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JSU’s College of Education announces inaugural class of first Mississippi Teacher Residency program

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The first 15 students signing admittance letters for JSU’s College of Education and Human Development inaugural Mississippi Teacher Residency program. (Photo by William Kelly III/JSU)

Anthony Howard Byline

 

Jackson State University’s College of Education and Human Development (COEHD) welcomed 15 graduate students into their first Mississippi Teacher Residency (MTR) program this fall. The MTR program aims to prepare educators for teaching in geographical critical shortage areas.

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COEHD Dean Jerri Haynes, Ed.D., congratulates the students selected to participate in the MTR program. (Photo by William Kelly III/JSU)

To celebrate the inaugural group of educators, the COEHD, MDE, and the Jackson Public School District (JPS) celebrated the students’ admittance with a signing day similar to when prospective athletes commit to a sports organization.

“We are excited for you. This is a great opportunity that you’ve taken advantage of, and we want to see you through [by] providing the support you need, coaching, and love you need so that you can be successful in this program and go out and do what you were trained to do—teach all students”, said Jerri Haynes, Ed.D., dean of the COEHD, when she congratulated the signees.

In December 2021, JSU received $2,038,589, a $9.8 million grant from MDE, to address elementary and special education teacher shortages. The program is supported by the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund.

JSU is one of five universities to receive a portion of the $9.8 million in grant awards from MDE in an effort to address elementary and special education teacher shortages. MDE recently expanded the residency program from three to five universities servicing over 20 school districts across the state.

JSU is in partnership with JPS. Each institution is partnered with one or more school districts experiencing critical teacher shortages. The goal is to ensure all Mississippi students have access to licensed, diverse, and effective teachers.

Tommy Nalls, Ed.D., director of Recruitment, describes this opportunity as mutually beneficial for the residents and the district.

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JPS Director of Recruitment Tommy Nalls, Ed.D., talks the residents through their admittance process. (Photo by William Kelly III/JSU)

“Many of our teachers attended Jackson Public Schools, graduated from JPS, then attended Jackson State University. Once they got their bachelor’s degrees in education, many came back to serve in the schools they attended,” Nalls explained. “We want to grow that because who would have a better investment in JPS than people who attended schools in JPS and are from the city of Jackson?”

The MTR program is designed to provide holistic support for aspiring teachers seeking a degree in elementary and special education. Nalls said the MTR program has resulted in JPS certifying 34 teachers in the last four years, simultaneously decreasing vacancies in the district and improving teacher retention. According to Nalls, an estimated 65% of teachers working for JPS have a JSU background.

Upon completion of the residency, the graduate students may earn a master’s degree along with a dual certification in elementary and special education.

Haynes has advocated for teacher residency programs for years during her career in higher education. With school systems nationwide experiencing teacher shortages, she feels these programs are a step toward a viable solution.

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Jonah Thomas signs as the first and only male student admitted into JSU’s MTR program. (Photo by William Kelly III/ JSU)

“We’re talking about innovation in the making expanding internship to one year where students take theory and apply it in a real classroom setting using the gradual release model. We’re talking about school districts taking their challenges in finding qualified teachers and turning them into opportunities where candidates are right there in the school district. It’s unbelievable where we are now in need of qualified teachers and where we can be in the next five years with a pipeline of qualified teachers.  We’re talking about unlimited possibilities, and that’s what we need to stay focused on to eliminate teacher shortages in rural and urban school districts,” Haynes expressed.

JPS currently employs students in the MTR program as educators and more.

Kimberly Armstrong has been working in education for nearly two decades. The aspiring special education teacher said this opportunity has been a godsend for the aspiring special education teacher.

“I want to touch students’ lives, to see them grow and reach their full potential. I’ve always wanted to teach special education. When I saw this, it was my cue to continue to teach special education,” said Armstrong, who is currently a Pre-K teacher at Smith Elementary School.

A teacher at Dawson Elementary School’s Lower Elementary Alternative Placement (LEAP), Jonah Thomas is the first and only male student in JSU’s inaugural MTR program. He decided to follow in his mother’s footsteps to become an educator.

“I would like to return to Provine High School, where I attended school and teach economics and coach football on the side, and this program places me in a great position to achieve my goal. We can earn our master’s in a year without going into debt along with the other materials they are paying for. I’m glad I was able to get into the program,” shared Thomas.

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Smith Elementary School Pre-k teacher Kimberly Armstrong (Center) smiles as she and two other teacher residents show off their signing day caps. (Photo by William Kelly III/ JSU)

 Media contact: Anthony.j.howard@jsums.edu