JCJC HEADWAE recipients honored in Jackson

ELLISVILLE, MS (WDAM) - This is a news release from JCJC

ELLISVILLE – A prestigious honor was recently bestowed upon Jones County Junior College English faculty member, Dr. Patti Smith and JCJC sophomore, Hannah Pruitt of Ellisville.  They were two of 72 outstanding students and faculty members from 34 Mississippi public and private universities and community colleges receiving special recognition from the Mississippi Legislature.  The 26th annual Higher Education Appreciation Day, Working for Academic Excellence (HEADWAE) program honors a faculty and student representative from each of Mississippi's higher institutions as a reward for their excellence in education.  The honorees were invited to the State Capitol and were acknowledged in each chamber of the Legislature.  The day wrapped up with a luncheon, thanks to the generosity of corporate sponsors, where each student and faculty honoree was recognized for their accomplishments.

"I am truly honored to have been chosen to represent Jones in academia; the opportunity to serve the college in such a capacity is rare. I have always striven to succeed in academic pursuits, and I feel as if this position will encourage me to continue in my endeavors. HEADWAE is one of those unreachable goals that one may wish to gain but never believes to be a possibility," said Pruitt, who hopes to live up to the expectations of those who helped her reach this milestone.

Ironically, a philosophy instructor at Jones, Dr. Ronald Bishop helped her discover her purpose.

"His instruction of Introduction to Philosophy taught me to be the person I truly am and to hold my own beliefs rather that conform to society's influence," said Pruitt.

Pruitt is also interested in a career in English.  Her passion lies with literature and she hopes to pursue her dreams of writing novels.

"I honestly enjoy my classes because I love learning. Jones provides a phenomenal environment and abundant resources that have assisted me in being the best student I can possibly be," said Pruitt.

Pruitt said she is grateful for her experience at Jones.

"The people I have met, connections I have established, and organizations into which I have poured my soul have helped me to discover myself as a person and a writer.  I will never forget what Jones has done for me." Pruitt added about her day of recognition in Jackson, "I was slightly overwhelmed when the Lieutenant Governor recognized the group of educators and students.  I believe the experience will stay with me for many years," said Pruitt.

Her honors include being Director of Submissions for Rho Sigma chapter of the international honor society, Phi Theta Kappa and being a member of the steering committee for the new service organization at JCJC called, Officium. Pruitt was also one of nine sophomores nominated for Academic All-American honors and works in retail in her "spare time."

Dr. Smith, who began her career in education in 1991 as a special education and elementary education teacher, was also truly honored to be named JCJC's HEADWAE faculty member this year.

"Since teaching is what I wake up every workday morning excited about, I am so thankful that my pedagogy does, indeed, make a difference in student's lives," said Dr. Smith.

The Mississippi State graduate earned her doctorate in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in reading and English, and her masters of education in the same field from USM. The native of Starkville said her favorite part of teaching is the students. Dr. Smith said she wants her students to leave her class realizing that English isn't about just words, but it is the gateway to knowledge.

"Reading and writing are vital skills that we all use; every class, every job, and every purpose in life revolve around literacy," said Dr. Smith.

Besides teaching a full load of classes at JCJC and raising three girls, Dr. Smith is the college's QEP or Quality Enhancement Plan director, the lead evaluator for Seminole State College's QEP for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, a Common Core Assessment Evaluator for Bias and Sensitivity for the Mississippi Department of Education, a member of the State Literacy Team, a consultant for WestEd, Strategic Literacy Initiative and a member of the Community College Literacy Research Group. Even though she is busy shaping the future of education and changing curriculum needs, Dr. Smith still enjoys the basics of education.  One of the joys of teaching Dr. Smith shared is witnessing her student's writing progress as the end of the semester draws nearer.

"The most enjoyable part of my job is working with students. I love to write, discuss issues, debate texts, and then, by the end of the semester, I see students being able to logically justify their positions and get their points across through writing in ways that will make a difference in society as a whole. That is very gratifying to me," said Dr. Smith.