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CNN Contributor, Dr. Steve Perry, Give Fresh Ideas to Mississippi Teachers

By Daniel Cherry | Published 06 Jun 2012 06:47pm | comments

Teachers across Mississippi are changing their approach to educating students. MPB's Daniel Cherry reports how a principal of one of the most successful schools in the nation is giving advice to local teachers.

An innovative and effective teacher can be one of the biggest influences on a young person's life. Dr. Steve Perry is a CNN Education contributor and principal of Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, Connecticut. Perry touts 100% of his students go on to four year universities, and he says Mississippi might be the poorest state, but there's plenty to work with.

"If you have teachers, you have resources. Whatever you're able to pay them now...the resource, the most important resource, and the most precious resource of all is the commitment of talented educators to transform the way in which education occurs."

He's talking about teachers like Jimeya Smith, a 10th grade English teacher at Provine High School in Jackson. She uses popular song lyrics to get her students interested in literature.

"I want to be a rapper. I want to be a poet. So let me look at, maybe, metaphors in a different perspective. Let me look at it more in depth this time. So if they can make that connection, they can definitely take it with them."

There's debate over whether good teachers are born or taught. Dr. Daniel Watkins, Dean of the College of Education at Jackson State University thinks it's both. Most importantly, though, he thinks educators need to play a bigger role in the community.

"They need to visit the churches. They need to go into the neighborhoods. They need to rub shoulders with the children to gain their respect. One of the things that hurts education now is that the teachers come in, they see their students, and then they go way, away to their homes."

Mississippi schools currently lag behind in nearly every major education category, but leaders hope fresh ideas will turn that trend around.

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