Mississippi University for Women’s School of Education will hold its inaugural Teacher Academy Conference from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, Dec. 9, on campus.

“We see this as a high priority task given the state’s critical need for educators,” said Dr. Hope Durst, an assistant professor in the School of Education at The W. “The primary focus of this event is to give students with an interest in education a ‘day in the life’ experience of a student in The W’s School of Education.”

Durst said the goal of the conference is to reach out to area high school students who are interested in becoming educators. Durst said the conference is the brainchild of The W’s School of Education Marketing, Recruitment & Retention Committee, which is made up of Dr. Marty Hatton, the dean of the School of Education; Dr. Bob Fuller, the department chair; herself; Jackson Ellard; Melinda Lowe; Brittany Hunnicutt; Christi Dillon and Karen Partain.

Attendees will interact with faculty, tour campus and go to an information fair to obtain all the pertinent information they may need to consider their future at The W. The School of Education’s ambassadors, who are current undergraduate students, will serve as guides and will be available to answer student questions about life at The W.

Durst said a highlight of the day will be conference sessions that will allow attendees to engage and interact with faculty members in the School of Education. The students also will be able to see the instructional style offered at The W. Durst said the conference will include a tour of the newly renovated Child & Parent Development Center and a chance to examine the plans for the new and improved playground for the School of Education’s Early Childhood program.

“Planning our first Teacher Academy Conference Day has been a joy,” Durst said. “Knowing we can show potential students the type of support and care they get before they even apply to The W is indicative of the priorities of the School of Education.”

The conference will close with a walking tour of campus, lunch in Hogarth Cafeteria and an information session in Pope Room. Cookies and cocoa will be served before the students leave campus.

Durst said the conference will give students “an invaluable opportunity” to envision their career in part through their interactions with new technologies such as Virtual Reality to learn how to safely and effectively implement these in their future classrooms. She said she and the rest of the committee are excited to show the next generation of educators everything The W has to offer to help ensure they have a successful career.

“I think this event will impact The W by revealing to all attendees the beautiful campus and culture of The W,” Durst said. “Because we will have many students attending from outside Lowndes County, this will be many high-schoolers’ first exposure to our campus, so we are focused on showing all of the attendees The W is a special place.”

Dec. 5, 2022
Contact: Adam Minichino
(662) 329-1976

COLUMBUS, Miss.– Melinda Lowe knows the perfect way to give the faculty and staff of Mississippi University for Women’s School of Education (SOE) a lift.

SOE Faculty and Staff
SOE Faculty and Staff

Thanks to the Mississippi Professional Educators Administrator School Grant Program, Lowe was able to implement the Build On Our Strengths Together (BOOST) project, which is designed to create an environment where the SOE faculty and staff feel appreciated for their contributions and their accomplishments.

“As soon as I saw the RFP (Request For Proposal), I started brainstorming multiple ways I thought would be encouraging and meaningful for our School of Education faculty and staff,” said Lowe, who is the director of the Office of Outreach & Innovation. “We often get so busy that we may not take the time to slow down and re-energize as a team. To build on our strengths, we must work together as a team so we can all accomplish the goals that have been set.”

Lowe kicked off the project Tuesday, Aug. 16 to coincide with the SOE’s first departmental meeting of the semester. She said it was amazing to see the response and reaction from her peers. Lowe said adding food to the event brought a little extra happiness.

But Lowe said the idea behind the BOOST project is about much more than having snack time before meeting.

“As educators, recognition for our hard work and dedication is critically important as it fosters continued engagement and validation,” Lowe said. “Whether you’re teaching in preschool to 12th-grade or in a university, work in the last few years has been more challenging than ever. Our faculty and staff have and continue to work very hard to prepare our students to be the best teachers they can be. The importance of their work especially as we face a growing teacher shortage can be a heavy burden, but that is why we must remember we are better together. The BOOST room provides the opportunity to come together to celebrate, re-engage, brainstorm, challenge, celebrate and prepare to be our best for our students.”

The Mississippi Professional Educators Administrator School Grant Program provides grants up to $1,000 to administrators (PK-12 public and private school administrators, school district-level administrators, and Institute of Higher Learning (IHL) or community college dean or department chair who is an active MPE member) to motivate, inspire, reward and encourage teachers and staff. The grants are intended to provide funding for projects that boost morale and celebrate the accomplishments of a school’s teachers and staff.

Lowe said the timing to implement her idea was perfect considering The W has relaxed COVID restrictions and the SOE has been conducting an intensive program review for the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). Lowe said the CAEP self-study created an abundance of stress in the SOE team and that she is glad the BOOST project could provide a welcome respite and showing of support and encouragement.

“Appreciation and recognition efforts do not have to be costly,” Lowe said. “Simply changing the meeting environment can make a big difference. We transformed the conference room for our meeting into a space filled with encouraging words and interactive affirmation walls.”

Lowe said messages like “We don’t do average – We do aWesome!” and “You are appreciated S’more than you know!” will be on display from 1-3 p.m. the first Tuesday of every month when the SOE faculty and staff come together in EDHS room 217.

Not only will each meeting have a theme, but there will be BOOST activities to help foster team-building, a Zen Zone for self-care and brain breaks, birthday recognition and snacks and beverages provided.

The next BOOST meeting will be Sept. 6. Its theme will be “No matter how the cookie crumbles, we have the best faculty and staff!” Cookies will be served as part of the event. In October, the theme for the meeting will be “Life is salty, but being a great team is sweet!” In November, the theme will be “You are appreciated S’more than you know!” In December, the theme will be “Proud of the work WE do and the difference WE make!”

“At the end of the day, we all want to feel valued and appreciated,” Lowe said. “In addition to overt recognition, we must use a variety of ways to build a culture of appreciation and gratitude. This can be accomplished with BOOST, and that is what we need now more than ever.”