As an elementary and high school student, Ben Logan had thoughts about one day being a teacher.
But the University of Mississippi freshman did not seriously consider the profession until he learned about a newly created program.
The Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program is a collaborative effort between Ole Miss and Mississippi State University to entice more of Mississippi’s best college students to become educators.
Funded by a gift last spring from the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation, it offers a full academic scholarship and other incentives to honors college-caliber students at each university who agree to major in education and serve as English or math teachers in Mississippi for at least five years.
Now Logan, a 2013 graduate of Tupelo High School, is in the program’s first cohort.
“I think a lot of people view the profession of teaching as not the ideal job,” he said. “They say, if you are smart and successful, why not make a little more money.
“I think, ‘Why not teaching?’ You get so much out of it, and you make more of an impact than anything else because you are preparing the future.”
The program began this fall as both universities commenced classes. MSU’s initial group of 19 students has an average ACT of 28.25 and high school grade-point average of 3.88. Ole Miss’ group of 15 has a 28.5 ACT score and a 4.0 highschool GPA.
“We have a stellar group of students,” said MSU Education Dean Richard Blackbourn.
Among those is Cassidy Pitts, also a 2013 Tupelo High graduate. She said the scholarship was a big incentive for her to participate in the program at MSU.
“I’ve always tutored, and I’ve always loved having an influence on helping kids not only learn, but love to learn,” she said.
Abby Null, a 2013 Corinth High graduate, is enrolled at Ole Miss.
“I really want to inspire kids in English,” she said. “I used to not like English. Then during my 11th- and 12th-grade years, I really started to like it and wanted other kids to like it as much.”
Students on both campuses will attend a seminar class this semester introducing them to teaching. They will gather as a large group in Starkville during the fall and in Oxford in the spring. They’ll also travel to top-performing schools in the
United States and in the world as juniors and seniors.
“They are the leaders of the program,” said UM Education Dean David Rock. “It is important for them to be visible and campus leaders and to show that we can attract top performers into our profession.”