Teacher Assistant Program

Program Overview

Are you currently a teacher’s assistant? If so, you know what it takes to lead a K-6 classroom. In fact, you have probably thought about leading your own classroom one day. The fully online Teacher Assistant Program (TAP) at The University of Southern Mississippi is designed specifically to support you to achieve that goal.  It offers you a convenient pathway to earning a Bachelor of Science degree and becoming a certified teacher while continuing your job as a teacher assistant.

The online TAP program at Southern Miss meets the unique educational needs of teacher assistants who desire to advance their knowledge and skills and become exemplary, licensed teachers. Students enrolled in the TAP program have the opportunity to complete all or part of their coursework online with highly qualified and dedicated university faculty. The exciting and innovative curriculum includes opportunities to apply new knowledge and skills through clinical experiences that are completed while you are engaged in your day-to-day responsibilities as a teacher assistant.

Teacher education students at Southern Miss enjoy a unique teacher education program that is characterized by:

  • Emphasis on Technology – Students integrate current technology in teaching to actively engage their students and improve student learning outcomes.
  • Clinical Experience – Students apply their knowledge and skills in K-6 classrooms throughout the two-year teacher education program.
  • Strong Literacy Foundation – Students develop skills through literacy coursework to effectively teach reading and graduate with  a reading endorsement, and 
  • National Accreditation – Students benefit from a teacher education program recognized for quality and performance through continuous NCATE/CAEP accreditation since 1954.

Students enrolled in the TAP program at Southern Miss can choose to major in Elementary Education or Special Education. Graduates of the Elementary Education program are eligible to become certified teachers for grades K-6 with a reading endorsement and the choice of an endorsement in Math K-8, Math 9-12, Science, Social Studies, Foreign Language, or English. Graduates of the Special Education program are eligible to become certified teachers for grades K-12 with certification in mild/moderate disabilities.

TAP Program Design

If you are employed as a teacher assistant in a public or private school accredited by the Mississippi State Department of Education, you may qualify for our program. The following information is provided to clarify program requirements based on your employment:

  • If you are employed as a teacher assistant in an elementary classroom at an approved school, you may complete your clinical lab experiences and student teaching (with district approval) in your classroom at your school.
  • If you are employed as a teacher assistant in any setting other than an elementary classroom (e.g., special education classroom, middle school or high school classroom, computer laboratory, library, etc.), you will complete your clinical lab experiences and student teaching at an approved elementary school classroom.
  • If you are employed as a teacher assistant in a state other than Mississippi, you will be responsible for verifying that your program of study meets your state’s licensure requirements.  While we do not guarantee to meet the licensure requirements of other states, the TAP Program Coordinator will be happy to discuss differing requirements.
  • USM teacher candidates in good academic standing who wish to transition between the TAP and traditional program may join either program at any time throughout their course of study as long as all program and university requirements are satisfied and departmental consent is granted.  Typically these decisions should be made before the university drop date.
  • Continuous employment as a teacher assistant in an approved school is required throughout the program.

Curriculum Plans of Study

The charts below outline routine plans of study for TAP students enrolled in the Elementary Education or Special Education degree programs. All TAP students are required to submit transcripts to the TAP Program Coordinator for review prior to their first advisement meeting. This will allow you and your academic advisor to effectively and collaboratively plan your program of study, semester by semester. Please note the courses must be taken in the rotation indicated in the chart and will not be offered in other semesters.

Our degree planners show you the requirements for each TAP certification. Click on the link of interest to you. We strongly encourage you to send your unofficial transcripts to a student services coordinator or faculty advisor to receive information on transfer credit and guidance and support for beginning your educational journey.

Elementary Education

Special Education

Fall 12 hours

Fall 12 hours

CIR 306 

Introduction to Literacy

SPE 400

Psychology & Education of Exceptional Children

CIP 340

Foundational Studies in Early Childhood Education

SPE 404


Language and Literacy:  Students with Disabilities

IT 465

Educational Technology Applications

SPE 430

Introduction to High-Incidence Disabilities

SPE 400

Psychology & Education of Exceptional Children

SPE 402

General Teaching Methods in Special Education

Spring 12 hours

Spring 12 hours

CIR 309

Early Literacy Instruction I K-6

SPE 410

Reading and Writing for Students with Disabilities

CIR 309L

Early Literacy Instruction I Clinic K-6

SPE 410L

Practicum:  Reading & Writing for Students with Disabilities

CIR 407

Early Literacy II K-6

SPE 431

Teaching Academics to Students with Disabilities

CIR 407L

Early Literacy Instruction II Clinic K-6

SPE 431L

Practicum:  Teaching Academics

CIE 343

Curriculum:  Primary and Middle Grades

SPE 451

Classroom and School Management Systems/Strategies

CIE 343L

Curriculum Methods Clinic

SPE 451L

Practicum for Classroom Management

Summer 9-12 hours*

Summer 12 hours*

CIR 411

Lit. III:  Research and Pedagogy in Content Area Literacy

SPE 470

Legal Aspects of Special Education

CIE 305

Social Studies:  Primary and Middle Grades

IT 365

Computer Applications in Education

SME 432

Science for Elementary Teachers

SPE 121

Introduction to Field Experience in SPE



SPE 498

Families of Individuals with Disabilities

*Please note that the education courses have required summer work totaling 9 hours, 12 hours if you need to take an endorsement class. Plan your financial aid accordingly.

