USM looking to head off teacher shortage

January 16, 2014

Education

One Mississippi public university is redoubling efforts to insure that the state recruits and retains more teachers.

While the state of Mississippi faces a teacher shortage in critical needs areas throughout the state, the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast is working to help alleviate those shortages through customized licensure programs, as well as promoting financial aid incentives for students offered by both the university and the state.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, teacher shortage areas in Mississippi include French, German, Spanish, mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics, and special education. In response to these shortage areas, Southern Miss offers programs leading to licensure in each of these subjects, as well as dual licensure for elementary education and special education.

Dr. Ann Blackwell, dean and professor for the Southern Miss College of Education and Psychology, said, “We intend to do everything possible to address the teacher shortage in Mississippi through excellent academic programs, innovative opportunities for students interested in education and expanded financial support.”

Financial aid offered by the university is in the form of scholarships for teacher education. Through the state of Mississippi, financial aid is available as either a loan or scholarship depending on whether the recipient repays the loan financially or through service as a teacher in Mississippi. State financial aid programs vary and may completely cover the costs of earning a bachelor’s degree.

While the Southern Miss Gulf Park campus resides among the state’s coastal counties, which are not listed as areas of critical need for teachers, coast students say they are finding employment right here at home.

“Our professors at Southern Miss Gulf Coast are teaching us both the current and previous frameworks for state education,” said LaQuita Gresham of Tulsa, Okla., a senior English licensure student who is planning to teach in secondary education. “By keeping up with legislative changes in Mississippi schools, our faculty have prepared us for what to expect. We are going in to schools for our coursework, which is helping us get our foot in the door and we are being offered jobs before we have even graduated.”

In addition to standard degree programs offered for teacher education, the university is actively recruiting for its alternate route programs for students who already have a non-education bachelor’s degree, but would like to pursue a certificate or master’s degree program to become a certified teacher. This program is among several alternate route programs offered by the university.

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