We’re Proud to Announce RSC’s Newest Hub Partner: Mississippi Rural Education Association!

The Mississippi Rural Education Association will serve as the lead for RSC’s newest Regional Hub.

May 31, 2024 |

Rural Schools Collaborative is thrilled to announce the addition of a new Regional Hub in Mississippi. The hub will be anchored by the Mississippi Rural Education Association, and will be jointly led by Dr. Patti Permenter and Amanda Tullos.

The Mississippi Rural Education Association (MSREA) is a partnership between Mississippi State University (MSU) and William Carey University (WCU), created to advance rural education in the Magnolia State. The MSREA was founded to support and uplift teachers across the largely rural state, and to foster connections between two institutions who lead the way in education in the state. Now, MSU and William Carey are forming a statewide Mississippi Hub via the MSREA. The MSREA, Mississippi State, and William Carey will plug into a national community of rural education leaders in elevating the voices of rural teachers and providing critical support to rural schools and communities.

The MSREA is a result of the dedication to partnerships and professional networks that leaders at both MSU and William Carey hold dear. MSREA is the MS State Affiliate of the National Rural Education Association and is co-chaired by Amanda Tullos, Project Manager for Rural Education Outreach at the Social Science Research Center at MSU and Dr. Patti Permenter, Associate Professor at William Carey University for the School of Education and Associate Director of The Program of Research and Evaluation for Public Schools, an education-focused non-profit organization.

Amanda Tullos (left), MSREA Co-Chair and Project Manager for Rural Education Outreach & Dr. Patti Permenter (right), Associate Professor and MSREA Co-Chair.

“At William Carey University, we are deeply committed to strengthening the fabric of rural education in Mississippi. Partnering with Rural Schools Collaborative through the Mississippi Rural Education Association represents a significant step forward in our mission. Through this collaboration, we aim to leverage our educational expertise and deep community connections to innovate and enhance student learning outcomes. Our goal is clear: to equip rural educators and ensure that every child in rural communities receives a quality education.”

Amanda shares that creating and uplifting community is central to the mission of the MSREA: “Our goals are to create a community of rural educators and advocates who want to recognize the importance of rural education to change the narrative about Mississippi education. We hope to build a community that crosses sectors—from early childhood through post-secondary education.”

“Our hope with MSREA is to bring educators, advocates, community members, and businesses together. Rural schools are at the heart of rural communities, and healthy vibrant schools are part of healthy vibrant communities. We hope to be part of that vibrancy.”

Dr. Devon Brenner, SSRC Director.

Within the state of Mississippi, the MSREA will support members in numerous ways, all under the umbrella of the National Rural Education Association. “The NREA has been a great partner to RSC, and we couldn’t be more excited to have the Mississippi Rural Education Association state affiliate join the regional hub network. With Mississippi as a top priority state for the Why Rural Matters Report, their hard work and passion for partnerships in rural is needed now more than ever,” expresses Taylor McCabe-Juhnke, RSC Executive Director. As a chapter of the NREA, the membership-based MSREA will achieve the following:

  • Celebrate the strengths of rural schools in Mississippi

  • Promote excellent teaching and learning in rural schools

  • Advocate for rural schools at the state and national level

  • Serve as a resource for rural schools in Mississippi

  • Collaborate with rural educators across the US

MSREA members, which include rural educators and advocates, form a network of passionate and engaged leaders across Mississippi. MSREA is proud to offer them numerous opportunities, including:

  • Collaboration with rural educators and advocates including post-secondary educators and non-profit groups working to support rural schools in MS

  • Opportunity to attend the PREPS Partnership Conference including a dedicated strand of rural-focused sessions

  • Opportunity to nominate a Mississippi Rural Teacher of the Year, NREA Hero Award, Exemplary Practices Award, and for students to participate in the annual NREA Foundation Essay Contest

  • Rural education legislative updates through the MSREA twitter feed

  • Opportunity to direct the advocacy work of MSREA

  • Attendance at the MSREA annual meeting, to be held at the PREPS Partnership Conference each year

Rural Schools Collaborative is excited to partner with MSREA, including highlighting the Mississippi Rural Teacher of the Year winners and amplifying the inspirational stories that they have to tell. “Our rural teachers of the year are examples of the amazing work being done in rural schools and classrooms,” highlights Devon. Patti adds that “The Program of Research and Evaluation of Public Schools (PREPS) is honored to host the Mississippi Rural Teacher of the Year contest at William Carey University each year." Throughout 2024, Rural Schools Collaborative will be sharing the stories of the winners, which come from each of Mississippi’s four congressional districts and include one overall winner.

Collaboration is at the heart of MSREA, and within the partner programs at both MSU and William Carey, making MSREA a natural fit within Rural Schools Collaborative’s Regional Hub Network. At MSU, for instance, those partnerships include both research and active programming to increase access to college. Amanda shares that “MSU has funding from the National Science Foundation Noyce program to research how STEM teacher preparation programs address place and the connection to new teacher retention in rural schools. We are also collaborating with the state’s GEARUP projects to investigate how virtual tours of college campuses support rural students in attending postsecondary education.” This work is led by the Rural Education Research and Initiatives Lab, or RE:RI, which also works to conduct and promote rural education research, collaborates with scientists and other scholars to promote education research, practice, and outreach, promotes evidence-based education policy making, and develops new initiatives to support education outcomes.

At William Carey, a similar dedication to rural educators powers their programming. William Carey offers a Grow Your Own program designed to address Mississippi’s critical teacher shortage, enabling high school students who want to become classroom teachers to fast-track their careers through a combination of dual enrollment classes, an accelerated schedule and tuition waivers. William Carey also provides a Teacher Assistant Waiver for paraprofessionals who are employed as teacher’s assistant in an accredited Mississippi Public School System. Additionally, William Carey offers a Mississippi Teacher Residency – a model that blends one year of classroom apprenticeship experience with master's level coursework; the program works to recruit individuals from backgrounds in underrepresented areas.

The focus of both institutions on rurality was part of what attracted the MSREA leaders to join the RSC Regional Hub Network. “Both of our institutions have teacher education programs that are designed to prepare teachers for rural Mississippi schools. At each of our institutions we have amazing projects going on that celebrate and strengthen rural schools” shares Patti. A significant part of this is promoting positive stories and highlighting the passion and excellence of rural teachers, similar to RSC and NREA’s shared I Am A Rural Teacher project.

“As a founding member of the Mississippi Rural Education Association, I am filled with optimism for what we are building together. The partnership with RSC marks a pivotal moment in our journey to uplift rural education in Mississippi. By harnessing the collective expertise of Mississippi educators and stakeholders, we aim to create robust support networks and innovative educational programs that resonate with the needs and aspirations of rural communities. MSREA's vision is clear—to empower educators, inspire students, and support pk-12 education in our state.”

“I have long been an admirer of the work RSC is doing to change the narrative about rural teaching and rural schools. I’m excited for Mississippi to join this community of rural education advocates.”

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