Students from the Pearl River Community College and William Carey University (WCU) third and fourth cohorts recently participated in a signing ceremony that celebrated a relatively new partnership between the two schools. Accepting the individual memorandums of understanding (MOU) officially marks the transition from PRCC to WCU students.
The partnership between PRCC and WCU began in 2018 to address the teacher shortage. This originated after seeing the number of teachers being licensed by the Mississippi Department of Education plummet from 7,000 to 700. The university decided to start going to potential students for a more “homegrown” approach.
“Our WCU- PRCC Elementary Education Partnership offers an amazing opportunity for our students to complete their Elementary Education degree with two of the best institutions in the state,” said Christina Miller, WCU-PRCC elementary education liaison. “These institutions work hand-in-hand to help reduce the teacher shortage. It has been such an honor to work with these institutions and our students as the liaison for the partnership. I love seeing these students achieve their dream of becoming teachers.”
The cohort started at the Poplarville Campus and has expanded to include students from the Hancock Campus. There are 14 students in Cohort 3 with a graduation date of 2022 and 17 students in Cohort 4 with a graduation date of 2023.
After completing their associates degree, students remain on the PRCC campus to finish their bachelor’s degree as WCU students. They receive a reduction in tuition while staying on a familiar campus close to the communities where they will do their student teaching.
“It is a seamless process when they finish at PRCC,” said WCU chair of Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Katie Tonore. “They go straight to William Carey, receive a tuition waiver and then we’ll come to them for classes.
“It is all part of the ‘grow your own’ approach.”
Many of the current students are already working in local school districts in roles such as a teaching assistant. With most of the courses delivered online, these individuals can continue to work while completing their education.
“The partnership that WCU has made with PRCC is an amazing opportunity for teacher assistants to continue working while completing their teaching degree,” said WCU School of Education Adjunct Professor Deidra C. Thompson, Ed.S.
Thompson also serves as Assistant Principal at Nicholson Elementary in the Picayune School District. Several of her teaching assistants are in the program now.
“This is especially needed at this time as many school districts are experiencing teacher shortages,” she said.
During each trimester of their junior year, students are rotated through three placements with one in a city and one in a rural area. The third placement is up to the student.
Their senior year includes a yearlong placement for student teaching in the school district they anticipate working in after graduation.
“We have teachers calling us every day wanting to hire our students before they even finish,” said Tonore. “This is why their senior year placement is crucial as most of our students will accept a position at that school.”
Since the partnership began, 11 students have graduated with their bachelor’s degree in elementary education and are now teaching in local schools.
PHOTO: Students attending the WCU-PRCC Elem. Ed Partnership Signing Event at Rotary Room, Olivia Bender Cafeteria on the PRCC's Poplarville Campus
Back row: Ethan Wilson, Heidi Harriel, Peyton Allen, Raelyn Shaw, Donis Davis
Front Row: April Holifield, Sarena Lott, Angela Seay, Lesa Lee