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Micah’s Mission: providing support and resources for home-schooling

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Emily Harber Williams (photo by Matt Williams)

In the last 20 years, the educational option to home-school students has seen significant growth. The reasons that people home-school are as unique as the people making the decisions, but some of the common things that drive families to this option include:

  • Bullying
  • A child’s specific educational needs not being met within their current school
  • A child’s social or psychological needs not being met
  • The difficulty of getting a student’s disability recognized and accommodated
  • A desire to instill a specific worldview or belief system
  • To provide the flexibility for a child to pursue his or her passion
  • Concerns over school safety
  • And now, because of COVID-19, concerns about students’ health.

For parents considering transitioning their child from traditional school to home-school, the process can be quite stressful. Common concerns include which curriculum to use, financial feasibility, lack of socialization opportunities, and uncertainties of students being admitted to and prepared for colleges.

For many of those families in the Vicksburg area, the answers lie with Emily Harber Williams and a place called Micah’s Mission.

In 2016, Williams was a physical education teacher at Bowmar Avenue Elementary School and pursuing a doctorate degree in education from Walden University.

“I was asked to create an innovative model (of a nontraditional school) and make a proposal for my International Educational Law and Policy class assignment,” Williams said, “and then my professor told me my plan could be implemented. So I began (Micah’s Mission) out of my house in 2017.”

Williams said that during that time, she was led to read the Book of Micah from the Bible. That book tells the story of Jesus walking on water and examines the faith one needs to follow Christ with unwavering faith.

“I knew God was telling me to ‘step out of the boat’ and do something to help children succeed,” she said.

Micah‘s Mission School now operates as an independent entity located inside Crawford Street United Methodist Church near downtown Vicksburg. Its mission is to provide home-schoolers in grades K-12 a place to learn and work in a safe, stress-free environment without the rigor and boundaries found in traditional schools. They also offer a resource center for independent online learners.

“Our students are able to learn life skills that will increase their preparedness for the real world after graduation with a faith-based foundation,” Williams said.

“All students are working toward a high school diploma or certificate to be prepared for college or the workforce. We provide a way for students, with or without disabilities, to learn full circle,” she added.

Micah’s Mission has grown to employ three full-time teachers, one full-time volunteer and Williams. They currently serve 27 students. For most students, they utilize Time4Learning.com, a complete home-school curriculum. They also serve students from other private and public schools with their Dyslexia and Dysgraphia Program and offer after school tutoring.

For more information, interested parents can visit www.micahsmissionschool.org or email Emily Williams at [email protected].

Education

Jo Lee Ming is Redwood Elementary’s Teacher of the Year

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Jo Lee Ming, left, with Redwood Elementary principal Buddy Wooten. (photo courtesy J.L. Ming, used with permission)

Jo Lee Ming, Redwood Elementary School’s Teacher of the Year for 2020-2021, started teaching when she was 6 years old.

One of Ming’s earliest memories is from when she was in the first grade. Reading came easily to young Ming, but that wasn’t the case for one of her little classmates. She recalls being upset by the way her teacher and other classmates treated the little boy, and she made up her mind to help him learn to read.

Ming was a high school student when she began focusing her teaching on students with special needs.

Mrs. Agnes Lyles, assistant principal at Warren Central High School, took Ming and the other Future Teachers of America to Ken Karyl School to work with struggling students. This led to Ming working summers at the Early Education Center, a program aimed at special needs children younger than 5-years-old.

“That was where I met (longtime Vicksburg educator) Kathy Cronia Conway. Until then, I was pretty sure I wanted to go into education. But meeting Kathy made me certain. I wanted to be a teacher just like her,” Ming said.

Many years later, Conway and Ming reconnected, and she introduced Ming to Jacob’s Ladder Learning Center, a Vicksburg school for special needs students.

“I felt like I had come full circle because a couple of the kids I had worked with at Early Ed are now students at Jacob’s Ladder,” she said. “I’m now on the board for Jacob’s Ladder and am a coach for Area 10 Special Olympics.”

Ming graduated from Warren Central in 1981 and attended Hinds Community College for two years before transferring to the University of Southern Mississippi and earning a bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 1985.

Her first official teaching position was in kindergarten at Clinton Park Elementary in Clinton, Mississippi. Ming took a few years off to stay home while her children were young and resumed her career as they got older. She returned to Vicksburg and taught one year at Sherman Avenue Elementary before moving to Redwood Elementary

“I belong here,” she said. “Redwood just feels like home.”

