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.”

‘Grandma’s Tiny House’ Wins 2018 CELI Read Aloud Book Award

Teachers collaborate to pick winner of children's book award

Sarah Siebert reads the 2018 CELI Read Aloud Book, ‘Grandma’s Tiny House,’ to children at Willie Price Lab School at UM. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – “Grandma’s Tiny House,” a children’s book about a colossal family gathering set in a tiny old house, is the 2018 winner of the University of Mississippi’s 2018 CELI Read Aloud Book Award.

Given annually by the UM Center for Excellence in Literacy Instruction, the award honors books written for children ages 3 to 10. Established in 2010, this is the eighth time the award has been given by CELI, a center that provides support for Mississippi reading teachers.

“‘Grandma’s Tiny House’ is a diverse picture book that can be read aloud to children over and over again,” said Angie Caldwell, CELI literacy specialist who supervises the award process. “It’s a book that tells the story of a family celebration.”

Written by JaNay Brown-Wood, an author and educator in Sacramento, California, this year’s winner was selected from numerous titles, which were given to teachers in north Mississippi schools, including UM’s Willie Price Lab School. The finalists for this year’s award were read to more than 100 north Mississippi children this spring.

“This is a wonderful book for children,” said Shelly Embrey, librarian at Senatobia Elementary School. The rhyme and rhythm made it an excellent read-aloud book and the illustrations were inviting to the students and myself.”

Written from the perspective of a child staying with her grandmother on the day of a large family dinner, the book utilizes rhyming and counting to list the numerous friends and family members as they arrive at the little house and what they bring to the potluck-style gathering. As dozens cram into Grandma’s tiny house, the group must become resourceful to host the massive event.

“We loved reading ‘Grandma’s Tiny House’ in our classroom,” said Sarah Siebert, Willie Price teacher. “Any book that you can incorporate more than one subject is great. With this book, we had discussions about numbers and how our families are alike and different. 

“We also discussed why this family might be going to Grandma’s house, so our students were able to make predictions. We were so excited to hear it was the 2018 CELI Read Aloud Book Choice.”

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 may be published with the CELI 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.

“Grandma’s Tiny House,” was illustrated by Priscilla Burris and published by Charlesbridge in Watertown, Massachusetts.

UM Introduces Online Graduate Program in Educational Leadership

New curriculum designed for working K-12 teachers

Dennis Bunch coordinates the UM educational leadership program, which has the state’s highest first-time pass rate on the School Leaders Licensure Assessment. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Education is offering a new online graduate program in K-12 educational leadership to offer working teachers throughout Mississippi an opportunity to advance their careers in school leadership.

The online, 18-month program provides teachers a chance to earn either a Master of Education or Specialist in Education degree and will feature a rolling admissions policy, allowing new graduate students to begin their course of study in the fall, spring or summer.

“Ideal candidates would include those teachers with at least three years of classroom experience and the desire to improve education in the state of Mississippi,” said Dennis Bunch, associate professor and coordinator of the program. “The flexibility of the program will allow candidates previously unable to fit the program in to their schedule to enter the program and progress at their pace.”

The school plans to admit 20 new teachers in the program each semester.

“Future K-12 administrators in our state deserve training from highly qualified and experienced educational leaders and professors,” said John Crutchfield, UM assistant professor of educational leadership. “They should also have the chance to network and collaborate with highly impactful peers while completing their degree.

“What we are now doing is adding the ability to access these professors and networks online, regardless of where you live in the state of Mississippi.”

Teachers who graduate from the program and pass the School Leaders Licensure Assessment exam will qualify to apply for an advanced school administrator’s license from the Mississippi Department of Education.

More than 80 percent of graduates from UM’s educational leadership program pass the SLLA exam on the first try, and 98 percent of accepted graduate students finish the program, according to UM data.

The university is keeping its established, face-to-face option in K-12 leadership; however, the expansion into the online market will allow teachers from all corners of the state – and beyond – to enroll in the graduate program.

The 30-credit program is designed to be completed in 18 months. Applicants must hold a current teaching license, have three years of full-time teaching experience and have two letters of recommendation.

Students are required to complete at least two courses per semester throughout the program.

Many Ole Miss educational leadership graduates go directly in to principal or assistant principal positions after graduation. The program places a high priority on accepting teachers who have demonstrated leadership potential and the support of their school administration.

“We want to help the best teachers make that transition into becoming strong school leaders,” said Ryan Niemeyer, chair of the UM Department of Leadership and Counselor Education “Schools play a vital role in the economic development of our state.

