an orientation leader this summer.

An accounting major, McMillan is a member of the Honors College and the Center for Manufacturing Excellence, where she serves on the Student Advisory Board. She attended the MPOWER Leadership Conference and serves on the ASB Freshman Council.

Williams is pursuing a degree in biomedical engineering as part of the Honors College. She is a member of ASB Freshman Council and Alpha Epsilon Delta, and participated in RebelTHON and the Big Event. She is serving as an orientation leader this summer.

Omicron Delta Kappa is a 104-year-old leadership honor society that has initiated more than 300,000 members since its founding. The society has more than 285 active chapters at colleges and universities across the United States.

14 Educators Join 10th Class of UM Principal Corps

Elite K-12 leadership program attracts teachers from across Mississippi

Fourteen educators from across the state make up the 10th cohort of the Principal Corps. They are (from left) Chanda Jenkins, Suzanne Cain, Kristin Walters, Jamey Germany, Luke Daniels, Liza Hadden, Luke Daniels, Precious Malembeka, Matthew Magee, Megan Duff, Kama Smith, Dana Maharrey, Jamie Tiblier, Miranda Bishop and Katie Gilbert. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – Fourteen educators from across Mississippi make up the 10th cohort of the Principal Corps, the University of Mississippi’s elite program in K-12 educational leadership.

Over the past decade, the program has produced 107 graduates, nearly 90 percent of whom are serving in leadership roles in school districts in Mississippi and beyond.

In June, the group gathered for the first time at UM to begin the 13-month program. The Principal Corps program comprises both graduate course work in educational leadership and two full-time internships during the fall and spring semesters, which allow recruits to gain hands-on leadership experience under the supervision of experienced mentors.

The 10th class of the Principal Corps includes Miranda Bishop of the Jackson County School District, Suzanne Cain of the Newton County School District, Luke Daniels of the Petal School District, Katherine Gilbert of the Pascagoula School District, Megan Duff of the Okolona School District, Jamey Germany of the Lauderdale County School District, Lisa Hadden of the Rankin County School District, Chander Jenkins of the South Pike School District, Matthew Magee of the George County School District, Dana Maharrey and Kama Smith of the Tupelo Public School District, Precious Malembeka of Jackson Public Schools, Jaimie Tiblier of the Biloxi School District and Kristin Walters of the Laurel Public School District.

Many Principal Corps recruits will complete their internships near their home school district. Internship placements are located across the state. During the academic year, Principal Corps participants come to Oxford for course work one week each month.

Smith, a 14-year English teacher at Tupelo High School, was attracted to the Principal Corps after seeing a colleague complete the program last year. She plans to complete her internships in the Tupelo Public School District and hopes to move into an assistant principal position after graduation next summer.

“The Principal Corps experience so far has been both exhausting and rewarding,” Smith said. “I say exhausting because the expectations are high and we are pushed to become better every day. But the reward of gaining so much knowledge from such experienced, intelligent instructors and knowing I will become an effective administrator outweighs the exhaustion.”

Graduates will earn either a Master of Education or Specialist in Education degree in educational leadership from UM. This degree, along with passing the School Leaders Licensure Assessment, will qualify them for a school administrator’s license.

The Principal Corps offers one of the most valuable leadership scholarships in the country. All cohort members receive full tuition, books and housing while at Ole Miss.

Besides earning an advanced degree in educational leadership, graduates receive a $10,000 bonus from the program upon accepting a principal or assistant principal job in a Mississippi public school and beginning work. Each graduate makes a five-year commitment to stay in Mississippi.

Magee, an English teacher from George County’s Star Academy dropout prevention program, also was attracted to the program after seeing a co-worker go through the Principal Corps.

“After learning of the opportunity to complete a yearlong internship, I was hooked,” he said. “I want to move into leadership to reach more students and advance their overall education. I have seen too many children overlooked, and I am ready to make a difference.”

The new cohort members have impressive credentials and diverse educational backgrounds. Many hold advanced degrees, national board certifications and have already taken a leadership role within their schools.

Before being accepted into the program, all recruits must receive an endorsement from their superintendents.

