March 20, 2019  

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USM, MGCCC Introduce New Teacher Education Pathway Program to Address Teacher Shortage in Mississippi

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USM President Rodney D. Bennett and MGCCC President Mary S. Graham sign a memorandum of understanding to announce a new, innovative teacher education pathway program during a news conference held on USM's Hattiesburg campus Monday, Feb. 25. (Photo by Kelly Dunn)

Officials from The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College (MGCCC) were joined by state education leaders on Monday to announce a new, innovative teacher education pathway program meant to alleviate a critical teacher shortage in Mississippi.

The announcement, which took place on USM’s Hattiesburg campus, involved leaders from both institutions signing a memorandum of understanding formalizing the program officially known as Teachers College.

The program is for MGCCC Collegiate Academy students seeking to become licensed teachers through degree completion at The University of Southern Mississippi. These students are often high school juniors and seniors who are earning college credit before receiving their high school diploma.

“The University of Southern Mississippi remains committed to meeting the needs of our state,” said USM President Rodney D. Bennett. “I could not be more excited to collaborate with MGCCC on this new pathway program, which will produce more highly-qualified teachers for our state by allowing prospective students to complete a rigorous academic curriculum on a more efficient route to earning licensure.”

The collaboration ensures that students who successfully complete MGCCC’s Collegiate Academy can seamlessly transfer to an education degree program at USM and satisfy USM graduation requirements.

“MGCCC is proud to be part of this innovative program that supports the goals and dreams of future educators in the state of Mississippi, particularly high school students in our Collegiate Academy program,” said MGCCC President Mary S. Graham. “This program exemplifies the outstanding partnership we have with IHL (Institutions of Higher Learning) and MDE (Mississippi Department of Education) and shows that working together we can reduce the teacher shortage and strengthen our educational programs at every level.”

Upon entry into Teachers College, students will choose one of three degree options at USM including: Elementary Education (K-6) that includes USM’s fully-online Teacher Assistant Program, Special Education (K-12), or the Dual Elementary Education/Special Education degree.

“This agreement speaks to the core of what our state’s colleges and universities are all about,” said IHL Commissioner of Higher Education Alfred Rankins Jr. “We’re all about creating access and opportunities for deserving young people and addressing the needs of the state of Mississippi. We all know that we have a critical teacher shortage here in our state. I thank President Graham and President Bennett for their leadership as both institutions work toward a solution for this problem.”

Students who complete the program will satisfy all Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL) graduation requirements within two years, meaning program participants would be eligible for a 5-year traditional teacher education license from the Mississippi Department of Education.

“Our state economy depends on its workforce, and our workforce depends on our education system,” said Executive Director of the Mississippi Community College Board Andrea Mayfield. “What is taking place today with this partnership is innovative because it addresses a state need—a teacher shortage here in Mississippi—and that provides insurance so that we are able to offer quality teachers to the people that we serve. Somebody has to take the lead in preparing the people to go to work that support our economy. Those people that are taking the lead are right here.”

Additional features of Teachers College include a rigorous curriculum that prepares students for teaching today’s K-12 student, flexible course scheduling that allows students to tailor electives to areas of interest, and the elimination of degree progression barriers through a hands-on, collaborative advising model that includes high school, MGCCC, and USM counselors.

“The multi-agency support that is present for this initiative today is proof of the commitment we all have to doing our part to address the teacher shortage in our state,” said Trenton E. Gould, interim dean of USM’s College of Education and Human Sciences.