Teacher Corps Celebrates 30th Anniversary

Retiring co-founder Andy Mullins also to be honored during June 15 alumni reunion

Andy Mullins (standing) addresses members of the 2018 Principal Corps at the University of Mississippi. Mullins, who helped create both the Mississippi Teacher Corps and Principal Corps, is retiring after 49 years of involvement in education. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – Three decades ago, Andrew P. Mullins Jr. accepted the challenge to find and produce more certified teachers for Mississippi’s high-need public schools. Collaborating with Amy Gutman, a journalism student at Harvard University, the then-special assistant to the Mississippi superintendent of education founded the Mississippi Teacher Corps at the University of Mississippi.

Since its inception, the program, housed in the university’s School of Education, has recruited and transformed hundreds of professionals who were certified by the alternate route to teacher certification, which Mullins had put into the Education Reform Act of 1982.

Alumni of the Mississippi Teacher Corps will return to their alma mater June 15 to both celebrate its 30th anniversary and to pay tribute to the man who helped them start new careers. Scheduled events include a reunion luncheon at noon and a retirement banquet for Mullins beginning at 6 p.m. Both events will be in the Gertrude C. Ford Ballroom of The Inn at Ole Miss.

“I’ve been in education for 49 years, 35 of which I’ve been teaching,” said Mullins, who officially retired from UM in 2013 but continued to teach graduate students in the School of Education. He also assists the Teacher Corps and the Mississippi Principal Corps as needed.

“While I will miss my students and collaborating with my colleagues, there comes a time when it’s time to go. I feel like now is that time for me.”

Through the Teacher Corps, Mullins has helped train and place more than 750 teachers, of which 593 have completed the program. They represent 246 different colleges and universities across the United States and Canada, serving in 57 high-need public school districts across the Delta and north Mississippi.

The program, which provides students with an alternate route to licensing/certification, requires graduates to teach in Mississippi for the first two years after completion.

“The Teacher Corps has definitely been a good program for Mississippi and for the University of Mississippi,” Mullins said. “For the last three years, more than 50 percent of the Teacher Corps graduates have remained in Mississippi three to four years.

“As a matter of fact, a member of our inaugural class of 1990 is still teaching in Mississippi.”

Mullins noted that a third of each year’s class has some connection to the state.

“The ones who stayed in the state continued to teach, while others opted to enter other professions yet remain within the state,” he said. “Even if they eventually leave the public schools, 90 percent of our Teacher Corps graduates still remain in education in some capacity. Some go into nonpublic K-12 schools. Others enter higher education.

“And still others have gone to work for education organizations, such as the Mississippi Department of Education, the Museum of Mississippi History, the Lighthouse Black Girls Project of Jackson and the Boys and Girls Club of Oxford, to name a few.”

Mullins remains a legend to many in the education field. He taught high school for eight years, was special assistant to two governors and three state superintendents of education, and as a member of Gov. William Winter’s staff, was one of the “Boys of Spring,” the team that helped engineer the landmark Education Reform Act of 1982.

“Getting to work with Dr. Mullins at the end of his career is an experience I don’t take likely,” said Hunter A. Taylor, a 2006 alumnus, clinical assistant professor and recruiter in the School of Education who coordinated the events.

“There aren’t many times in your life that you get to work side-by-side with a living legend. He’s blessed me and so many others with his wise counsel and mentorship, and I will be forever grateful.”

Mullins said he is really looking forward to seeing some former Teacher Corps veterans again at the celebrations. And while he may be retiring from teaching, don’t expect him to disappear.

“I’m definitely planning to continue serving on some of the committees and projects I’ve been a part of to this point,” he said. “These include the Principals Corps, the Committee on Campus Contextualization, securing donations for the University Libraries’ Archives and Special Collections and reviewing the applications for various scholarships in the Honors College.”

Among those scheduled to give remarks during the luncheon are Interim Chancellor Larry Sparks, education Dean David Rock and alumni Joseph Sweeney (2004), also director of the Teacher Corps, Mark-Jean Louis and Elizabeth Towle (both 2011), Daniel Hart (2014) and Sandra Carver (2016).

Since joining the Ole Miss administration in 1994, Mullins has worked with three chancellors during a period of significant enrollment growth, dramatic changes in the funding of higher education and the university’s biggest public event ever, the 2008 presidential debate between Barack Obama and the late John McCain.

Registration is limited, but donations to the Teacher Corps in Mullins’ honor can be made at https://umfoundation.givingfuel.com/education?selectFund=00933. In the designation, be sure to place the amount in the “Mississippi Teacher Corps Endowment” section.