Innovation is a tenet to every area of study at the Mississippi University for Women.

Those new ideas are intertwined in everything The W’s School of Education does from early childhood through post-graduation in a complete lifelong model of education. In October, the announcement of the School of Education’s partnership with the Columbus Municipal School District (CMSD) provided another example of how The W is melding innovation and outreach with its comprehensive mission to help prepare and nurture teachers.

Dr. Martin Hatton, dean of The W’s School of Education, said the project will transform the former campus of Hunt Intermediate School in Columbus into a Blended Learning Academy at the Hunt Experience Center and will focus on technology-assisted learning and educators through the Professional Learning Academy of The W’s Office of Outreach and Innovation.

Dr. LabatDr. Cherie Labat said the collaboration will include onsite mentorship and support particularly for teaching assistants who are interested in skills development and teaching degree completion. The W also will provide support for well-qualified high school seniors who are interested in becoming teachers. The Teacher Academy format will allow for high school, dual-enrollment in two initial education courses, ED 297 Technology in the Classroom and ED 300 Education as a Profession, with onsite mentorship and support for dual enrollment for students who may have course-specific questions or questions about college in general.

“The goal is to provide these learning opportunities with corresponding mentorship and support beginning in the fall of 2022,” Labat said. “The foundation of the program is based upon a model of learning that blends online flexibility in course content delivery options with on-site instructional support and mentorship in a high-impact, experiential learning environment where students and educational mentors engage in collaborative problem-solving in an environment, an ‘Experience Center.’ This innovative learning environment will encourage the connection and attachment among individuals and the goals, mission and value set by the CMSD and Mississippi University for Women.”

Labat said The W also proposes the development of a stackable multidisciplinary certificate skills development program through its Professional Learning Academy that may lead to a three-credit hour college course in Blended Learning.

Labat praised W President Nora Miller and Dr. Hatton for their work on the CMSD Redevelopment Committee. She said the Hunt Facility will have viable college and career preparation options and opportunities for students and community members and that the collaboration between The W and the CMSD was based on need, strategic focus and innovation.

REACHING INTO LOWNDES COUNTY

The W’s collaboration with the CMSD is one example of its work to help alleviate the shortage of teachers in the state of Mississippi. The School of Education also has developed a strong partnership with the Lowndes County School District, which oversees eight elementary, middle and high schools that serve nearly 60,000 people.

Wes Carlisle, principal of New Hope Elementary School, said his school has welcomed residency students and those in their student teaching semester into his school’s classrooms. He said New Hope Elementary has seen the immediate benefit from the partnership as the future educators working alongside his school’s teachers to provide quality instruction to the students.

“Our students are benefiting not only from the additional set of hands in the classroom but also from hands-on experiential learning.

Dr. Hatton“This partnership is, for our students, about ‘creating future educators’ who are engaging education evolving via technology and shaped distinctly by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Hatton said.

Dr. Cherie Labat, superintendent of CMSD, said the collaboration will offer courses in a variety of modalities that will include synchronous online, asynchronous online and onsite experiential STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) learning for students, online professional development opportunities and continuing education units (CEUs) for CMSD faculty and regional any new and innovative ideas and instructional supports these future educators might bring with them,” Carlisle said. “Additionally, this partnership has allowed us to take note of future teaching candidates. These candidates get the opportunity to see how day-to-day operations are run in our school.”

Carlisle said several new teachers who made their way through The W’s School of Education and had spent time at New Hope Elementary while earning their degree/teaching license were recently hired to join his staff. He anticipates that trend to continue as there are currently more than 20 residency students and those in their student teaching semester this fall working alongside veteran teachers in the classroom. Carlisle said those future educators are benefitting from vital, first-hand experience they will be able to utilize as they continue toward their teaching careers.

“New Hope Elementary has truly benefited from this partnership, and we look forward to continuing the relationship with the MUW School of Education,” Carlisle said.

Dr. Shelley Bock, interim chair of The W’s School of Education, said the school’s education department has had a long history of partnerships with local city and county school systems.

She said the mutually beneficial relationships with the schools provide highquality clinical experiences for The W’s teacher candidates through secondary education major’s field hours and early childhood and elementary education major’s residency courses.

“The residency courses are unique in that the teacher candidates are all placed in a partnership school as a cohort as well as the MUW professor being ‘in residence’ at the school location to teach the course and coach the teacher candidates,” Bock said.

“The partnership schools get a firsthand look at soon-to-be graduates who are looking for teaching jobs. A large population of our teacher candidates are placed in the local schools for their final internship semester. Faculty also provide service to schools in a variety of professional capacities.”

EXTENDING THE W’S INFLUENCE

Rose Ford’s versatility makes her a natural fit at The W.

Rose Ford In addition to being in her second year as an instructor at the School of Education, Ford is The W’s Jumpstart Site Coordinator. In fact, she was instrumental in working with Dr. Monica Riley, Dr. Angela Rutherford and Ms. Olivia Morgan from the University of Mississippi to help The W partner with Ole Miss as the second university in the state to bring Jumpstart to the South.

Jumpstart is a national early education organization that has been recruiting and training college students and community volunteers to work with preschool children in under-resourced neighborhoods for 25 years. Since 1993, Jumpstart has trained more than 50,000 college students and community volunteers to transform the lives of over 123,000 preschool children nationwide.

Jumpstart’s program is replicated across the country in 14 states and the District of Columbia. Ole Miss, The W and the University of Southern Mississippi currently are the only Jumpstart programs in the state.

Jumpstart is in its sixth year at The W. Ford, who is in her fourth year coordinating the Jumpstart program, said that is important because the MUW Jumpstart Corps members have the unique opportunity to inspire young children to learn, to serve in our local community, to collaborate with others in a team and to build professional and leadership skills.

“All Corps members receive high-quality training to help them implement Jumpstart’s outcome-based program, promote children’s school success and build family involvement,” Ford said. “MUW’s Jumpstart program provides language, literacy and social-emotional programming for preschool children from under-resourced communities and promotes quality early learning for all children.”

Ford said that work is vital because studies have shown that children in under resourced or low-income neighborhoods start kindergarten 60% behind their peers from more affluent communities. She said research shows that when children start behind they tend to stay behind. As a result, a child who isn’t reading at grade level by the end of third grade is three times more likely to drop out of high school.

Ford added a recent comparison study found Jumpstart children make 1.5 times greater gains in important literacy skills compared to those who don’t receive the Jumpstart program.

“MUW’s Jumpstart program has recruited and trained over 80 college students to serve over 200 pre-school aged children throughout our Columbus community,” said Ford, who received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from The W in 2005 and a master of literacy from the school in 2007. “We have partnered with West Lowndes Elementary School, The Assembly Kids Academy and MUW’s Child & Parent Development Center to help these 3- to 5-year-olds develop the language and literacy skills they need to be ready for school. Our MUW students serve as Jumpstart Corps members and AmeriCorps members for a full year – committing to 300 service hours in the fall and spring semesters. Upon program completion, the students earn an educational award (approximately $1,200).”