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CTE programs addressing teacher shortage

Mississippi has a teacher shortage, and local Career and Technical Education programs are attempting to help address that problem.

Pearl River Central student Joshua Montes wants to be a high school English teacher. His two year CTE class has given him the chance to shadow an elementary school teacher and learn about presenting information to different types of students.

Montes’ class was discussing Dr. Seuss and the controversy surrounding his books during Dr. Seuss week.

“We were just talking about how to question things and how questioning can help you to change and how to learn about your environment and your society,” he said.

Last school year, Montes was able to work with a teacher at an elementary school as part of the program.

“It was a very good experience. We got to help the different kids in the class. I actually got to teach them (vocabulary) one time, that was cool,” said Montes.

The young students were excited by even small things, like being given a new pencil, said Montes. After coming back from the elementary school, students wrote reflections on what they learned from shadowing teachers.

The Poplarville School District’s teacher academy program is in its first year. Rebekah Mayfield teaches the Poplarville class.

In the program, students start by learning about the laws related to teaching and the ethics of being a teacher.

The students learn skills from classroom communication games to lesson planning.

“I think they’re getting first hand experience and that’s not something you can learn from a book,” she said.

The students are challenged to design a classroom based on a given scenario. For example, students are told they have a first grade class of 20 kids, one student with vision problems and one student with ADHD and are asked to set up a classroom to meet those needs.

Not every student in Mayfield’s class is an aspiring teacher. Some are interested in psychology or counseling. Mayfield is hopeful the teacher academy will help educate much needed future teachers, and other Poplarville teachers have been excited to help with the program by acting as mentors.

The Pearl River Central School District and the Picayune School District also offer CTE pathways for early childhood education.

Students get to work with preschoolers and learn about development from birth up to preschool age, said Pearl River Central junior Kiley Porenba.

“Personally, I want to do something with occupational therapy and kids that are on the spectrum, just because Mississippi, they don’t necessarily lack, but there just needs to be more along that area, so this helps with learning how to work with the children from different home styles,” said Porenba.

A preschool is attached to the PRC early childhood education program with 12 children aged 3 and 4. Teenagers work with the preschoolers alongside a preschool teacher who models effective teaching practices.

The early childhood education programs can lead to scholarship opportunities for college bound students at Pearl River Central Community College and other community colleges in the state.