Her co-workers and principal obviously agree. They selected her as Redwood’s Teacher of the Year.

“Ms. Ming is a wonderful teacher and an even better person. She has a true love for her children,” said Redwood principal Buddy Wooten. “I am blessed to be able to work with her every day.”

As much as Ming loves teaching, she has concerns about the job as well.

“My least favorite parts of teaching is the trend to push 5 and 6-year-olds to ‘perform’ academic tasks they aren’t developmentally ready for. And all the testing — we test entirely too much,” she said.

“In kindergarten we are teaching skills that used to be taught in first or even second grade. 5 and 6-year-olds need to play and socialize. 5 and 6-year-olds still need time to build with blocks, manipulate playdoh and interact in home-living.”

Ming said that because of COVID-19, teachers have had to stop using many activities that brought children together so that they can keep students properly distanced.

“Computers are replacing learning centers where students work alongside each other or in cooperative groups,” she said. “Our students are missing out on vital social skills.”

Asked about the best part of teaching, though, Ming didn’t mince words.

“I love the way a child’s face lights up when he or she finally gets a skill we’ve been working on. I love the kids’ excitement over everything. I love being able to see the world through a child’s eyes,” she said, “and I love having a job where I get to sing and dance every single day!”

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Education

Vicksburg’s Karen Gamble teaches integrity along with communication

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Karen Gamble (photo courtesy HInds CC)

Karen Gamble hasn’t lost sight of what has produced results for her students and for the workforce for generations.

“I teach communication classes – public speaking, interpersonal communication and business communication,” Gamble said. “In all three cases, students are afraid to communicate. I grade like college, because that’s what it is here. Communication is a scary, scary challenge for these students, particularly in this day and age when they’re all about their technology – their computers, their cellphones, their videos. Then, they have to stand up and present something face-to-face that’s on a piece of paper. They have trouble with that.

“They’re not any less smart than students 20 years ago, but their skillset is different. But, in my class, they have to participate in class and give examples of concepts we’re studying. But, when they finally do it and get a decent grade, there’s nothing like it for me when that light turns on for them. Their reaction is a bit like, ‘Mama, look what I was able to do!’”

Gamble was managing editor of The Vicksburg Post for 23 years and an adjunct instructor on the Vicksburg-Warren Campus until 2013, when she began teaching at Hinds full time.

The kinds of examples she uses to direct class discussion is pulled not just from her own experiences, but from the workforce as a whole.

“In my business communication class, we had talked about integrity and what it is,” she said. “The point we came to is that integrity is typified by the person who puts the grocery buggy back in the stall at the store. Nobody will come after you if you don’t put your buggy back. But integrity is the person who puts it back knowing full well it could hurt someone or get in somebody’s way if they don’t. And the reason they’re putting it back is because it’s the right thing to do.

“One of my students came back to me a week or two after we had that discussion. ‘Miss Gamble, Miss, Gamble,’” she said. ‘I got offered a job where I just interviewed!’ The student told me she was asked straight-up, ‘What’s the best characteristics you can bring to the table if we hire you?’ She told me she said, ‘I have integrity, and I can embrace the challenge.’”

Confident self-presentation is paramount to landing any job opportunity, Gamble said.

“Business people and professional people of all walks of life want professional candidates for their jobs,” she said. “They want people who can communicate. One of the top requirements before someone is hired is that they’re able to communicate. Communication covers writing, speaking, presenting oneself, everything. Our students know this is their community. It’s also my community, so I try to help them do the best they can in our community.”

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Education

Mississippi native elected as Harvard student body president

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(photo courtesy Noah Harris)

A Mississippi high school graduate has been elected as Harvard University’s student body president.

Noah Harris, a 2018 graduate of Oak Grove High School in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, is the first African American to serve in the role at prestigious Harvard University in Massachusetts.

“I’m really grateful that the student body is entrusting me with such a historic and unprecedented moment,” Harris told WDAM. “To make the right moves and to really bring their voices to the forefront. I just never expected that I would be in a position to run for this.”

Harris is a junior and a political science major at Harvard. He served as treasurer on the finance committee in his first two years. His vice president and running mate is neuroscience major Jenny Gan. Both plan on making a difference at the university.

Harris and Gan will be sworn in Dec. 6.

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