Former pageant winner tells her class to pursue their ambitions

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Miss Mississippi spoke to Rankin Elementary third-graders on Friday about the importance of setting goals.
The visit wasn’t difficult to arrange since she also works at the third- to fifth-grade Tupelo school.
Rankin third-grade teacher Jessica McRaney Mathias was Miss Mississippi USA 2009 and went on to compete in that year’s Miss USA contest. With this year’s state pageant being held this weekend, Mathias wore her crown and sash in her classroom and spoke with her students about the lessons she learned.
“I was in college at the time, studying to be a teacher,” she said.
“I had a lot of goals, and it was not just about being Miss Mississippi. One of them was about keeping my grades up.”
Mathias had mentioned to her class before that she had won the pageant, but said that she hasn’t dwelt on it. Friday was the first time she had worn her crown in the classroom.
“If I had never told them, they wouldn’t know any differently,” she said. “I’m just a regular teacher for them.
“…I want them to realize that if this is what they want to do, this is what they can do. What they want is attainable.”
Her students said they were surprised when their teacher wore a crown and sash.
“It was funny because I’ve never seen her do it,” said Wesley Sumner, 8.
“She was pretty,” added Madison Martin, 8.
Mathias has been stressing the importance of goals to her students throughout the year. Every week each student writes on his or her desk a target grade for one of the tests the class will take. The students then make a line graph on their desk charting their progress.
“I really believe in it because they see it every day, and it is in their face,” Mathias said.
Third-grader Terrence Harris, 8, said he likes setting the weekly goals.
“It gives us a better education and it helps us be better in our work,” he said.
chris.kieffer@journalinc.com