Outstanding Freshmen Join Innovative Teacher Education Program

The 2019 cohort of the Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program at the University of Mississippi is (front row, from left): Emily Smith, ThiCat Vu, Addison Phelps, Mary Kellum, Shelby Phillips, Erin Brechtel, Katherine Clark, Sadie Stocks and Hannah Davis; (middle row) Celia Hunt, Camryn Long, Matthew Jalufka, Anna Robinson, Raegan Gourley, Taylor Swartz, Caroline Cross, Hailey Hamil, Kylie Scott and Savannah Armistead; and (back row) Madelyn Solari, Holly Gardner, Lauren Fiedler, Charles Deaton, Sebastian Mink, Chloe Crane, Kathleen Tune, Eleanor Perkins and Jordan White. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

The University of Mississippi has welcomed 28 outstanding freshmen from eight states into the Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program. The seventh cohort of this innovative teacher education program comes with an average high school grade-point average of 3.91 and ACT score of 29.3. 

The new class brings the number of METP scholarship recipients at Ole Miss to 174 since 2013. The new cohort features 10 elementary education majors, five English education majors, three math education majors, six science education majors and four special education majors.

“METP is designed to attract high-performing students, train them at the highest levels and retain them in Mississippi,” said Blake Adams, METP coordinator. “We feel that it’s really important that we’re attracting Mississippi students who know Mississippi K-12 education, but also out-of-state students who bring with them their own experiences.” 

The incoming freshmen are: Savannah Armistead, of Columbia, Missouri; Erin Brechtel, of Gulfport; Katherine Clark, of Southaven; Chloe Crane, of Euless, Texas; Caroline Cross, of St. Louis; Hannah Davis, of McComb; Charles Deaton, of Jackson; Lauren Fiedler, of Sappington, Missouri; Holly Gardner, of Lansdale, Pennsylvania; Raegan Gourley, of Madison; Hailey Hamil, of Suwanee, Georgia; Celia Hunt, of Milton, Georgia; Matthew Jalufka, of Ocean Springs; Mary Kellum, of Memphis, Tennessee; Camryn Long, of Brentwood, Tennessee; Sebastian Mink, of Long Beach; Eleanor Perkins, of Tupelo; Addison Phelps, of Columbia; Shelby Phillips, of Hattiesburg; Anna Robinson, of Olive Branch; Kylie Scott, of Bowling Green, Kentucky; Emily Smith, of Booneville; Madelyn Solari, of Ridgeland; Sadie Stocks, of Brandon; Taylor Swartz, of Austin, Texas; Kathleen Tune, of Chester, New Jersey; ThiCat Vu, of Gulfport; and Jordan White, of Pelahatchie. 

METP is designed to prepare students for careers in secondary, elementary and special education. One of the most sought-after scholarship programs in the country, METP provides students with up to four years of tuition, housing, living expenses, a study abroad experience and more. 

Most importantly, METP students get opportunities to enter the classroom to observe and interact with students much earlier than traditional education students.

“The most important thing we do is what I like to call ‘early and often education exposure,'” Adams said. “A traditional School of Education student does not begin to observe in classrooms until late sophomore year, but METP students get to enter their freshman year and go every week. 

“Not only do they get additional hours in the classroom, but they get exposed to that kind of learning earlier and hopefully, that makes them a better professional after graduation.” 

METP is financially supported by the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation of Jackson and was established in 2013 with a $12.9 million investment. The scholarship was renewed in 2016 with a second investment of more than $28 million, which will fund the program through 2023.

A joint effort with Mississippi State University, which recruits a partner cohort each year, METP is designed to help stimulate Mississippi’s economy and invest in the future of education throughout the state. 

After graduation, METP members commit to teach in a public school in Mississippi for five years. However, this may be postponed for up to three years if graduates wish to pursue a graduate degree. 

With the third cohort graduating last May, 94 percent of program graduates are teaching in Mississippi public school districts.

“Since I was young, I’ve always wanted to be a teacher,” said Phillips, an elementary education major. “Being in a program that introduces me to a group of like-minded students is such a cool opportunity.” 

Along with many other benefits, the program provides students with opportunities to travel, exposing them to different ideas and perspectives that they can bring back to Mississippi. 

“I think seeing education in other countries can be a really awesome tool that we can bring back here,” said Scott, a science education major. “We get to see how they teach abroad and see what we like better, or what we think might not work as well here.” 

Sophomores travel to Washington, D.C., each winter to study American education through a policy perspective. And each summer, rising seniors travel out of the country to experience education through different perspectives, with past trips to Finland, Sweden, Canada and more.

“I think this program is important because it really gives us the confidence that, while we’re pursuing a degree in education, we will be respected and encouraged,” Scott said. “Most of the time when you say, ‘I want to be a teacher,’ people tend to question why, but this program gives us the confidence that we are believed in.” 

For more information about METP, visit http://metp.olemiss.edu/.

By Meaghan Flores

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