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Accelerated Program is Accelerating Dreams

The door opens in a sudden blur. In hustles a small frame, clad in pinstripe and a sheer white top, glasses, and dainty jewelry. In a flurry, she puts down her bag and lends her hand out with a wide smile. “Hi! I’m Kayleigh,” she says with ferver. She has just left the classroom after a day of teaching and as we walk outside to find a suitable spot to interview, we begin talking about her job. Quickly, her passion for the profession beams through as she candidly talks of her students and how much they mean to her. She is only a senior in college and yet still is in charge of a classroom on her own. “How?” I ask.

Kayleigh Keyes is a member of Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program, METP for short, and is currently teaching Algebra at Oxford High School. The prestigious program offers specializations in either math or English. After graduation, students must teach in a Mississippi public school for five years.

“My program, METP, pays for my education and funds study abroad trips, room and board, plus much more, and in return I will teach in Mississippi for five years once I graduate,” Keyes said. “This program is incredible. I started observing the classroom fall of my freshman year, years earlier than other education program. I will have been in charge of my own classroom for a year by the time I graduate, which will make me very competetive during the job search.”

According to the University of Mississippi education website, “The program is designed to help stimulate Mississippi’s economy by creating a pipeline of top-performing students into the state’s education workforce.”

This program has supported Keyes’ long awaited goal of being a teacher. Unlike many college students, Keyes’ career was clear to her very earliy on. She first set her eyes on the classroom thanks to a very important mentor.

“In second grade I had a teacher named Ms. Bloomer who was so kind and taught us so well that made me love school and learning,” said Keyes. “It wasn’t something I had to do, it was something I wanted to do. She made me love school.”

Since then, the classroom has been steadily calling her name.

“My mom is a teacher and growing up, she would bring school supplies home. I played ‘school’ all the time. I ‘taught’ my siblings, my friends, or anyone who would sit and ‘learn’ from me,” Keyes said. “I also tutored my friends in math during high school. It was so cool to watch my friends learn and be a part of it, so it has been clear that teaching would be my profession.”

Although Keyes has known where her calling is for some time, her classroom exerience has been anything but easy.

“My Algebra students did poorly on our first test. I came to find out that only four of my twenty seven students did the study guide. They rebelled and were angry at me not wanting to do the work. They were so mad that they did not understand it. I was discouraged because I knew that if they had just tried doing the work, they could do it,” said Keyes.

Despite these frustrating obstacles, Keyes still finds ways to overcome them.

“For our last test, I offered bonus points but only if every member of the class completed the study guide. Immediately I saw a difference as every kid helped each other learn and complete the study guide,” Keyes said. “Every student got their bonus points for completing it, and the test scores were so much better. I felt so proud of them for putting in the work.”

These classroom study guides are only a fraction of what Keyes hopes to instill within her students.

“High schoolers are the future. They are old enough to make a difference. I want a part in inspring them to go out and change the world,” Keyes said. “I want to help them meet thier potential. They are old enough to use their knowledge for something good and I have the power to help them find what that something is.”

As she impacts students, she never strays too far from where it all began, her own schooling experience.

“Just like Ms. Bloomer was for me, I firmly believe every person has a teacher they can point out that has impacted their view on learning or education, good or bad. I work every day in my classroom to be that teacher that impacts for good,” Keyes said. “I want to be the teacher that helps them see that math is worth learning and can impact their lives. I want to make a difference for them.”

Through the METP program and the University of Mississippi, Keyes has realized her dream of impacting students, and watches her aspirations become real every day.

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