Daniels, a sixth-grade math teacher from Petal, was attracted to the program because it will allow him to complete his internships within his home school district, where he hopes to move into a leadership role after graduation.

“I have seen firsthand the impact of effective school leadership,” he said. “While early in my career I was turned off to the idea of a job in administration because of a perceived lack of direct contact with students, the more I have learned about the actual job of principal, the more I have realized that I was mistaken.

“While a principal is rarely leading a classroom of 25 students in learning, the impact and influence is still there.”

The Principal Corps was established in 2009 with funding from the Jim and Donna Barksdale Foundation. The program is also supported with funding from the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation in Jackson.

Seven Inducted into School of Education Alumni Hall of Fame

Ole Miss graduates honored for teaching, service and leadership

Tom Meredith (left), Sidney Henderson, Deborah McKinney, Kathleen Grigsby, Sylvia Ferguson, Bob Ferguson, Pam Smith and Ellen Shelton. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Education recently inducted seven Mississippians into the fourth class of its Alumni Hall of Fame.

Collectively, this year’s inductees have committed more than 240 years to improving education from preschool through college in Mississippi and across the nation.

The 2018 inductees include Kathleen Grigsby of Jackson, Thomas C. Meredith of Oxford, Ellen Shelton of Oxford, Pamela Smith of Jackson and the late Dorothy Henderson of Oxford. Tupelo residents Bob and Sylvia Ferguson, co-winners of the school’s Outstanding Service Award, were also honored during the ceremony on campus in May.

The School of Education Alumni Advisory Board selected honorees from nominations submitted earlier this year.

“Each of our Hall of Fame recipients is a model for our current students and alumni to emulate,” said David Rock, UM education dean. “With over two centuries of dedicated service among them, they represent the vast impact that educators can make over the course of their careers.”

Grigsby, the youngest person to be inducted into the education school’s Alumni Hall of Fame with 20 years of service, received both her bachelor’s degree in education in 1998 and her master’s degree in 1999 from UM.

She is the principal of Barack Obama IB Elementary School, formerly known as Davis Magnet IB Elementary School in Jackson, Mississippi. The A-rated International Baccalaureate elementary school was the top-ranked elementary school in all of Mississippi in 2017.

“I still can’t articulate how much being inducted into the Hall of Fame means to me,” Grigsby said. “I’m grateful and thankful to everyone who selected me to be honored.”

Grigsby has a track record of transforming low-performing schools. She previously led Marshall Elementary School in Jackson from an F-rated school to a C-rated school in three years as principal.

Meredith, who has served more than 46 years in higher education, earned his doctorate from the School of Education in 1971.

Meredith progressed in roles throughout his career including high school teacher, high school principal, professor, vice chancellor of the University of Mississippi, president of Western Kentucky University, chancellor of the University of Alabama system, chancellor of the University of Georgia system and commissioner of higher education for Mississippi’s eight public universities.

“It’s a great honor,” Meredith said. “It is special to be honored by this school, but I’m more honored to just be recognized by this place because it is so special to me.”

Shelton, who is director of pre-college programs within the UM Division of Outreach and Continuing Education at Ole Miss, received a master’s degree in 1994 and a doctorate in 2000 from the School of Education.

Shelton is administrator of the online University of Mississippi High School, which has grown from 60 to 1,500 students in recent years. She has also served as an instructor at both high school and collegiate levels in past 26 years. In her role at UM, she has also mentored hundreds of K-12 Mississippi teachers through the UM Writing Project.

“I’m overwhelmed by this incredible honor,” Shelton said. “I hope I’m giving back a fraction of what I have been given by the School of Education.”

Smith, a longtime member of UM’s Education Alumni Advisory Board, earned her doctorate in higher education from UM in 2001. In 2004, she led the Mississippi Council on Economic Education as president for six years, increasing funding by more than 400 percent and teacher training by more than 250 percent.

She also served in several roles with the Board of Trustees of the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, including chief public affairs officer.

Her husband, Jerome Smith, was inducted into the charter class of the Alumni Hall of Fame in 2015.

“I’m extremely humbled to be inducted into the Hall of Fame,” Smith said. “I’m so thankful for this award. I hope to continue to do my part for the School of Education.”

