By Edwin B. Smith
University of Mississippi
The student teaching experience for University of Mississippi education majors has become a little easier, thanks to a new support program and its generous benefactors.
Every education major getting ready to begin their student teaching gets an Essential Education Kit, which was created to provide student teachers with school supplies and gas cards they might otherwise have had difficulty in purchasing. Student teachers often quit their part-time jobs to work full-time without pay in the schools they serve.
Alumni, staff, faculty, and friends have donated more than $12,000 to the Essential Education Kit Fund since its inception. Donations have been used to provide kits to 227 student teachers serving 44 schools throughout northern and central Mississippi.
“Two years ago, Chancellor and Mrs. Boyce established a fund to help support students during this critical component of their teacher training experience,” said Kelly Smith Marion, associate director of development for the School of Education. “I was so inspired by this act of generosity that I – with the help of students and faculty – thought of ways our alumni could give back in small ways to support our students.”
Smith Marion said she saw another institution raising money for school supplies for student teachers and immediately wanted to repurpose this idea into something for Ole Miss students. She shared her idea with others, including Sally Quong, a clinical assistant professor in the School of Education who supervises student teachers, and Kimmy Day, a graduate assistant and project team leader.
“During a brainstorming session, Kelly and Kimmy were trying to figure out what classroom supplies would be helpful for a novice teacher,” Quong said. “I taught high school social studies and English for 17 years, so I started shouting out items that were helpful to me in my own classroom.”
Smith Marion, Day and Quong worked with several students, faculty and staff members to create the kits.
“We tried to be thoughtful when it came to selecting items for the kits,” Quong said. “Materials needed to be practical and adaptable to any classroom. We wanted to include items that were essential to the daily business of school.”
Kits include desk essentials, such as tape dispensers, staplers, pens and paperclips. Also included is as a tote bag that can help teachers travel from home to classroom or from classroom to classroom.
The team also established an Ignite Ole Miss campaign so alumni, parents and friends could donate and sponsor a kit for each UM student teacher. Day was part of the letter campaign and narrated a small portion of a video explaining the kits for potential donors.
“I worked to sort and pack essential kit materials into boxes to send to regional campuses, as well as packing kits for students at our Oxford campus,” Day said. “Along with packing, I also had the privilege to help with letter writing for each of the students receiving kits.”
The team sent emails and had social media posts marketing this project to alumni, parents of School of Education seniors and previous donors to the school. More than $12,000 came in from some 40 donors.
“One family in particular, David and Ali Martineau, of Austin, Texas, made a generous gift so each of the student teachers would have a gas gift card included in the kit,” Smith Marion said. “This was a very popular item in the kits and the students were extra grateful for this addition.”
Hailey Hagemann, a senior special education major, has been involved in the advertising and marketing of the EEK project. The Saltillo native said the impact of her own kit extends beyond helpful supplies and alumni keepsakes.
“Knowing that a community of experienced educators believes in me, supports my future and desires for my students and I to achieve our fullest potential in my new classroom next year is a feeling like no other,” said Hagemann, who teaches third grade at Lafayette Upper Elementary School. “I am so grateful for not only the donors, but also the staff who were involved in making this project come to life.”
Day said she has heard nothing but thanks and gratitude from student teachers.
“One student was completely overjoyed and almost in tears when she received the gas card that was made possible by one of our donors,” Day said. “I think our student teachers are extremely appreciative for our donors and the school supplies they received to use in their classrooms.”
For a gift of $50, a donor can sponsor a kit for a student teacher of their choice, or a student at random. Donors can share a note of encouragement with the student. Recent alumni of the school also can sponsor a kit for $10.
“We hope this will become a new tradition for future student teachers,” Smith Marion said.
To make a donation to the Essential Education Kit Fund, go to https://umfoundation.com/studentteaching.