“With that in mind, we are developing a program that will help future school leaders make positive changes in their schools no matter where they are.”

For more information about the program, visit http://rebelteacher.com/.

UM Graduate Student Receives Fulbright Award

Higher education major Maria Mulrooney to teach in South Africa

Maria Mulrooney

OXFORD, Miss. – Maria Mulrooney, a University of Mississippi graduate student in higher education, has been selected for the prestigious Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program to serve as an English teaching assistant in South Africa next year.

Mulrooney is among more than 800 students chosen for the program nationwide. The Palm City, Florida, native was selected based on her essay and academic achievements, as well as a record of service and leadership in education.

“I will teach English to either high school or college students for 25 hours a week and help the teachers with instruction and supplemental materials,” she said. “I can also meet with students after class and help them with language development.

“Then, in my spare time I can volunteer through other organizations.”

Mulrooney will learn exactly where she will teach in during a weeklong orientation in June in Washington, D.C. She plans to move to South Africa in January 2019 to begin the yearlong program.

“I’ve worked with Maria in two classes,” said John Holleman, director of graduate studies at the UM School of Education. “I think the class that created her awareness of the Fulbright program was Cultural Context in Education. She contributed a lot to the class. She’s a wonderful student.”

Mulrooney has a lifelong interest in teaching. As an undergraduate at the University of Central Florida, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary education, she taught English as a second language to international students at a local community college.

“It was fun to work with people who were learning English and help them develop language skills,” she said. “So, that made me interested in going abroad, but I knew I wanted to go into higher education, too, so I wanted to get my master’s first.

“The whole time I’ve been attending Ole Miss, I’ve been looking at different teaching abroad programs.”

The Fulbright program was established in 1946 by the U.S. State Department with the intentions of building lasting connections between the people of the United States and other countries. The Fulbright Program has given more than 380,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists and scientists opportunities to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.

Mulrooney plans to teach in K-12 schools in Florida when she returns from South Africa.

“Learning about different cultures and people’s lives is something I love to do,” Mulrooney said. It’s only a year, so I think it’s just the perfect time to learn about a whole new culture that I have never experienced.”

Booneville Student Earns University’s Highest Academic Honor

Tishomingo's Hannah Day awarded UM Taylor Medal

UM Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter congratulates Hannah Day of Tishomingo on being named a Taylor medalist for the 2017-18 academic year. The Taylor Medal is the university’s highest academic award and recognizes fewer than 1 percent of the student body. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Hannah Day, a senior education major from Tishomingo at the University of Mississippi at Booneville, recently was selected to receive the university’s top academic honor as a Taylor medalist for the 2017-18 academic year.

Day was presented her award during the annual Honors Convocation on the Oxford campus.

“I was blown away when I heard that I had received the award,” Day said. “It validates all my hard work and long nights of studying. It was definitely worth it.”

Only the top 1 percent of University of Mississippi students can be awarded the Marcus Elvis Taylor Memorial Medal each year. Recipients must have at least a 3.90 grade-point average and recommendations from faculty members in their field.

Janie Conway, an adjunct instructor in the School of Education, was one of the faculty members who recommended Day for the honor.

“I was happy we had the opportunity to recognize Hannah’s hard work as well as her servant’s heart,” Conway said.

Day graduated from Belmont High School in 2014. She attended Northeast Community College, where she was involved in several organizations before transferring to UM-Booneville.

As a student teacher in a first-grade classroom at Hills Chapel School this spring, Day has worked to form relationships with students to find out more about their learning styles and how to help them be the best students that they can be, she said.

“I have always enjoyed math, and I want to help my students understand and enjoy it as much as I do,” Day said. “Math doesn’t have to be scary if you are given the tools to understand it.”

Conway recalled that Day showed such a passion for helping others grasp the concepts discussed in class that she often was mentoring and encouraging fellow classmates.

“Hannah was an active class participant who also supported the learning of her students and her peers,” Conway said. “I believe her high expectations for herself as an educator will help her future students become successful as well.”

Along with her own classes, Day serves as a youth coordinator and Sunday school teacher at Belmont United Methodist and as a volunteer with the local food bank, Angel Tree Christmas Drive, American Red Cross and the Salvation Army.

“I would hire Hannah without reservation as a teacher in my school,” Conway said. “I am so thankful that we have young people like Hannah to become future teachers and community leaders who truly care about their students.”