OXFORD, Miss. – Jessica Essary, an assistant professor at the University of Mississippi School of Education, is the new coordinator of UM’s online master’s degree in early childhood education.
Essary comes to UM with research emphasis on international education, diversity in education and equity in teacher instruction.
“I’ve always enjoyed and appreciated the voices of young children,” Essary said. “Early childhood education is about developing an expertise in educating and caring for children from birth to age eight.”
Before joining UM, Essary spent more than four years as an assistant professor at Zayed University in the United Arab Emirates, after completing her dissertation research in Tanzania. At Zayed, Essary supervised local teacher candidates in more than 100 classrooms and taught 15 undergraduate and graduate courses. Essary received her Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Buffalo.
The online Master of Education program, which Essary now heads, started in the fall of 2015 and will graduate its first cohort this May. The program requires 30-credit hours and students have the opportunity to become credentialed by the Mississippi Department of Education to teach in the state, if they choose.
Essary hopes the program will expand in upcoming years to reach more international students with the allure of an entirely online education from a top research institution.
“There’s so much to offer at this institution,” Essary said, “Ole Miss understands how to use online technology in a way that’s effective for learning.”
The online coursework includes readings, interactive opportunities, field experience components and projects covering topics from child development to the theory of play and its function.
“Our online master’s in early childhood education includes a variety of coursework to support those whom are advancing in the field as well as those whom are relatively new to an early childhood emphasis in their studies,” Essary said. “The students can generally work through the modules at their own pace. They can Skype call in during office hours or call our office directly if they need to get in touch with our early childhood education expert faculty members.”
Essary describes early childhood education as a holistic practice.
“We’re considering the young child’s physical, intellectual, emotional and social needs,” Essary said, “It’s beyond A-B-Cs and 1-2-3s.”
Essary explained that many students think the only job prospect for early childhood education graduates is teaching young children. She tries to help graduate students see the wide range of opportunities in the field.
“Graduates can teach in the public or private sector, work in non-profit administration, policy-making, entrepreneurial endeavors such as publishing children’s books, working for toy companies and the additional possibilities are endless,” she said. “I got into the profession to help each child develop to their full potential. It’s very unfortunate when you see a 3-year-old lacking social stimulation—you know that if given opportunities they can really enhance their abilities early on, which is just so exciting. It’s not just about academic growth, it’s definitely physical, emotional and social development, as well.”
Applicants interested in the online program are required to have a 3.0 Undergraduate GPA, passing Praxis II content scores or GRE scores, and two reference letters. If they elect to do so, students will also have the opportunity to become licensed early childhood educators in the State of Mississippi.
By Emily Hoffman