Felisia Fleming had nearly given up the idea of earning an elementary education degree until she heard about the Mississippi Teacher Residency program.
One of 12 teacher assistants from Jackson Public Schools to participate in the first cohort of the free two-year program, Fleming is now the first Mississippi State student to complete it and will receive her diploma at MSU-Meridian’s May 3 commencement ceremony. In total, up to 36 individuals will be served by the MSU and JPS partnership.
Funded by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and administered by the Mississippi Department of Education, MTR is designed to recruit underserved students to complete a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education. The nonprofit National Center for Teacher Residencies developed the program that also requires participants to commit to teaching for three years in their respective underserved school district.
The new college graduates are then qualified to teach any subject in kindergarten through sixth grade; English, mathematics, science and social studies in seventh and eighth grades; and special education in kindergarten through eighth grade. For Fleming, a second grade teacher assistant at Spann Elementary in Jackson Public Schools, the first-of-its-kind program was the lifeline she needed.
“I had been trying to complete my education degree at another university for several years and had just decided to take a break from college when my principal mentioned MTR and encouraged me to apply,” she said. “It didn’t take long to realize that this time I wasn’t on this journey alone—I had a whole group of people, including my professors, who were walking alongside me and helping me every step of the way.”
MTR students have a wealth of resources at their disposal, from PRAXIS preparation to financial assistance and one-on-one attention from both the MDE, as well as MSU-Meridian faculty and staff.
“My advisors Dr. Jeff Leffler and Kevin Entrekin have been very hands-on through the entire process, and whatever I needed they were right there to help pull me through,” Fleming said. “I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I was a little girl, and MTR helped me realize this dream. I honestly don’t know who is most proud of my accomplishments—my three kids or myself.”
MDE plans to graduate approximately 100 new elementary teachers over the course of the four-year grant program at MSU-Meridian and additional training sites at William Carey University in Hattiesburg and Delta State University in Cleveland. Each grant site will graduate three cohorts of students with elementary education degrees. Partners are four underserved central Mississippi school districts, including Jackson Public Schools.