Education Edge

The official blog of the Ole Miss School of Education

Win Your $100 Amazon Gift Card During Our Back to School Instagram Contest

by UM School of Education on August 16, 2017

It’s almost syllabus week and we want to celebrate with a “Back to School” Instagram contest! The School of Education is giving away Amazon gift cards to three lucky winners with the best “back to school” photos. Take a selfie or gather with your best friends during the first week of class (Aug. 21-25).


Here’s how to enter:

  1. Take a photo: Capture your back to school picture on campus (regional campuses included!)
  2. Upload it: Share the photo to your Instagram
  3. Follow and Tag: Follow and tag @OleMissEdSchool
  4. Vote: Comment to vote for your favorite finalist on the SOE Instagram the next week!

The contest will begin Monday, August 21, and end on Friday. The next week, four finalists will be chosen by faculty and staff and featured on the SOE Instagram for voting starting on Monday, August 28. The top three photos with the most votes win Amazon gift cards.

  • 1st place = $100 Amazon gift card
  • 2nd place = $50 Amazon gift card
  • 3rd place = $25 Amazon gift card

Be sure to check the SOE Facebook and Instagram for contest updates!

CMSE Moves Into Newly Renovated Facility

by UM School of Education on August 9, 2017
The staff of the CMSE is happy to reclaim its newly renovated facility. Left to right: Dr. E. Paige Gillentine, Dr. Julie James, Amanda Pham, Audra Polk, Mannie Lowe, Meredith Miller, Dr. Alice Steimle, Whitney Jackson, Ashley Masinelli, April Kilpatrick, Justin Ragland

OXFORD, Miss. —The University of Mississippi Center for Mathematics and Science Education has a newly renovated facility at the Jackson Avenue Center.

The CMSE’s offices were updated over four months after a car accident caused severe damage to part of the facility in February. The renovated CMSE office is upgraded from the original cinder block wall facility and is specially designed for the STEM education center.

“The CMSE has visitors from K-12 schools and universities around the state, nation and occasionally, the world,” said John O’Haver, CMSE director.  “At least part of the perception of any organization is its physical appearance. The CMSE has grown so much from its origins, adding professional development, robotics and chess outreach and other activities. Having space that can be more efficiently utilized will help the center operate more smoothly.”

The CMSE’s renovations, in addition to improved aesthetics, will provide better sound management with a mix of solid walls and cubicles for individual offices. The new office space also features enhanced lighting with more access to natural light and upgraded heating, cooling and ventilation.

The CMSE, housed within the School of Education, was established in 2006 to improve science and math education in the state but it has grown to be much more. The CMSE, which is funded through grants and donations, works with schools in the state to promote STEM fields to children through critical thinking activities.

The CMSE also hosts professional development for teachers in STEM fields, offers scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students and hosts camps and competitions for middle and high school students, such as the FIRST Tech Challenge Robotics Competition, MATHCOUNTS, Catapult Competition and more.

During the four months of renovation, the staff occupied a classroom and a conference room in the Jackson Avenue Center.

The seven staff, two faculty and seven graduate research fellows moved their desks into their new office space in August.

CMSE Associate Director Alice Steimle explained that the CMSE office grew closer and worked efficiently in the community space.

“We made the best out of the space that we had because we were just fortunate to have somewhere to go and to be able to get our most important work accomplished for the state and the community,” Alice Steimle said.  “We were very fortunate to have our office space but now we’re even more fortunate to have it renovated.”

By Kathleen Murphy

LOU Community Named All-America City Finalist by Campaign for Grade-Level Reading

by UM School of Education on July 13, 2017

LOU Reads volunteers deliver free books to children during summer learning activities.

OXFORD, Miss. — The Lafayette, Oxford and University of Mississippi (LOU) community is now one of 27 places across the nation designated as an All-America City Finalist by the National Civic League and the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, a national organization dedicated to improving reading proficiency among low income children.

The finalists were honored at the campaign’s national awards ceremony in Denver in June. Additionally, 15 other cities across the nation were named All American Cities an honor that will be awarded again in 2020.

LOU’s designation is the result of hard work from multiple local leaders within the LOU Reads Coalition, a collaboration of multiple entities established in 2015 working to improve outcomes for low income children in four areas: grade-level reading (measure of outcomes), school readiness (measure of preparedness), school attendance and summer learning opportunities.

