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USM Alumna Earns Prestigious Honor from Coast School District

Thu, 01/23/2020 - 14:36pm | By: David Tisdale

Adriana RodriguezAdriana Rodriguez, a 2019 graduate of The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) College of Education and Humans Sciences’ School of Education, was recently named Novice Teacher of the Year by the Gulfport (Mississippi) School District.

Rodriguez is a first-grade teacher at Gulfport’s Anniston Avenue Elementary. She earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education with an endorsement in English in May 2019. A graduate of Gulfport High School, Rodriguez says she was thrilled to get the opportunity to return to the school district as a teacher.

“This (award) was totally unexpected, and I’m very honored,” Rodriguez said of the recognition. “I’m grateful to my professors at USM, who helped me prepare for a rewarding career in education,” she said, and also expressed appreciation for the support of her Anniston Avenue Elementary mentor teachers, Stephanie Covington and Danielle Bradt.

“As a first-year teacher, you want to build relationships,” Rodriguez said. “I want them to like me, but you have to balance that with discipline. More importantly, I want them to see every day as a new beginning, a fresh start, and to feel that they belong, are loved and safe when they walk into my classroom.”

Rodriguez said her student teaching and practicum experiences were beneficial in that she “learned that every child is different, they come from different homes, backgrounds. Those experiences really help you understand and appreciate your students.” 

Her mentor teacher at USM, Dr. Donielle Stephens, said “Adriana is one of those individuals who has such a positive personality, one that brightens any environment she finds herself in, while also encouraging those around her. I’m not surprised she is receiving this award as a first-year teacher. 

“Teaching is hard, but being a first-year teacher is often extra hard. I feel confident that in her classroom, Adriana is striving and encouraging her students to grow academically every day.”  

Rodriguez said she plans to earn a master’s degree in the near future, and continue working in education. “I’ve enjoyed teaching first-grade students; I really have a heart for this age group,” she said.

At USM, Rodriguez was a Luckyday Scholar and a member of Delta Delta Delta sorority, Southern Style 2019, Golden Eagle Welcome Weekend (GEWW) Crew 2018, and Gamma Rho Chi in 2018.

“The opportunity to be involved in those organizations has also helped me as a first-year teacher, because I have gained effective communication and organizational skills that I am able to apply in the workplace.”

For information about the USM School of Education, visit