Education Edge

The official blog of the Ole Miss School of Education

Meet the Ninth Class of the Principal Corps

by UM School of Education on June 5, 2017

Front row: Mandy Scarpulla, Sandra Oliver, Kewanna Riley, Angela Oliphant, Monica Meredith, Sharon Cooley. Back row: Robin Auringer, Katie Nelson, Angel Carr, Christine Beeker, Lindsay Starbuck and Marrion Winders.

OXFORD, Miss. — A dozen women from school districts across the state make up the ninth class of the University of Mississippi’s Principal Corps.

The Principal Corps is UM’s elite program for aspiring educational leaders, and over nearly a decade, the program has produced 87 new graduates, 90 percent of whom are currently serving as a principal or assistant principal in school districts across the state of Mississippi and beyond. This is also the first all-female cohort of the program.

The group includes: Robin Auringer of the Gulfport School District, Christine Beeker of the Meridian Public School District, Angela Carr of the Nettleton School District, Sharon Cooley of the Lamar County School District, Monica Meredith of the Senatobia Municipal School District, Kathleen Nelson of the Rankin County School District, Angela Oliphant of the Harrison County School District, Sandra Oliver of the Jefferson County School District, Kewanna Riley of the Harrison County School District, Lindsay Starbuck of the Smith County School District and Marrion Winders of the Tupelo Public School District.

At the program’s orientation on May 31, Principal Corps Interim Director Tom Burnham and other members of the School of Education faculty, addressed the group of aspiring school leaders who hail from all corners of Mississippi.

“One of the things we’re most proud of in the Principal Corps is the growth of this program throughout the state,” said Burnham, a two-time state superintendent of education and former UM education dean. “There are a number of you who are coming into the Principal Corps from districts that have never been part of our program before. We’re very proud of that.”

Designed to be a transformational journey toward school leadership, the 13-month program prepares teachers for K-12 leadership positions with a combination of graduate coursework and two full-time internships (fall and spring semesters) where program participants learn from experienced mentor-principals at internship sites.

The 12 new cohort members possess impressive credentials. Many hold advanced degrees or national board certifications.

Angela Oliphant, biology teacher from the Harrison County School District, holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Southern Mississippi and a master’s degree from William Carey University, but chose UM’s Principal Corps for its reputation.

“I wanted to learn how to be an effective leader in our schools, and I knew Ole Miss had the best program,” said Oliphant. “The Principal Corps has established a name that speaks for itself. The previous cohorts all speak very highly of the instructors and the program.”

The program offers one of the most valuable leadership scholarships in the country. All cohort members receive full tuition, books and housing while at UM. In addition, the program enables participants to take leave from their home school districts without sacrificing their salary during the program.

In addition to two summer sessions, Principal Corps participants come to Oxford one weekend per month for face-to-face instruction during the school year. Each graduate receives a Master of Education or Specialist in Education degree in educational leadership from UM, which, along with passing the School Leaders Licensure Assessment, will qualify them for a state school administrator’s license.

Principal Corps Recruit Monica Meredith is a special education teacher Senatobia Elementary School who started her teaching career 17 years ago via Teach for America. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University and a master’s degree from UM.

“I saw (the Principal Corps) as an intense and elite program where I could work closely with professors and my classmates,” Meredith said. “I would like to go back to my district and start impacting children’s lives there immediately. I’ve taught there, I live close to there—it’s where my heart is.”

Besides earning an advanced degree in educational leadership, graduates also receive a $10,000 bonus from the program upon accepting a principal or assistant principal job in a Mississippi public school and beginning work. Each graduate makes a five-year commitment to stay in Mississippi.

The Principal Corps was established in 2009 with funding from the Jim and Donna Barksdale Foundation. The program is also supported with funding from the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation in Jackson.

“The opportunity that you have to impact the lives of children is going to expand tremendously through this program,” said Burnham at the orientation. “It will expand when you go into schools and start your internships. But along with opportunity, we must also embrace responsibility. Where much is given, much is expected.”

By Andrew Abernathy

SOE Alumna Honored as Oxford School District First-Year Teacher of the Year

by UM School of Education on May 30, 2017

Alli Rhodes, 2017 Oxford School District First-Year Teacher of the Year

OXFORD, Miss. — SOE alumna Alli Rhodes (M.Ed. 16, B.A.Ed. 15), a first-year kindergarten teacher at Bramlett Elementary School, is the Oxford School District 2017 First Year Teacher of the Year.

To be named the Oxford School District First Teacher of the Year, a teacher must be in their first year of teaching within an Oxford school. According to Bramlett Elementary School Principal Suzanne Ryals, Rhodes has worked throughout the school year to see that her students achieve and grow to their maximum potential.

“Ms. Rhodes’ student data is phenomenal for not only a first-year teacher, but a master teacher, as well,” said Ryals. “She led her class to 100 percent growth in math and reading on assessments students take on the content and skills they learn during the school year. Her commitment to her students, collaboration with her fellow teachers, and continuing professional growth demonstrate her high standards: these qualities are examples of a highly effective teacher.

