Due to the shortage of teachers, the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) has established a new program designed to boost the number of teachers in Mississippi.
According to the MDE, there were approximately 3,000 certified teacher vacancies in 2021.
These vacancies are the reason behind the MDE's new Mississippi Teacher Residency (MTR) program.
The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund funded this program, which is different from the private funds that the Kellogg Foundation has used in the past.
MDE is awarding $9.8 million in total to the universities joining the program. $2.03 million is going to Mississippi State University.
Courtney Van Cleve, state director of MDE's Division of Educator Talent Acquisition and Effectiveness, said the education workforce in Mississippi is strengthened through policies in the MTR program.
"Like other states across the country, Mississippi is facing a teacher shortage," Van Cleve said. "We have found that the Mississippi Teacher Residency program is the key strategy for keeping one of our goals of every school having effective teachers."
According to Van Cleve, the challenge of teacher shortages will require joint effort to reach a relevant solution.
Van Cleve said the MTR program is designed to help students leave college as fully-fledged educators with no college debt.
This program includes training with the assistance of a mentor, full scholarships and professional development.
By assisting students facing financial barriers of college, Van Cleve said MDE hoped Mississippi would gain valuable educators for schools across the state.
Van Cleve said the MTR program will benefit participants by making them fully licensed teachers with no debt and lots of experience.She said new teachers will be able to handle the stress that comes with teaching and stick with the career path through the program.
Van Cleve said a large part of the teacher shortage is due to low teacher retention. With 50% of new teachers leaving the profession after the first five years, these low retention rates cause the MTR program to ready students to be educators.
Andrea Berryhill, a senior elementary education major, said that she is glad to see the program is helping more people realize the importance of teachers.
"I am so glad that Mississippi is stepping up and realizing the impact teachers have on the state and the population of the state," Berryhill said. "When you make a salary that may not be over the top, it is hard to go back and get a master's degree, especially if you are wanting to stay out of debt."
Berryhill said she believed this program would bring more teachers into the state.
Since the MTR program is awarding full scholarships, Berryhill said more education majors might get their master's degrees. She said this would result in more teachers, as well as effective and knowledgeable educators for Mississippi.
Madison Stewman, a freshman secondary education major, said effective teachers are a vital part of students' education and can have a positive impact on their home lives.
"I feel like the MTR program will open the door to people that want to teach but may not have the money for college," Stewman said. "I believe that without the pay wall, this program will help with the teacher shortage and help bring more people in."