Lamar County Teacher's Academy trains teachers when they are students

LAMAR COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - Five days a week, students get off the bus at Lamar County Vocational Technical Center, and walk into school - on their way to becoming teachers.

They're going into instructor Suzanne Kelly's Teacher's Academy - set up last year and one of only 11 programs like it in the state -where, in between lunch hour and geometry, a high schooler can learn to teach.

Monday in Ms. Kelly's class, they are learning how to write resumes, Tuesday, it will be lesson plans. They are learning tangible skills every day that they will be using years down the road - as teachers.

Kelly got the idea for the Academy when she saw that Lamar County School District was the second biggest employer in the county. And the school thought, there might be something to that.

"We had a lot of students who were going on from here to USM and William Carey and majoring in education, so we saw a real need for it," said Tina Byrd, school director.

Now, by training kids growing up here to be teachers, there's a hope that they'll come back home - and the cycle will help grow the schools.

"We need quality educators in Lamar County and across the state of Mississippi and this is their first step to get there," said Kelly.

And if they do not stay: teachers are marketable.  And a new graduate with a teaching degree will likely be able to find a job at a time when they're not easy to come by.

"That's the one part of being a teacher, you guide students for their future for them able to be successful," said Academy student Christopher Ellis II.

The program is free and offers scholarship opportunities; some colleges even accept it for credit.

The sixteen Teacher's Academy students get a chance to teach lessons at Lamar County schools - still supervised - but it is a hands-on experience.

"I get my payback when they come back and say 'Ms. Kelly, I actually knew what they were talking about.' Or Ms. Kelly, I actually got to help a kid learn how to read today," Kelly said.

Another benefit of starting early?  It just gives students more time to learn the craft before stepping foot into a classroom. Because learning how others learn, is a lesson in itself.

Copyright 2011 WDAM. All rights reserved.