STARKVILLE, Miss.--Being a good teacher is more than just knowing the subject matter.
That reminder was among several Richard Blackbourn, dean of Mississippi State's College of Education, shared recently with students in the Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program.
Through METP, 19 future teachers at the university are learning that educators have a huge impact on all aspects of a student's life, not just academics.
Announced in January and funded by the Jackson-based Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation, the program is a joint effort by MSU and the School of Education at the University of Mississippi to prepare high-achieving students to be leaders in education.
"I want to have a better understanding of what it is to be a teacher in Mississippi, and I think it will give me an edge when the time comes to get a job," said freshman Mikala Taylor of Starkville.
To gain admission, METP candidates must possess grades and test scores comparable to admission requirements for both the MSU and UM honors colleges. An interview process identifies those with a demonstrated passion and dedication for improving public education in the state.
Accepted education majors receive full scholarships and room-and-board for up to four years. The program also provides money to study abroad or for off-campus learning activities such as visiting high-performing schools around the nation or abroad.
Meeting once a week during their freshman and sophomore years in a seminar-style class, the students learn general teaching information, including the challenges and benefits of being a leader.
Over their course of study, participants will be exposed to faculty and fellow METP students at both institutions of higher learning during cross-campus visits each semester and weeklong summer residencies. They also have the opportunity to attend a national or regional professional conference relevant to their teaching discipline.
All graduates make a five-year commitment to teach in the state following graduation, and they will have been trained especially for the new national Common Core Standards.
"We want them to make friends and have a support network," said Lina Trullinger, METP coordinator in MSU's Office of Clinical/Field-based Instruction and Licensure in the College of Education. "It gives them someone to bounce ideas off of, discuss problems with and so forth."
While the majority of the program's students are from Mississippi, the program also draws future teachers from other states.
"I'm really impressed with MSU's teaching program. I like it here a lot, and I'm excited at the opportunities METP will bring me," said Walker A. Isbell, a freshman from Jonesboro, Ark.