Teacher candidates at Mississippi State are gaining practical experience working with English Learner (EL) students, thanks to a partnership with the Scott County School District.
“Oftentimes, first-year teachers don’t have a lot of experience in teaching EL students, and that can become a struggle for both the teacher and the students,” explained Missy Hopper, a professor in MSU’s Department of Curriculum, Instruction and Special Education.
EL students in the state’s public schools are identified as needing support in learning languages that are less commonly spoken than in the home. Mississippi’s EL population is over 12,100 students, according to the Mississippi Department of Education, and there are more than 4.8 million EL students across the U.S.
Teresa Jayroe, dean of MSU’s College of Education, along with Donna Shea, director of the Office of Clinical/Field-based Instruction, Licensure and Outreach, and Starsha Jamerson, director of MSU’s Mississippi Migrant Education Service Center, collaborated with SCSD’s Elementary Curriculum Director Regina Biggers to develop and implement the partnership that connects teacher candidates with EL students who can benefit from additional tutoring, which is conducted in an online learning format.
“This partnership allows teacher candidates to get that experience and become more aware of the unique needs of these students and allow them to apply the theories they are learning in class in a real-world situation,” said Hopper, who works alongside MSU assistant professors Kristin Javorsky and Kellie Fondren to facilitate the tutoring sessions.
“We’re looking for more ways to give our preservice teachers experience working with PK-12 students, and no one would have predicted that learning how to teach online needed to be part of the teacher’s toolbox,” Javorsky said. “This is an opportunity to experience some individual interaction with students through the online environment.”
Jamerson said the MSU-SCSD partnership is especially critical due to the interrupted 2019-2020 school year.
“The needs of EL children have increased substantially,” Jamerson said. “This collaboration will allow the district to expand learning opportunities for EL students with the individualized instruction they need through the tutoring support provided.”
Biggers said the school district has a large number of EL students, and she’s excited to see growth in their oral communication skills, “especially as they build confidence. The more confidence they have to speak up in the classroom, the more interactive they’re going to be and the more they’re going to get out of those lessons.”
Kim Hall, interim associate dean of academic affairs for MSU’s College of Education, said the university relies on such partnerships to fully prepare teacher candidates for the many facets of their future roles as educators.
“This is a wonderful example of partnerships that help truly strengthen not only our students in the College of Education but also provides a valuable service to PK-12 students in our state,” Hall said. “We are very excited about this opportunity and look forward to working closely with more school districts in the future.”
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