MTSU College of Education alums honored at ‘Take a...

MTSU College of Education alums honored at ‘Take a Titan 2 School’ visit at Stewarts Creek Elementary

Nearly 60 alumni from Middle Tennessee State University’s College of Education were honored at a recent WKRN-TV’s “Take a Titan 2 School” visit at Stewarts Creek Elementary in Smyrna, Tennessee.

The alums were all greeted by Dean Neporcha Cone and other members of the College of Education and received a certificate and a fleece blanket with the college’s logo.

Cone said it was important for her to hand deliver the certificates and blankets so she could say thank you to the teachers shaping future generations.

“For me, it was important to remind our alums that we see them and that they work they do to empower students and families does not go unnoticed. Too often, the good work of educators can be overlooked. This was just a small token of the college’s appreciation for the positive impact they are continuing to have of local and global communities,” Cone said.

Kaci Runion, a fourth grade teacher, said she was a first-generation college graduate in her family and that MTSU was the perfect place for her.

“MTSU is close to home, so it kept me local. I had so many opportunities through scholarships, and it was great,” Runion said.

MTSU’s College of Education is an award-winning teacher preparation program and is consistently a top producer of “the most effective” teachers in Tennessee.

“I loved MTSU’s education program. The teachers were wonderful, and I just really had a great experience,” Runion said. “The culture at MTSU for teaching is the place to be.”

Fourth grade teacher Melanie Stickland, who received her master’s degree from MTSU, said she wanted to become a teacher because she was a “struggling learner” as a child.

“Things didn’t come quickly, but I knew that I could do it because I had a lot of teachers who believed in me and made me feel good about myself,” Strickland said. “So I have, in turn, taken that and wanted to let children know they can do what’s hard, what’s challenging to them, and I am a product of that you can overcome lots of challenges in your life.”

Dean Cone said it brings her immense joy to see alums thriving in their teaching careers.

“I have such a deep appreciation for who they are and what they do. I am reminded that the COE creates spaces for professionals to demonstrate excellence through teaching and learning. I am also reminded that our alum are difference makers,” she said.

Department of Elementary and Special Education Chair Eric Oslund, Titans rookie John Ojukwu, Mia Zellars and Associate Dean Robyn Ridgley at News 2’s Take a Titan 2 School visit at Stewarts Creek Elementary in Smyrna, Tenn., on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023. (Photo: James Cessna)

The College of Education partnered with WKRN-TV News 2 earlier this year for the television station’s successful “Take a Titan 2 School” campaign. From August through December, a Titans player visited a Middle Tennessee school.

Ashley Bija, a two-time MTSU graduate, teaches fourth grade at the elementary school. One of her students, Raven Rose, was responsible for getting Titans rookie John Ojukwu to the school during the most recent “Take a Titan 2 School” visit on Tuesday, Dec. 5.

“We always push the kids to do their best and work hard. I love that he’s demonstrating that hard work makes you have success. It means a lot to everyone to have him here,” Bija said.

Titans rookie John Ojukwu was greeted by 1,300 students when he arrived to Stewarts Creek Elementary School in Smyrna, Tenn., on Dec. 5, 2023 for News 2’s “Take a Titan 2 School” visit. (Photo: James Cessna)

Ojukwu was greeted by the entire school of around 1,300 students, and cheerleaders and the pep band from the nearby middle and high schools.

“Thanks for this opportunity,” Ojukwu told the students. “I never expected anything like this.”

The offensive lineman participated in a few games, including “Are You Smarter than a Fourth Grader” and “Elimination,” where each team raced to empty a whole tissue box in 60 seconds. Ojukwu was on the winning team both games.

“You just have to give the best effort every time,” Ojukwu said.

Titans rookie John Ojukwu was holds an MTSU lunchbox Stewarts Creek Elementary School in Smyrna, Tenn., on Dec. 5, 2023 for News 2’s “Take a Titan 2 School” visit. He autographed lunchboxes for students. (Photo: James Cessna)

He also spent time doing a Q&A, showed off his victory dance moves, ate lunch with Raven in her classroom and signed autographs for students.

He also told students about his sixth grade teacher, who he called his favorite teacher because they taught him about “moving up in the world.”

“Teachers aren’t just teaching you,” Ojukwu said. “They’re not just teaching you numbers, writing and information. They’re teaching you life lessons.”

During Tuesday’s visit, students also received lunch from Hattie B’s and lunchboxes from MTSU.

Sixty of the nearly 100 teachers at Stewarts Creek Elementary are MTSU alums.