Henderson, who died in 2015, is being inducted posthumously by special provision. She was the first full-time African-American to serve as a faculty member in the history of the UM School of Education.

She became a UM faculty member in 1978 and retired in 1998. With 43 years in public education, she began her career as a grade school teacher in Mississippi and Tennessee before settling down in Oxford. Henderson’s family accepted the award at the ceremony on her behalf.

“It is an honor to have my mother inducted into the Hall of Fame,” said Deborah McKinney, Henderson’s daughter. “It’s an accumulation of everything my family has stood for. We’re very thankful and very grateful that she is being honored.”

The Fergusons, who have collectively dedicated more than 66 years to public education as teachers, coaches, principals and superintendents, received the Outstanding Service Award, which is a special recognition allowing UM to honor noneducation alumni.

After retiring in 1997, the couple established the Tri-County Educational Foundation in 2000, which is funded by charitable bingo operations in the northeast corner of the state. The foundation has donated almost $12 million – providing scholarships to 3,000 students at 33 different schools and almost $2 million to 114 Ole Miss students.

“I’m so flattered to be honored with this award, especially considering all of the people we are being honored alongside,” Sylvia Ferguson said.

“In my career, I have always been the one honoring people and acknowledging their success, so this is a little different for me to be the one being honored,” Bob Ferguson said. “We do appreciate the recognition though, even though that’s not what we do it for, but it certainly is appreciated.”

The previous Alumni Hall of Fame inductees include Suzie Adcock, Jahnae Barnett, Cecil Brown, Thomas Burke, Robert Depro, Laura Dunn Jolly, Robert Khayat, Milton Kuykendall, Carole Lynn Meadows, Judith Reynolds, Jean Shaw, Jerome Smith, Cathy Stewart and Theopolis Vinson.

 

 

UM School of Education Honors 2018 Practitioners of Distinction

Four education alumni recognized for providing exemplary service

Patrick Wilcher (left), LaTonya Robinson, Kevin Allemand and Whitman Smith. Submitted Photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Education recently honored four alumni as 2018 Practitioners of Distinction.

This is the second year UM’s education school has recognized Practitioners of Distinction, early-to-mid-career professionals who have demonstrated measurable and positive service in education. The UM Education Alumni Advisory Board selected honorees from nominations submitted earlier this year.

The 2018 honorees are Kevin Allemand, a teacher at Hancock High School in Kiln; LaTonya Robinson, principal of Green Hill Elementary School in Sardis; Whitman Smith, director of admissions at the University of Mississippi in Oxford; and Patrick Wilcher, a mathematics instructor at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in Gulfport.

“We call them the Practitioners of Distinction awards to recognize early-to-mid-career impact performers, providing exemplary service in the field of education,” said David Rock, UM education dean.

Allemand received his bachelor’s degree in education from UM in 2005. He is completing his 13th year at Hancock High School teaching U.S. government, economics, Mississippi studies, world history, geography, ACT preparation and advanced placement U.S. government and politics.

He distinguished himself as an exemplary alumnus by creating an undergraduate-level research seminar on the American civil rights movement and instituting a “Look Around Mississippi” trip for students. The event is a four-day trek across 20 Mississippi towns and cities to see firsthand antebellum, Civil War, civil rights, musical and literary landmarks.

“I come to Ole Miss close to 10 times a year from the Mississippi Gulf Coast,” Allemand said. “It still feels like home every time. Being honored by the School of Education is almost like your family saying you have made them proud.”

Robinson received her bachelor’s degree in education from UM in 1998 and her master’s degree in 1999 and is in UM’s Doctor of Education in educational leadership program. She began as an elementary school teacher early in her career and then advanced to become an award-winning principal at Oxford Elementary School and Della Davidson Elementary School in Oxford.

She was named the district’s Administrator of the Year in 2016, the same year her school was in the No. 1 ranked school district in the state.

In 2017, she began as principal of Green Hill Elementary School in Sardis, a D-rated school that she hopes to transform into a high-performing school through her exemplary leadership skills.

“Being honored by this award has been overwhelming,” Robinson said. “It’s amazing. You don’t really expect to be doing something that other people pay attention to. I have just been doing what is right and doing it for the children. I’m very humbled.”

