HARRISON COUNTY, Miss. (WLOX) - Students in the Harrison County School District, interested in becoming teachers, now have a fast track to the profession.
William Carey University signed a “Grow Your Own” partnership with the school district to help grow teachers as early the 11th grade. Harrison County School District Superintendent Roy Gill is excited for the opportunity.
“Being the fourth largest school district in the state of Mississippi, we’re always looking for educators,” said Gill. “So, with this partnership, we aim to grow our own so that we are steadily trying to get more people to go into the profession because we need teachers.”
A 35-year veteran, Gill has spent his life in the district, both as the educated and the educator.
“The vested interest in the boys and girls, when you’re from here, you go to school here and you know and understand how our students are, it makes it much easier to build those relationships to be that effective teacher in the classroom,” said Gill. “It is very important that we cultivate that for our young kids that are coming up to build that love of education to help the future generations of boys and girls in the Harrison County School District.”
Dr. Teresa Poole is the Dean of the School of Education at William Carey University. She said that with the agreement signed Friday, it’s going to help better the education program at the university, a program that she said exceeds others in the state.
“The first thing is, I think all of us believe in teachers. The thing about this one is we’re going to actually connect with our students earlier, sooner,” Poole said. “Actually, with the support of the school district and William Carey University, we’re going to connect with them in their junior year of high school and work with them and prepare them to become educators sooner. After their first year in college, they’re able to enter into our teacher preparation program and we’re excited about that. It’s going to give them the support that they need to finish their actual program sooner.”
In addition to the many benefits of an early start, the university’s School of Education dean said that early retirement is also a big perk.
“Teachers will actually start in the state system at the age of 19 so they’ll be able to retire sooner. But for the most part, if you’re like me, you’re gonna be here for the long run, so we’re excited about that,” said Poole. “We just want to make sure that our students that we have in our Grow Your Own will be advocated for other students so that we can continue to grow our own students in our own districts in our own communities.”
According to the newly inked Memorandum of Understanding between the school district and university, student/program benefits are the following:
- In High School - Participating K-12 school districts choose students to participate in the “Grow Your Own” program. William Carey University (WCU) counselors advise students on their schedules. Students graduate from their high schools with 12 hours of dual enrollment credits from WCU.
- Year 1 at WCU - Students begin WCU classes the summer after they graduate from high school. They then take fall, winter, and spring classes at WCU. Finally, they finish year one with summer classes. During this year, K-12 school districts coordinate placements for their chose students as K-3 teacher assistants in district schools.
- Year 2 at WCU - Students take classes at WCU in the fall, winter, summer semesters. they also work as teacher assistants at a school in their K-12 district. Employment as teacher assistants has two benefits: 1) they enter the state retirement system, and 2) they qualify for 50% tuition waivers from WCU.
- Year 3 at WCU - Students take classes at WCU in the fall, winter , and spring trimesters. They also continue working as teacher assistants at their -12 district.
- After Graduation - At the end of the third year, students have earned 131 credit hours and graduate with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. Participating school districts agree to give hiring preference for teaching positions, when possible, to WCU graduates of the “Grow Your Own” program.