Rhodes has both her bachelor’s degree in elementary education and master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Mississippi. While in the master’s program she received honors as 2016 Outstanding Master’s Degree Student in Elementary Education from the University of Mississippi. She holds educational endorsements in mild/moderate disabilities kindergarten through 12th grade, English 7th-12th grades and middle school mathematics.

By Kelly Graeber, Oxford School District

Graduate Instructor Becky Nance Wins Teaching Award

by UM School of Education on May 17, 2017

Nance (right) with Denise Soares (left), assistant chair of teacher education, during the SOE’s annual Awards Day ceremony on May 12.

OXFORD, Miss. — SOE Graduate Instructor Becky Nance has been selected as the winner of UM’s Graduate Instructor Excellence in Teaching Award.

The award has been given annually since 2008 to a graduate instructor through the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.  The award encompasses all of the departments across campus.

“I’m humbled, when you’re awarded for doing something that you love, or to be recognized for what I consider to just be doing my job, it’s very humbling,” said Nance, graduate instructor and Ph.D. candidate in teacher education at Ole Miss.

This is the first time that a graduate student from the School of Education will receive the Graduate Instructor Excellence in Teaching Award.

Nance was nominated by one of her fellow graduate instructors, and once she was nominated, had to submit a packet of information. Her students have been behind her the entire way as well.

“When they realized that I had found out about their letters, they wanted to know if I had gotten it [the award],” Nance said.  “As soon as I knew the outcome, I told them.”

Nance has just finished her coursework toward her doctorate and will be starting on her dissertation in the fall, which will focus on first-year teachers in critical needs schools in Mississippi.

“I am wanting to provide some mentor support for some first-year teachers and then just study how, does that support help them navigate that first year,” Nance said.

Johnny Lott, director emeritus, presented Nance with the Center’s “Golden Apple” trophy along with a $1,000 monetary award during the Doctoral Hooding Ceremony on Friday, May 12 2017. Her name will also be added to the Center for Excellence in Teaching plaque displayed in the J.D. Williams Library on campus.

Nance said receiving the award from Lott is meaningful to her.

“He has been a mentor to me,” Nance said. “He is in math ed and has really taken the time to invest in several of the math ed students here on campus. We have a personal connection and I am delighted that he will be the one to present the award to me.”

Nance said she hopes to graduate from the UM doctoral program in May of 2018.

By Alexandria Paton

Mississippi Forestry Association Hosts Learning Tree P-8 Workshop on Earth Day

by UM School of Education on April 19, 2017

OXFORD — The Mississippi Forestry Association will host an environmental workshop for teachers this Earth Day (Saturday, April 22) at the University of Mississippi Field Station in Abbeville from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

The program, Project Learning Tree Pre-K-8 Workshop, will provide participating teachers with supplemental curriculum materials, lesson plans and activities to inspire their students to learn about the natural world inside and outside of the classroom. Along with an activity book of countless classroom resources, participating teachers will receive posters, handouts and pamphlets about Mississippi’s natural resources for use in the classroom. The workshop will cost $40 and includes 0.6 CEU credits, as well as materials for the workshop.

Sponsored by the Mississippi Forestry Association, Project Learning Tree is an environmental education program that uses trees and forests as a primary focus not only to teach students, but to also aid in their understanding of the environment. The Project Learning Tree Workshop will help teachers integrate environmental education into their classroom lesson plans for all grades and subjects, and it will enable teachers to use the outdoors to engage students in learning about the environment and world around them.

The UM Field Station is a 740-acre research and educational facility designed to benefit visiting faculty and students, Mississippi schools, government agencies and the broader Mid-South community.

For more information, contact Education and Outreach Coordinator for the Mississippi Forestry Association, Zach Pardue at

By Liz McCormick


by UM School of Education on April 5, 2017

This May, students can earn SOE SWAG if they document service hours.

Starting this May, you can cash in community service hours for SOE SWAG!

If you are involved in service initiatives this semester (i.e. Team 36, Leap Frog, the Boys & Girls Club), the Office of the Dean wants to recognize you with rewards. Redeem your service hours for SOE merchandise during Service 4 Swag Week that will take place during the last week of classes,

May 1-5.

Watch this informational video or read below to learn how to participate in our Service4SWAG campaign! Here’s how to redeem your SOE swag:


Volunteer your time with groups like Leap Frog, the Big Event, The Boys and Girls Club and others.


Download and fill out the SOE Service Activity Sheet. Go to and click on SOE Service Initiative under the Student tab. Use a separate Activity Sheet for each site or event you served. For example, if you volunteered for The Leap Frog Program and participated in the Big Event, you would turn in two activity sheets.


Come and claim your SOE swag in Guyton Hall during the last week of classes,

May 1-5. Online and regional campus students can also exchange Service Activity Sheets via campus mail. See the Service Activity Sheet for details.

And don’t forget to celebrate on social media using #ServiceForSwag !