As executive director of the Office of Professional Laboratory Experiences at the College of Education, Tiffany Dellard organizes end-of-semester, full-day seminars to celebrate education students before they graduate and lead their own classrooms.
“Their student teaching semester can be very challenging, and we want to take some time to acknowledge all that they have done to get to that point,” Dellard said.
This fall’s cohort of 61 students attended their celebration on Thursday, Dec. 8, with a morning of remarks from interim Dean Rick Vanosdall, information about graduate programs, a complimentary meal and a giveaway of 35 $100 gift cards — a total of $3,500 in prizes — courtesy of MTSU Athletics and provided by the College Football Playoff Foundation.
“We do a COE (College of Education) giveaway every semester, but this was the first time we had a giveaway from outside the college,” Dellard said. “Educators put a lot into their classrooms and their students, including their own money for supplies and resources. It is nice to help them give to their students without having to reach into their own wallets.”
Rachel Fullerton, assistant director of marketing for athletics, said she learned about the opportunity to provide prizes to COE graduates while accompanying university mascot Lightning to an earlier education event.
“I thought to myself, partnering with the College of Education for our Extra Yard for Teachers initiative is the perfect opportunity to invest in future teachers and MTSU students,” Fullerton said.
MTSU is part of Conference USA, and the conference partners with the College Football Playoff Foundation’s Extra Yard for Teachers‘ platform, which provides the university with $7,000 in Michaels gift cards annually to give back to the education community.
Before this semester, MT Athletics distributed these funds solely through their local Extra Yard for Teachers website, where community members can nominate local educators to receive gift cards to put toward their classrooms.
This semester, the marketing staff decided to split the gifts cards equally between the online educator nomination winners and COE grads.
“I started as a student intern for MTSU Athletics seven years ago,” Fullerton said. “Over the years, I have had the opportunity to surprise many local teachers with funds for their classrooms through Conference USA’s partnership. … This year, having the opportunity to surprise MTSU grads with funds for their new classrooms was very meaningful!”
A dream classroom, plus job opportunities
Lauren Washington of Smyrna, Tennessee, will start her teaching career at Black Fox Elementary in Murfreesboro this January, with $100 from Michaels.
“I had no idea!” Washington said about the prize. “It was definitely the most pleasant surprise. It means that I will be able to get a good start on prepping my very first classroom. All new teachers have a dream classroom, but making that dream a reality isn’t always financially realistic.”
Washington said she feels well prepared by the College of Education to start her next chapter.
“The college has filled my teacher toolbelt with enough skills and strategies to last a lifetime. I’m excited to put everything that I have learned to use,” she said.
Allie Tenpenny of Jackson, Tennessee, will teach kindergarten at Lascassas Elementary School just north of Murfreesboro next semester and was also unaware of the giveaway when her name was drawn.
“I was so excited to win,” Tenpenny said. “I can get some craft supplies to set up my classroom without having to use my own money. It really is so helpful!”
The seminar wrapped up in the afternoon with a recruitment fair, where school district representatives from neighboring counties joined others from across the state and from as far away as Georgia to entice grads to teach for them. Many are MTSU alumni themselves.
Chris Lovett from Williamson County Schools said they want to hire MTSU education grads because of their “durability, intelligence and a passion to go above and beyond.”
Andrea Anthony, assistant superintendent of human resources and support services for Rutherford County Schools, said the district’s close partnership with MTSU’s student teaching program can make for a virtually seamless transition for graduates entering local classrooms.
“And there’s the high quality of MTSU teachers. We can retain them. They become lifelong career teachers,” Anthony said.
To learn more about the opportunities at MTSU’s College of Education, visit its website at www.mtsu.edu/education.
— Stephanie Wagner (Stephanie.Wagner@mtsu.edu)