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Karnes Center Program Staff

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Our summer programs for students are led by wonderful teachers who have a passion for teaching.  We hope this page helps you get to know your teacher before you arrive.

 


ADMINISTRATION

Heather Houston, Ph.D., M.N.A.

Director

Dr. Heather Houston, Director

2024 is Dr. Houston's twentieth year serving the Karnes Center and her eighth year as an administrator. Since 2004 she has worked with the Center as a researcher, instructor, program coordinator, and advisory council member.  She earned her Ph.D. under the tutelage of Dr. Frances Karnes, the Center's founder, in 2013.  Dr. Houston most recently graduated from The University of Notre Dame in 2023 with a Master of Nonprofit Administration. Under her direction, the Center has added the Summer In the Middle and Educator Development Programs.  She looks forward to many more years of growth in all of the Center's programs and encourages all of the Center's students to Carry the Torch as they run their life's race with confidence and wisdom.


Hannah Wirth

Office AssistantHannah Wirth

Hannah Wirth, is from Indiana and came to Southern Mississippi because of her major. She is a sophomore, majoring in Marine Biology. With this degree she hopes to become a Marine Biologist and work with dolphins and sea turtles. Currently she works with Dr. Houston and does a variety of things like organizing documents, assisting with the Saturday Program and inputting data into the center's records. 


DAY PROGRAMS


Young Gifted Students Program

Grades PK-3


Mary Greene

Program: Young Gifted Students Program

Mary Greene

Course: Architects and Engineers 

About:

Mrs. Green is excited to return to teach in the Young Gifted Studies Program this year. She is a veteran teacher with sixteen years of experience teaching students in grades Pre-K-High School. She loves teaching and seeing students grow academically and seeing those "Ah Ha!" moments of students’ learning. 


Mrs. Green graduated from Mississippi State University with a Bachelor of Science where she majored in Human Development and Family Studies with a Pre-K endorsement. She later graduated from William Carey University with a Master of Secondary Education with a concentration in English. She has been married for almost 11 years to the love of her life. They have two children that have become her entire world! She also owns and operates a small business out of her home, Southern Flair Home Bake. 


Michelle Courtney

Michelle Courtney

Program: Young Gifted Students Program

Course: Econ Explorers

About:

Michelle Courtney is a National Boards Certified Teacher as an Exceptional Needs Specialist in Gifted & Talented. She has been a teacher for 18 years and currently serves as a STEM outreach coordinator. She is looking forward to teaching young gifted students about financial literacy and believes, "It is never too early to learn about economics!"


Daphne Nelson

Program: Young Gifted Students Program Daphne Nelson

Course: Olympiad!

About:

Daphne Nelson is a National Board Certified Teacher with 18 years teaching experience. Mrs. Nelson resides in Sumrall and enjoys outdoor activities, reading, and spending time with family. She is especially excited to teach students all about health and wellness this summer during Gifted Studies. Mrs. Nelson aims to increase brain power by teaching strategies to improve physical and mental health.


Summer In the Middle

Grades 4-6


Karlie Herndon, MA, MLIS

Karlie Herndon

Program: Summer In the Middle

Course: Escape from Seymour's Library

About:

Karlie Herndon is the curator of the de Grummond Children's Literature Collection. She spent many years teaching people from ages 3 and up in places like South Korea, Turkey, China, and America. Karlie is passionate about libraries and children's books, and she's thrilled to be leading students through Seymour's Escape. This is the exact kind of summer course she would have loved as a child because it's all about books, libraries, and puzzles!


Jerice Williams

Program: Summer In the MiddleJerice Williams

Course: Digitize!

About:

Jerice Williams is a native of Hattiesburg and has been an educator for 19 years.  She currently teaches gifted grades 2-6th for Hattiesburg Public Schools.  Her affiliation with the FAK Center for Gifted Studies started in 1996 as a program participant. She has been working with the Center in many capacities since 2004. She strives to help create an environment where children can grow and develop their creativity, talents, and abilities. 


