STARKVILLE, Miss.--Mississippi State offers three online alternate routes to teacher certification for prospective Magnolia State teachers who already hold bachelor's degrees.
The university's College of Education features the programs, which include a master's in teaching-middle level education, or MAT-M, and a master's in teaching-secondary level education, or MAT-S. Both require 36 credit hours of coursework via 12 classes.
The third option involves the completion of 15 credit hours--or, three classes--to earn the Teach Mississippi Institute, or TMI, certification in special education.
"Our primary recruiting tool is word of mouth," said Dekota Cheatham, the college's outreach coordinator. "I try to get the word out to as many different groups in as many different ways as possible."
In addition to contacting people who express interest in the programs, Cheatham said she regularly attends job fairs and visits with principals and superintendents.
Stacey Butera was a teacher's assistant when she heard MSU was organizing a MAT-M informational meeting where she worked, Biloxi's North Bay Elementary School.
"I saw I could just take the classes online to get my licensure," Butera said. "Earning my master's really appealed to me, and getting into this program was a great thing for me.
"I started the process last February, and now I'm in the internship II course," she said. "If you told me last year at New Year's that I'd be in this master's program and I'd be teaching one year later, I'd say, 'No way.'"
Butera now leads an eighth-grade English and language arts class at Biloxi Junior High. Her experience is typical of others in the alternative program, said Susan Steward, the education college's project coordinator.
Steward also cited the example of Barbara Hutchinson from Killeen, Texas, who completed her MAT-S in the summer of 2013.
She was working in Vicksburg when she realized she wanted to become certified to teach high school, and Hutchinson said "convenient" is the best word to describe MSU's alternate teacher-certification programs.
"Teachers and the department would send me emails to make sure I stayed on track, and any time I needed to talk to someone, I could email or I could call," Hutchinson said. "It was an amazing experience.
"With me working, it couldn't have been better."
Steward said TMI certification students can take three summer courses and get their non-renewable licenses before they complete six hours of classroom internship during the fall semester.
"Mississippi is a high-needs state," Cheatham said. "Many special ed teachers end up in critical-need districts. We teach them how to be teachers, and we coach classroom management. We don't just do it for the Teach Mississippi Institute students; we do it for all our education students."
For more about the MAT-M program, visit http://distance.msstate.edu/matm/. For MAT-S or the TMI certification, see http://distance.msstate.edu/mats/.
Information about MSU is available at www.msstate.edu.