“Literacy is a measure of a community’s prosperity,” said Suzanne Ryals, the new LOU director of early childhood and reading development and leader of LOU Reads. “We have a lot of great resources and through LOU Reads, we are no longer working in isolation.”

Breakfast at the Bus Stop is an ongoing program by LOU Reads allowing volunteers to engage parents and discuss chronic absenteeism.

Ryals, formerly the principal at Bramlett Elementary School in Oxford, attributes LOU’s success to the good work of several local educators and community leaders. In her new role, she hopes to help stakeholders improve literacy outcomes for children via data collection, assessment as well as continued parent engagement and workforce development.

The LOU community has some hard numbers to back up its recent honor.

According to data from the Mississippi Department of Education, the number of children in the Oxford School District who have the reading skills needed to start kindergarten has risen from 29 percent in 2014 to 50 percent in 2016.

Currently, 95 percent of local children are reading proficiently by the third grade.

“I think there is a lot to be learned from the LOU community,” said Ashley Parker Sheils, director of the Mississippi Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, which works with nine affiliated communities across the state. “The LOU community has really brought people together and formed powerful subgroups around all four of the campaign focus areas.”

One example of the LOU community meeting the grade-level reading challenge can be seen in the attendance category. LOU Reads leaders have built relationships with local parents through outreach programs like “Breakfast at the Bus Stop,” a program where LOU leaders bring breakfast foods to children and parents in the morning to discuss chronic absenteeism at local bus stop locations.

By building relationships and community partnerships, the impact for children has been a positive one: 47 percent of local second-grade students missed 10 or more days in 2011-2015 and this number was reduced to 17 percent in 2016, according to locally collected data.

“(LOU Reads) has definitely moved the needle for outcomes for children in our community,” said Angela Rutherford, director of UM’s Center for Excellence in Literacy Instruction (CELI), one of multiple UM entities that is part of the organization. “We want to do whatever we can to support LOU Reads’ goal of increasing literacy achievement. In 2020, we want to be an All American City.”

UM organizations that are members of LOU Reads include: CELI, College Corps, Dr. Maxine Harper Center for Educational Research and Evaluation, Horizons, Jumpstart and the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement.

Other community member organizations include: Boys & Girls Club of North Mississippi, Excel by 5, Lafayette County Literacy Council, Lafayette Country School District, Lafayette County & Oxford Public Library, Leap Frog, LOU-Home, North Mississippi VISTA Project, Oxford Park Commission, Oxford School District, Oxford University School, United Way of Oxford and the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council.

“This is a community that values literacy and values its children and is actively working to provide the best opportunities it can for its youngest members,” said Ryals.

By Andrew M. Abernathy

“This Book is Not About Dragons” Wins 2017 CELI Read Aloud Book Award

by UM School of Education on June 29, 2017

CELI Literacy Specialist Angie Caldwell reads “This Book is Not About Dragons” to children at Willie Price Lab School.

OXFORD, Miss. —Spoiler Alert: “This Book is Not About Dragons,” by Shelly Moore Thomas is actually jam-packed with fire-breathing monsters, and, is the 2017 winner of the University of Mississippi’s CELI Read Aloud Book Award.

Given annually by the Center for Excellence in Literacy Instruction (CELI) at the UM School of Education, the annual award honors books designed for children ages 3 to 10. Established in 2010, this is the seventh time the award has been given by CELI, a center which provides curriculum support and training for Mississippi reading teachers.

“‘This Book Is Not About Dragons is an excellent book to read aloud to children,” said Angie Caldwell, CELI literacy specialist who oversees the award process. “This book piques children’s curiosity and creates an engaging reading experience. Teachers reported that the children bounced with anticipation, chanted phrases and echoed actions in the book while reading the book aloud. Teachers also stated that the children asked for the book to be read again and again!”

This year’s winner was selected out of several titles, which were distributed to teachers at multiple north Mississippi schools, including UM’s Willie Price Lab School. Schools which field-tested the book were awarded free copies of the book.

“My class loved this book,” said Willie Price teacher Chelsea Walters. “They begged me to read it again and again and they talked about it all through lunch.”

