MDE Awards USM Over $2M for Mississippi Teacher Residency
Fri, 01/07/2022 - 05:36pm | By: Karelia Pitts
USM student and undergraduate teacher resident Bayleigh Kennedy at Petal Elementary School. Photo by Kelly Dunn / Southern Miss Image Center
The Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) will provide over $2 million to The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) over a two-year period to support Mississippi Teacher Residency (MTR) in critical shortage areas. USM has been awarded the largest grant in the $9.8 million program that will cover tuition and expenses at five Mississippi universities for up to 240 individuals seeking a graduate degree in elementary and secondary education.
“By extending the success of our existing undergraduate residency program to reach graduate students as well, this substantial funding will supplement our ongoing work to address the national and state teacher shortages,” said Dr. Trent Gould, dean of USM’s College of Education and Human Sciences. “We are excited to use this grant to take a fundamentally different approach to the preparation of high-quality, job-ready teacher residents that will make a difference in Mississippi.”
In partnership with the National Center for Teacher Residencies, USM has been engaged in training teacher residents at the undergraduate level in several local school districts, including Petal School District.
“The ability for a senior education major to spend 187 teacher days at a school and see every component of a school year is priceless! The combination of pedagogy through college work along with the practitioner component is definitely a win-win for the University, the students and our school district,” said Dr. Matt Dillon, superintendent of Petal School District. “We are thankful that USM partnered with us for their undergraduate residency program three years ago, and I am happy to report that we have many residency students who are now employed and thriving in our district.”
A key component of the teacher residency experience is being fully immersed in the school culture, which includes opportunities like opening and closing the school year, conducting parent-teacher conferences, and getting involved in professional learning communities that are focused on supporting residents as they transition to in-service teachers.
“As Mississippi’s historic teacher’s college, USM is committed to helping reduce the teacher shortage and increase retention in our state,” said Dr. Gould. “One of the most successful outcomes of our current program is improved teacher retention, which significantly impacts learning outcomes for students. By designing a new graduate-level component for our program that is grounded in adult learning principles and that recognizes the needs of non-traditional students, we will recruit, prepare and graduate an increasing number of academically talented, diverse residents; they will serve in critical shortage areas assisting low-income children, racial/ethnic minorities, and children with disabilities disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The upcoming expansion of USM’s residency program will allow 30 new teacher candidates to become educated and trained at no personal expense to them. To ensure their success, residency students will be mentored by professional teachers and receive full-tuition scholarships, stipends, textbooks and testing fees.
These new graduate-level teacher residents will be engaged in comprehensive coursework and clinical classroom experiences. The program will be co-constructed with partner district personnel to ensure the design and implementation of content-rich, authentic, performance-based activities that address the unique needs presented by students in schools identified as geographical critical shortage areas while also enhancing USM’s capacity to meet the educational workforce needs of communities.
With positive experiences partnering with USM’s undergraduate teacher residency program, Dr. Robert Williams, superintendent of Hattiesburg Public School District, is looking forward to how the University’s new offerings may further impact their schools.
“The undergraduate teacher residency program at The University of Southern Mississippi has proven to be an invaluable asset to Hattiesburg Public School District's ability to not only aid in the cultivation of future educators but also recruit and retain the best and brightest prospective teachers the University has to offer,” said Dr. Williams. “Having USM’s teacher residency program scale to the graduate level will afford Hattiesburg Public Schools the opportunity to recruit non-traditional educators with expertise in hard-to-fill content areas. The graduate-level program will also provide prospective candidates with practicum experiences and professional development opportunities that they otherwise would not have, thus increasing the likelihood that they will stay in the profession and improve educational outcomes for our students.”