*Please note that the education courses have required summer work totaling 12 hours.  Plan your financial aid accordingly.

Fall 14 hours

Fall 15 hours

CIR 412

Literacy IV:  Assessment and Instruction

CISE 403

Educational Evaluation of Exceptional Children

CIR 412L

Literacy IV:  Assessment and Instruction Clinic

SPE 401

Systematic Interventions for Challenging Behaviors

CIE 301

Mathematics:  Primary and Middle Grades

SPE 401L

Practicum Interventions for Challenging Behaviors

CIE 301L

Mathematics:  Primary and Middle Grades Laboratory

SPE 411

Mathematics for Students with Disabilities

CISE 403

Educational Evaluation of Exceptional Children

SPE 411L

Practicum:  Math for Students with Disabilities

CIE 302

Classroom Management

SPE 442

Transition/Life Skills:  Individuals with Disabilities



SPE 442L

Practicum:  Transition/Life Skills

Spring 12 hours

Spring 12 hours

CIE 480

Student Teaching I:  Lower Grades

SPE 480

Student Teaching:  Mild/Moderate Disabilities/Lower Grades

CIE 482

Student Teaching I:  Upper Grades

SPE 482

Student Teaching:  Mild/Moderate Disabilities/Upper Grades


Service Coordinator and Faculty Advisor Contacts


Patti Papania

Student Service Coordinator


Dr. Kelley Stricklin

TAP Program Coordinator


Dr. Jennifer Osborne

TAP Program Coordinator


Dr. Joy Hines

Special Education Faculty Advisor




Steps to Apply for TAP

Step 1

Apply online at admissions: http://www.usm.edu/gulfcoast/admissions.

Step 2

Discuss your goals with your principal to obtain support and to clarify expectations for your clinical labs and student teaching experiences. Complete the verification of employment form and have it signed by your principal.  Please also request an email from the principal or principal’s designee to verify your employment.  This email should be sent to the Student Services Coordinator.

Step 3

Once you have a USM admittance letter and a USM student id number, contact the Student Service Coordinator to register for core, major, or endorsement classes still needed. All students majoring in education obtain a Gold Card. The Gold Card serves as documentation that a student has met all admission requirements and has been officially admitted into an undergraduate, initial licensure program within the Professional Education Unit at The University of Southern Mississippi.

Students obtain their Gold Card by meeting the following expectations:

  • Completion of a core curriculum of pre-major coursework
  • A minimum grade point average of 2.75 on the 44 semester-hour core curriculum of pre-major coursework
  • A grade of “C” or better in freshman English Composition I and II
  • Good academic standing at Southern Miss (a student on probation, probation continued, or suspension status cannot be admitted to teacher education until the transcript reflects good academic standing)
  • A clear background check via www.certifiedbackground.com, the system currently selected by the Southern Miss Professional Education Council or copy of background check from school district (must be within the past two years). Students who pass the background check process will be issued a background check badge.
  • Subscription to the Tk20 assessment system, available here. Tk20 provides an electronic portfolio and storage system for students as well as tracks, stores, retrieves, and analyzes data for accreditation purposes.
  • Successful completion of a nationally normed ability/achievement assessment OR a teacher education normed entrance test:

a. Nationally Normed Ability/Achievement Assessment: Praxis CORE

i.  An ACT composite score of 21 or higher, with no scale score below 18 (all on the same test date and prior to the entrance of college). If the student did not take the ACT, an equivalent SAT score of 860 or above satisfies requirements as well.

b. Teacher Education Normed Test:

i.  Acceptable scores on the Core Academic Skills for Educators Test (CORE): Reading Test Code 5712 with a score of at least 156, Writing Test Code 5722 with a score of at least 162, and Mathematics Test Code 5732 with a score of at least 150. This is the most recent teacher-normed test approved by the State of Mississippi. MDE will begin accepting this test 9/1/2013 with it becoming mandatory as the new test starting 1/1/2014.

Except for the Background Check that allows for a two week extension into the first semester (see Background Check Policy at www.certifiedbackground.com), all requirements must be met prior to enrollment in restricted teacher education courses.

Any student with a question about these requirements should contact the Dean of the College of Education and Psychology.