The plot of the book follows a mischievous mouse narrator who leads the reader on a tour of a countryside that has obviously been ravened by a fire-breathing dragon. The book is designed to ignite the interest of young students who can start to pick apart the narrator’s false claims that, amid all of the fire and smoke and destruction, there are actually no dragons hiding the background.

“As a teacher, I find enjoyment in observing my students actively engaged in the read-aloud process,” said Candace Gooch at Bramlett Elementary School in Oxford. “While reading ‘This Book is Not About Dragons,’ my students were predicting, inferring and simply enjoying the text. They were excited and asked to have the story re-read multiple times.”

The CELI Read Aloud Book Award program is partially supported from a grant from the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation of Jackson. The goal is to promote reading aloud to young children as a way to teach literacy, reinforce a love of reading and help children understand the deeper meaning behind books. Winning books receive the right to be published with CELI’s Read Aloud award seal on the cover.

Participating teachers were asked to evaluate how well the texts stretch children’s imaginations, capture interest and utilize a rich vocabulary. Upon turning in results, a committee of UM faculty, staff and literacy teachers selected the winner.

Thomas’ “This Book is Not About Dragons” was published by Boyds Mill Press in Honesdale, Pennsylvania, and was illustrated by Fred Koehler.

By Andrew M. Abernathy

UM School of Education Honors Practitioners of Distinction

by UM School of Education on June 15, 2017

The charter class of the SOE’s Practitioner of Distinction Awards. Left to right: Jay Levy, Shelly Clifford, Jessica Ivy and Wanikka Vance.

OXFORD, Miss.—The University of Mississippi School of Education recently honored four outstanding alumni as part of its new Practitioner of Distinction Awards.

The school created the award to recognize mid-career educators who are demonstrating exemplary work in their field. The 2017 honorees include: Shelley Clifford of Atlanta, Jessica Ivy of Starkville, Jay Levy of Canton and Wanikka Vance of Chicago.

The awards are a counterpart to the School of Education’s Hall of Fame, which honors alumni who have at least 25 years of service in education. The honorees were recognized at the School of Education’s Hall of Fame ceremony on May 12 at the Inn at Ole Miss.

Shelly Clifford received her bachelor’s degree in education from Ole Miss in 2003 and was named Graduate Student of the Year in 2004 when she earned her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction. She has served as the head of the lower school at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School for six years in Atlanta. Prior to current role, Clifford served as a third-, fifth- and sixth-grade teacher for seven years in Memphis, Tennessee, and Charleston, South Carolina.

“It’s really humbling to be celebrated like this,” said Clifford. “I hope that this will be an opportunity to reconnect with Ole Miss. I would love to come back and spend time with education students.”

Jessica Ivy earned three degrees from UM including a doctorate in math education in 2011.

Ivy is an assistant professor of secondary education at Mississippi State University. She also works with the MSU chapter of the Mississippi Excellence Teaching Program.

“Receiving this award sends a message that people are starting to recognize the importance of teachers,” said Ivy. “I’m very honored to have received it and been a small part of the mission to support our educators.”

Jay Levy graduated from the UM in 2011 with bachelor’s degree in English education. Levy experienced a tragic car accident during his junior year at Ole Miss. But, he did not allow it to keep him from his passion for teaching.

During Levy’s first year of teaching at Pisgah High School, not only did his English students earn the highest pass rate in the state of Mississippi on the state subject area test, but he was also selected as teacher of the year.

“I began wondering if the students would still respond to me the same way since I am in a wheelchair,” Levy said. “I think they respected me more after I told them my story and I was open with them and let them ask questions. That’s how I always start class on the first day of school and I always tell them to wear their seatbelt. It gives me a teachable moment to let them know that life is hard, but it’s possible to move on.”

Wanikka Vance received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from UM in 2003.

Vance has served as a Chicago elementary school teacher for 10 years. In 2011, she founded a school for pre-K to first-graders called Foundations 4 adVANCEment, which

focuses on preparing young learners academically and socially to become college and career-minded from their earliest stages of growth and development.

“This award is a great honor,” said Vance. “Most of the time when you leave your alma mater, you’re just gone. To know that they have actually been following me professionally is a big surprise to me, but also a great honor to be able to realize that the work I am doing is not in vain.”

By Kathleen Murphy