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ASU plan offers elementary education master’s degree

Julia Brown has been teaching for 22 years, but she’s always hadthe desire to go back to school and be a student one moretime.

The 50-year-old third-grade teacher at Loyd Star Attendance Centerhas long desired the chance to add a master’s degree to her resume,but there’s always been a roadblock that kept her from going – toomuch money, too far to drive, no one available to watch the kids.She tried to take the night courses and earn the higher degreeyears ago, but the plan fell apart.

“I started at Jackson State University, but I just took threecourses. The ladies I was carpooling with finished, and I justnever got hooked up with anyone else to ride with,” Brown said. “Icould have gone myself, but I’m not driving in Jackson. I’m not avery good driver.”

Brown can’t make the trip to Jackson, but she can get downInterstate 55 to Summit, no problem. In a few weeks, that’s where anew master’s program for elementary teachers will be offered.

Alcorn State University is set to begin teaching its Master ofScience in Elementary Education program at Southwest MississippiCommunity College this fall, a quick course of advanced study forlicensed elementary teachers who wish to earn a master’s degree.The courses will be offered in pairs in eight-week blocks, allowingenrolled teachers to finish the program in three semesters, or oneyear.

Dr. Ruth Nichols, an ASU coordinator, said the program would allowteachers to sharpen their skills and qualify for pay raises andbetter jobs, both of which will benefit the local community.

“It provides the school systems with a strong pool of teachers,”she said. “And the students can go through all this together as agroup, they can bond together and call on each other for help, soit makes going back to school a little less stressful.”

While the program is only for elementary teachers, Nichols said ASUhopes to shore up the effort with classes for high school teachersand, eventually, alternate route courses to give non-teachers achance to train into the profession.

“This is our start, our beginning,” she said. “We’re trying tolisten to what the community needs.”

ASU has been listening carefully so far.

The Summit-based graduate program started with research, as collegeofficials prowled around Lincoln and Pike counties talking withsuperintendents, principals and teachers to determine what kind ofprogram local educators needed most. Nichols said more than 100elementary teachers from school districts in the two countiesexpressed interest – right now, teachers pursuing master’s degreeshave to drive to Hattiesburg, Jackson or even Baton Rouge.

“The response to this was huge,” she said. “We have quite a fewpeople who signed up, but it’s not too late to apply thisfall.”

Interested elementary teachers may call ASU at 601-304-4335 orvisit the school’s website at www.alcorn.edu to learn more aboutthe graduate program.

Brown will be there.

“I’ve got most of my paperwork in now,” she said. “Now that myyoungest daughter is at Mississippi State, I decided to go on. It’seither now or never, and if Alcorn hadn’t come, I probably wouldn’tbe thinking about doing it.”

Brown’s boss, Loyd Star principal Robin Case, said several otherLoyd Star elementary teachers are interested in the program.

“At this point I have signed quite a number of recommendations formy teachers,” she said. “There hasn’t been anything like thisbrought to the community. It’s going to allow education to come tothem, and it will be extremely advantageous.”