Mississippi students getting job offers even before degrees thanks to ‘2+2″ program at community college, university

Published 12:42 pm Sunday, May 5, 2024

A partnership aimed at addressing Mississippi’s critical teacher shortage began in 2018 between Copiah-Lincoln Community College and the Mississippi University for Women.

The “2+2” agreement was created with a single mission — to empower students in the state to quickly and more easily obtain their kindergarten-sixth grade teaching license without ever having to leave the area.

The schools diligently collaborated to ensure a seamless alignment between curricula.

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“What does this mean for our students? We ensure that every class they take while at Co-Lin is guaranteed to transfer, providing them with clarity right from the outset about their educational pathway,” said Co-Lin instructor and Elementary Education advisor Brad Hamilton. “Also, whether they prefer the traditional classroom experience on one of Co-Lin’s campuses or the flexibility of online learning, our students have the freedom to tailor their education to their preferences and circumstances.”

As students transition to their junior year, they are welcomed into the MUW family with support from a dedicated coordinator, Deanna Pendley. An MUW alumnus, Pendley assists them every step of the way, navigating the transfer process and acquainting them with the university’s expectations.

“We are also happy to share that MUW reserves a major scholarship exclusively for students transferring from Co-Lin, underscoring their commitment to our students’ success,” Hamilton said. “At this point, the students will begin to engage in classroom observations and student teaching in a local K-6 school. While they remain rooted in their own communities, the students seamlessly integrate into MUW’s online classes, ensuring they can pursue their studies without the need for extensive travel.”

Hamilton said the 2+2 program addresses a critical need in the community and empowers future generations of educators to thrive “right here at home.”

“I am thrilled to report that after years of dedicated refinement, our partnership with MUW is going strong. What started with just a handful of local schools has grown to encompass county-wide participation,” said Hamilton. “It’s a testament to the efficacy of this program that many of our graduates are now receiving job offers even before completing their degrees, a true testament to the caliber of education and support they receive through this partnership.”

MUW’s School of Education dean Dr. Martin Hatton calls the partnership “outstanding.”

“This is a program that allows students to complete their content courses online and their student teaching at the Wesson Attendance Center and surrounding counties,” he said. “So, students can join us on campus if they like, but that’s not required. We work with Copiah-Lincoln Community College students who prefer to earn their degrees in their home towns.”

A member of Hatton’s staff serves as an advising “navigator,” assisting Pendley to ensure student transfers are as smooth as possible.

“This is a very unique education program and is one that has proven successful for students who are interested in Elementary Education and would like to stay in the Wesson area,” said Hatton.

“We have had about 40 students to graduate through this program in our community,” Pendley said. “It’s a great program for teaching assistants to earn their degrees, as well.”

One graduate of the program is Wesson Attendance Center teacher Tori Titus Griffin. Griffin said while trying to decide where to go for her teaching bachelor’s, her math professor told her about the 2+2 program.

“The program appealed to me because I was able to stay home and achieve my bachelor’s degree while student teaching in the schools that I grew up around. I really enjoyed it because I was able to complete my assignments around my personal schedule,” said Griffin.

The teacher said the program helped her because she was able to be in the classroom setting around students throughout all four semesters.

“The layout of the program allowed me to gradually work into the classroom, whereas with other programs, you might not go into a classroom with kids until your fourth semester,” Griffin said. “Within the first semester, I observed a first-grade classroom at Wesson Attendance Center twice a week. My second and third semester, I attended Mamie Martin and Brookhaven Elementary. Dur-ing these semesters I began to teach small groups and one-on-one with students in first and third grade. My fourth semester, I began my actual student teaching semester where I was gradually released into teaching every day and leading the classes. In my last semester, I was assigned to Kin-dergarten and fifth grade. All of this was done while I also completed my online course work for the program.”

Now a second-year fifth-grade reading teacher at Wesson, Griffin — whose home is in Brookhaven — works in the same classroom in which she completed her student teaching. She said the school district has been wonderful to her, and she could not be happier with her decision to work there.

“There have been multiple benefits since graduating from the 2+2 program. The program gave me insight into the different school districts. I was able to get to know the principal, teachers, and staff at each school I went to,” Griffin said. “If I would have gone off to another university, I would not have the opportunity to explore multiple schools in the surrounding districts, and I do not know if I would have had as much experience working with students throughout various grade levels. Another benefit this program had on my social/personal life was that it allowed me to stay close to my boyfriend at the time, who is now my husband, who was attending nursing school at Southwest Community College (in nearby Summit).”

For more information on the 2+2 partnership, visit https://www.muw.edu/