RESIDENTIAL PROGRAMS


Summer Gifted Studies Program

Grades 4-8


 


Mignon Lefebvre

Program: Summer Gifted Studies Mignon Lefebvre

Course: Astronomical Arts

About: 

Mignon Lefebvre (minyon lafev) is excited to be returning to the Frances Karnes Center for Gifted Studies for the 2024 Summer Program. Being a mom of a gifted child inspired her to pursue her Masters of Science in Gifted Education at USM. She loves knowing that she is able to influence young, proficient minds to pursue their passions and live up to their potential. She currently teaches gifted students in grades K-12 in Concordia Parish, LA. She travels between 10 schools across the district delivering a wide variety of enrichment activities to 38 highly gifted and creative youth. She says, "I am looking forward to the opportunity to encourage each student’s unique creativity."


April Overman Ph.D., J.D.

Program: Summer Gifted Studies April Overman

Course: Topo Tales

About:

Dr. Overman is a career law enforcement officer and attorney with over 25 years of service.    Her dedication to public service was recognized in 2008, when she was named a Top Ten Female Achiever by New Orleans Magazine.  After retiring, she returned to school and earned her Ph.D. in Urban Studies.   She is a professor for several prestigious universities across the country, including Tulane and Purdue, and also serves the local Mississippi community by teaching at Pearl River Community College.


Svetlana Lucas, MS, MAT, Ed.S.

Program: Summer Gifted Studies Svetlana Lucas

Course: Topo Tales

About:

Svetlana Lucas began her professional career as an educator in 1990. She has experience teaching English, writing, public speaking and gifted education.  Ms. Lucas also has career experience as a curriculum writer and reading specialist.  She is currently employed as an Instructional Coach assisting classroom teachers improve their instructional effectiveness and student achievement levels.  


Leadership Studies Program

Grades 6-11


Jerice Williams

 

Program: Leadership StudiesJerice Williams

Course: Leadership I

About:

Jerice Williams is a native of Hattiesburg and has been an educator for 19 years.  She currently teaches gifted grades 2-6th for Hattiesburg Public Schools.  Her affiliation with the FAK Center for Gifted Studies started in 1996 as a program participant. She has been working with the Center in many capacities since 2004. She strives to help create an environment where children can grow and develop their creativity, talents, and abilities. 

 


Svetlana Lucas 

 

Program: Leadership Studies 

Svetlana Lucas

Course: Leadership II

About: 

Svetlana Lucas, MS, MAT, Ed.S. began her professional career as an educator in 1990. She has experience teaching English, writing, public speaking and gifted education.  Ms. Lucas also has career experience as a curriculum writer and reading specialist.  She is currently employed as an Instructional Coach assisting classroom teachers improve their instructional effectiveness and student achievement levels.  

 

 


SPAATY

Grades 7-11


Emma Nehlig

Emma Nehlig

Program: SPAATY

Course: Drawing the Human Form

About:

Emma Nehlig is currently a student at The University of Southern Mississippi studying Fine Arts. She has been learning about art since a very young age and has had many credible teachers throughout her lifetime. Emma is very excited to be teaching this class because she has a desire to inspire students artistically as she was inspired in her schooling.


Soundra Newson

Program: SPAATYSoundra Newson

Course: Cybersecurity and Python Programming

About:

Soundra Newson is an advocate for the advancement of women and underrepresented groups in STEM-related fields. After graduating from Mississippi State University with a Bachelor of Administration in Business Information Systems, Soundra became an English teacher in South Korea, where she taught for approximately six years before returning to America to obtain Mississippi teaching licensure as an Inclusion Special Educator and History teacher. Here, at the University of Southern Mississippi, she continues to work in education as an academic advisor within the School of Computer Sciences & Computer Engineering. She loves working with students as they complete degrees in pursuit of long-term careers.

The Karnes Center logo in black and white.

Contact Us

Frances A. Karnes Center for Gifted Studies

112 Fritzsche-Gibbs Hall

118 College Dr. #5123
Hattiesburg, MS 39406

Hattiesburg Campus

Campus Map

Email
giftedstudiesFREEMississippi

Phone
601.266.5236