Smith, UM director of admissions, received his bachelor’s degree in education in 1989 and his master’s degree in higher education in 1994 from UM.

During his tenure, he has led record application, admission and enrollment growth, and conceptualized and implemented the new student convocation at the university.

“I’m humbled and floored and still surprised that I have been honored by this award,” Smith said. “There are so many people that are School of Education alums who have very accomplished careers. It means that somebody feels that I represent the University of Mississippi and the School of Education that other people can look to as an example. It’s a huge deal.”

Wilcher received his bachelor’s degree in 2003 and his master’s degree in 2004 from UM. He has been a mathematics instructor at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College since 2006.

While he was an undergraduate at Ole Miss, the UM faculty named him Outstanding Student in Mathematics Education, and he was later honored as Outstanding Master’s Student in Secondary Education. Wilcher also served as a basketball coach for 10 years, but then decided to devote his career full time to teaching in 2016.

“I’m not sure if there’s anything more special than being honored by your alma mater,” Wilcher said. “It’s very humbling that after 14 years, I still mean something around here – especially in education because we kind of have to be the unsung heroes a lot.”

The School of Education Practitioners of Distinction award was established in 2017. Its charter class included Shelley Clifford of Atlanta, Jessica Ivy of Starkville, Jay Levy of Canton and Wanikka Vance of Chicago.

 

 

Grenada Graduate Earns UM Student Teacher of the Year Award

School of Education recognizes Mary Courtney Self for outstanding work

Mary Courtney Self of Grenada (left) is honored by UM education Dean David Rock with the 2018 Robert W. Plants Student Teacher of the Year Award. Self worked this spring as a student teacher in Diane Brewer’s first-grade class at Grenada Elementary School. UM photo by Bill Dabney

GRENADA, Miss. – Mary Courtney Self, of Grenada, was caught off-guard when her name was called for a special award during the University of Mississippi at Grenada’s annual graduation celebration earlier this spring.

“I was shocked,” Self said. “I had no idea I was being considered for this honor.”

During the evening’s program, Karen Davidson-Smith, assistant clinical professor of education, announced Self as the recipient of the 2018 Robert W. Plants Outstanding Student Teacher of the Year award. She was chosen for the award from hundreds of senior education majors graduating from five different Ole Miss campuses.

“Mary Courtney excelled at every opportunity to make and extend connections between teaching theory and teaching practices,” Davidson-Smith said. “She used a variety of teaching methods and techniques this semester that helped her students learn in the ways that suited each student best.”

The annual award is named for longtime UM faculty member Robert W. Plants, a former chair of the curriculum and instruction department. Each year the School of Education recognizes an exceptional student who stood out during their semester-long student-teaching practicum with the award.

“Ever since I was little, I knew I wanted to be a teacher,” Self said. “I felt like my instructors were invested in me and my future, and I wanted to do the same for others.”

While student teaching and completing classes at the University of Mississippi at Grenada, Self also was caring for her 2-year-old daughter, Sawyer Grace. Submitted photo

Self graduated from Grenada High School in 2013 and enrolled at Holmes Community College’s Grenada campus. In fall 2014, she took a break from her studies and spent a semester working in the Disney College Program at Walt Disney World in Florida.

“I wanted to have an experience,” she said. “I worked at different restaurants and had the opportunity to meet a lot of different people from all over the world.”

Upon her return to Mississippi, Self enrolled in the junior year of the Bachelor of Elementary Education program at the university’s Grenada regional campus.

“Going to UM-Grenada was the best thing for my daughter and myself,” she said.

Diane Brewer, a teacher at Grenada Lower Elementary for more than 20 years, served as the lead teacher and clinical instructor in the first-grade class where Self interned this spring.

“Mary Courtney has the natural instincts to be a great teacher,” Brewer said. “She would see a few students lagging behind in a concept we were teaching, and she would spend the extra time working with them until they understood.”

Self said she will be fulfilling her lifelong dream when she begins teaching sixth-grade English at Grenada Middle School this fall.

“I’m not just teaching English and grammar,” Self said. “I’m helping to mold students into the people they are going to become.”