One local university and school district team up to combat teacher shortage in the state

Updated: May. 9, 2021 at 10:59 PM CDT
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WARREN CO., Miss. (WLBT) - Mississippi is facing a major teaching shortage.

According to the Mississippi Department of Education, more than one-third of all school districts in the state experience this.

One local university and a local school district is working to change that.

“We need more teachers to connect with our students,” said high school student Haley Henderson.

These local high school students have a lot in common.

They are part of the Vicksburg-Warren County School District, and they also want to become teachers.

“I think teachers are the building blocks of our careers, so I believe our teachers are most important,” said Henderson.

“I really want to be a teacher because I really love working with kids, and it’s just enjoying seeing their smiles when you walk in every day,” said high school student Bre McDowell.

So, when they heard about the “Grow Your Own” future teacher program, they were excited about the new opportunity.

“I want to become a teacher. I want to give back to my community, especially with an African-American community, we do not have a lot of teachers, and I think it important to be able to benefit our students,” said Henderson.

William Carey University offers the program. They have partnered with The Vicksburg-Warren County School District to help fight Mississippi’s critical teacher shortage.

This shortage is a local and national problem that has only gotten worse thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Teacher education numbers across the nation are down 35 %, but when we don’t have teachers in the classroom, students just can’t advance in their academics. A lot of times, when students are not doing well academically, (they) will not continue in school, so we just don’t have an academic problem, but we have a completion or dropout problem. So, we are partnering with school districts all over the state,” said William Cary’s Executive Vice-President and the Dean of the School of Education Ben Burnett.

K through 12 public school districts can select students for a fast-track program that will enable them to earn a bachelor’s degree in elementary education in just three years which is possible through a combination of dual enrollment classes and accelerated schedules. They also qualify for 50% of tuition waivers from the university.

“It’s in my path of what I want to do, so feel like I will take advantage (of this) opportunity because most people don’t get this opportunity,” said McDowell.

Dr. Ben Burnett says there are several benefits to this program during their second and third year.

Students in this program at William Carey University can take classes and at the same time work as teacher assistances and, they will earn an income while working on their degrees.

“The first year, they will be finishing the core requirement classes. In the last two years is when they’re actually in the teacher education program, said Dr. Burnett. “We have designed a program where it is a virtual program, so they can actually stay at home and hopefully go and work for the school district as assistant teacher and get that valuable experience. We have an assistant teacher scholarship.”

“They are not a male teacher because they mostly become football players and do other sports, where you can go to William Carey be a teacher and come back here and help the students here,” said Solomon.

“I think the program is very beneficial to people who want to be future teachers,” said Henderson.

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