University of Mississippi School of Education leaders are doing innovative things to improve the state and create high quality educators. This includes the new Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program.
METP participants are top scholars who receive a full scholarship to attend UM, but they must make a five-year Mississippi teaching commitment.
“These are students who are trained in education, who will then go and be educators,” said Kara Parham, a UM School of Education academic counselor located in Guyton Hall and Guyton Annex. “We have a center for mathematics, the Barksdale Reading Institute – so there are other things that we are doing here in the school to assist our state and assist other teachers in our state, not just the University of Mississippi graduates.”
Parham is one important member of the School of Education staff, who helps develop Mississippi teachers. The Paducah, Kentucky, native grew up playing tennis and eventually competed on her high school tennis team. Traveling was also an influential and exciting life experience in her youth, venturing to Europe, the Caribbean and Mexico with her family.
As a first generation college student with support from her parents, Parham entered college without many expectations. She forged her own path and dove into the college world while learning more about herself.
After graduating from UM with a major in journalism and minor in French, she attended the University of Louisville’s communications program, discovered a love for public relations and received a scholarship to further her education.
During her second year of graduate school, she was asked to teach a class on public speaking – her first opportunity to teach and work with college students. At that point, “Things started to click,” she said.
After moving with her husband to Oxford, where the two met in a journalism class and married in 2011, Parham was hired as a regional admissions counselor UM.
“Well, I love Ole Miss,” she said. “I had a great time. I’ll figure it out,” she said, explaining her reaction to the job opportunity.
With the ability to travel, meet high school students and share her college experience, she loved each moment. Later, when she and her husband were ready to start a family, an adviser position opened, and she applied.
Parham served as a nursing adviser four years, counseling and encouraging students. She began working for the School of Education in March of 2017 after hearing how wonderful the team dynamics are and the innovative assistance they offer students.
She said her husband is an influential source of encouragement that, “keeps me grounded and is one of the most fair humans you will ever meet.” She said throughout their marriage, the couple has found that communication and spending time with one another is key to a successful marriage.
“Marriage is about thinking it through, going through the good and bad,” she said. “We’re a good balance for one another.”
At home, they share responsibilities. “If I cook, he cleans up the kitchen while I bathe our daughter,” she said. “She’s a toddler. We are done around the same time and just spend the rest of the night as a family.”
Senior Academic Counselor Donna Patterson believes Parham is a “breath of fresh air” who is good with students and takes time to explain the programs offered.
“She is going to bring an impact because of the way she is with our students,” she said. They will come to know her, trust her, and know that she is looking out for them. She will give them great advice, and she’ll help them with their future.”
With regard to future educators continuing their quest, both Patterson and Parham believe being in a classroom gives students a better understanding and perspective of what is required to pursue a career where they are “impacting the lives of our future leaders,” Patterson said.
Each student must maintain a certain GPA to complete the program, so student educators are challenged. The job requires a love for children and the recognition that every word and action impacts a life.