OXFORD, Miss. – The Mississippi Teacher Corps, an alternate-route teacher preparation program housed at the University of Mississippi, has taken its annual summer school program online and will offer free summer classes to instate students in grades 7-12 and more.
Designed for students in need of credit recovery or enrichment, the program will last from June 15 to July 17 and will meet online 9-11 a.m. weekdays. Registration for the virtual summer program opens at 5 p.m. June 9.
“All instruction and summer programming have all switched online for now,” said Joe Sweeney, MTC director. “So we looked for options to train our teachers and to also provide students with something to do in the summer for both credit recovery or enrichment.”
Some 160 spots are available in the program. MTC virtual summer school will offer coursework in state-tested disciplines including English, science, social studies and mathematics.
In the past, MTC summer school has served two main purposes: to help Mississippi students recover school credits in grades 7-12, and to help train the program’s new recruits.
Since 2006, MTC has hosted its summer program at Holly Springs High School, which allowed the program to support students primarily in north Mississippi. Social distancing requirements due to COVID-19 have sparked MTC leaders to evolve this summer as a means to serve students statewide.
“In the midst of a pandemic, this has turned out to be an opportunity,” said Hunter Taylor, MTC recruiter. “We’ve always had this great partnership with Holly Springs (High School), but the unique thing is that we can now open what we do to new parts of the state.
“Students in the Delta or Jackson or Meridian or beyond can benefit. So, this is going to make this summer pretty special.”
To participate, students need internet access, a computer with microphone and camera, and an email address. Priority admission will be given to Mississippi students seeking credit recovery; however, other students may apply.
Sweeney and Taylor, both MTC alumni, note that the school already has attracted applications from students in Greenville, Greenwood, Hollandale, Marshall County, Oxford, Quitman County, Tallahatchie County and more.
Founded in 1989, MTC serves critical needs classrooms across Mississippi’s with a fresh batch of new teachers every year. Students typically come to Ole Miss from across the nation to train as new teachers each summer. Typically, the program recruits college graduates with degrees in disciplines outside education and trains them to become teachers.
The two-year program provides scholarships for teachers to complete coursework at the UM School of Education and results in a Master of Arts in Teaching. Graduates of the program also qualify for advanced licensure in the state. The MTC has also taken its summer coursework for new teachers online in response to COVID-19.
This year, 31 new MTC teachers are matriculating, an uptick from the last two years, when the program enrolled 25 and 29 new teachers, respectively. The group includes 21 new teachers from out-of-state and 10 from Mississippi. One new teacher will travel from Venezuela to join the program.
Fifty-three first- or second-year MTC teachers are serving in 10 school districts across Mississippi.
One element that is staying the same with the new online summer school is the strong alumni connection MTC integrates into its summer program. Each year, team teachers, who are past members of the program, come back to the university and work with new MTC recruits and help train them in classroom management, instructional methods, content development and more.
To build camaraderie among the MTC’s new members, the program is providing new programming for the teachers, including a wellness competition that allows first- and second-year participants to compete with one other by completing healthy activities to earn points. MTC leaders are also offering social events, such as drawing sessions or movie nights, via Zoom throughout the summer to promote a sense of community in the program.
“We feel like we really have come together to build something great,” Sweeney explained. “One of the things that we sell our program on is the strength of the in-person cohort model, where you have this built-in support from your peers.
“So now that we can’t come together in-person, we’ve been looking at how we can still bring that together online.”
While typically, new participants move to Oxford and live on the Ole Miss campus for several weeks in the summer before relocating to their teaching placement sites, this year, new recruits are largely staying home and will move to their teaching locations in the fall. The program is utilizing free digital resources for the new teachers.
“This summer, there has been so much collaboration amongst our team teachers and full-time staff because we’ve had to start from scratch on a few things,” Taylor said. “It has given us a lot of new ideas and helped us reinvigorate what we do. We’re really excited about this summer.”
By Andrew M. Abernathy