Missouri State-West Plains Student Spotlight
New Beginnings … Endless Possibilities
This month, Vernieca Kellum will begin her career as an educator – a career made possible by the Missouri State University Outreach program at Missouri State University-West Plains.
The 2008 graduate of West Plains High School began attending Missouri State-West Plains because of the state's A+ Program, which paid her tuition costs for the first two years. She immediately became involved on campus, serving as a Student Ambassador in the admissions office and working as writing tutor in the student advisement & academic support (SAAS) center. The latter opened the door to her career choice.
"I came to Missouri State-West Plains to use my A+, and I started tutoring in SAAS because I felt I was good at English. I found out I really loved helping people, and that's when I decided I wanted to be a teacher," she explained.
She began taking entry-level education courses while completing her Associate of Arts (AA) in General Studies degree and became well acquainted with the faculty and staff of the Missouri State Outreach Program's Teacher Education Completion Program.
"My mom went to SBU (Southwest Baptist University) and got her degree there, and that was my dream, too, but then I came here and I was an ambassador and a tutor, and I fell in love with it here," Kellum said. "I got to know the Faculty and staff, and they took me under their wing and guided me on the process. They were really great mentors."
Kellum completed her AA in General Studies in May 2010 and seamlessly transferred into Missouri State Outreach's bachelor's degree program in elementary education. The program provided the same rigorous curriculum offered on the Springfield campus, including specialized courses for teaching in impoverished rural areas, which is her preferred choice, but it also allowed Kellum to develop a strong mentoring relationship with her instructors.
"The instructors knew me by name, knew the areas in which I struggled and helped me overcome them," she said. "They even helped me with my job search. They knew what type of job I wanted, and they sent me emails when they heard of teaching opportunities in that area. They also offered to write letters of recommendation for me. They really went above and beyond the call."
Kellum graduated in May with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education, with an emphasis in middle school language arts and social studies. Shortly afterward, she received a job offer from the Willow Springs R-4 School District to teach fourth grade. She will enter the classroom for the first time as a certified teacher on Aug. 15.
"Being able to complete my degree here was phenomenal!," Kellum said. "I don’t think I could have completed my degree in four years if I had gone somewhere else because I would have had to work, too, to help cover the costs. At West Plains, I was able to carry over some of my scholarships into the Missouri State Outreach program, which helped tremendously and was very much appreciated.
"I'm very excited about my first teaching job," she continued. "I know it will be nerve-wracking, but I've been well prepared. I'm ready to get started. I can't wait!"