Mississippi State University Research and Curriculum Unit Project Manager Suzanne Bean (left) and Assistant Research Professor Leanne Long (center) present a diploma to Haley Parker, a Family and Consumer Science teacher at Tupelo High School (Tupelo Public School District).
RCU Trains Record NTI Cohort
Photos by RCU Staff
After an intense, year-long training, 104 teachers graduated from the Mississippi State University Research and Curriculum Unit’s (RCU’s) New Teacher Induction (NTI) program this summer — a record for the largest cohort since the fast-track career and technical education (CTE) teaching certification program began.
NTI is designed to certify industry professionals to teach in a specified area of CTE based on their previous careers. Members of the 2018-2019 cohort came from a variety of different backgrounds, including agriculture, construction, culinary arts, health care, information technology and public safety.
A National Research Center for CTE grant awarded to the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) in 2009 helped launch NTI. After receiving the funding, the SREB spent the 2009-2011 academic years researching and developing a program to increase teacher retention in CTE. Mississippi began its pilot program during the 2012-2013 academic year and has grown it significantly to provide numerous learning opportunities for industry professionals transitioning into the classroom.
This year, the cohort worked together to learn best practices for teaching their areas of expertise and utilized valuable resources for building engaging learning environments for their students. Because the new teachers are entering the classroom from an alternative, non-academic career route, NTI focuses on preparing them for their new careers as educators.
Shelley Johnson, a Madison County School District Health Science teacher who graduated with this year’s record cohort, said she is now better equipped to teach her students and manage her classroom.
“I thought NTI was a great way for someone coming straight out of industry to get their feet wet as far as teaching is concerned,” she said. “The content we received was amazing. Everything, from classroom management to project-based learning, was very important. They provided me with so many little nuggets of information from their own experiences that will help me as I start my second year as a teacher.”
One way the program helps teachers is by providing a collaborative environment in which they learn about their individual strengths and weaknesses in the classroom. On-site coaching visits allow the new teachers to be observed in their own classroom by a professional, and they then receive real-time, personalized feedback on their performance.
Aside from honing their instructional skills, this year’s cohort studied research on the functioning of the teenage brain, thus allowing teachers to become more in tune with how students think. They also spent time learning about the Mississippi Department of Education’s Access for All Guide and how they can create a better learning environment for students with special needs or learning disabilities.
RCU professional development specialists are now working with the 2019-2020 cohort. Leanne Long, an assistant research professor and project manager at the organization, said there are plans to expand the use of teenage brain research, and the cohort will also be able to connect with veteran CTE teachers to ease the transition from industry to the classroom.
“We’ve received a lot of feedback from previous cohorts requesting to interact more with CTE teachers in the field,” she said. “We will have our past cohort graduates or our methods trainers participate at our regional trainings to help our new teachers transition better. We also had great feedback from the teenage brain research, so we want to enhance that training to provide more information for the cohort. We are always working to provide the best training based on teacher needs and what we see through coaching observations in the field.”