The University of Arkansas Pine Bluff is affording scholarships to Pine Bluff High School teachers beginning in August in a partnership serving five teachers per semester for a period of three years.
Michael Nellums, principal of Pine Bluff High, lauded the agreement as a landmark benefiting the teachers, students and community members. The ultimate goal is to equip Pine Bluff High School graduates with skills to succeed in college and beyond.
“I would like for every certified high school faculty member to have a master’s degree,” Nellums said. “That is my goal for teachers with five years experience, ten years experience and 30 years experience.
“It is my hope that this partnership will create opportunities in the classroom,” Nellums said. “I am really excited.”
A total of five teachers will receive a paid scholarship in a graduate-level course at the university. The first group of teachers will begin class in August 2014. The agreement lasts through June 2017.
About 30 percent of Pine Bluff High School teachers currently have a master’s degree, Nellums said. He wants to increase this rate to 100 percent in five years.
“If you are stagnant as a professional, you are not advancing,” Nellums said.
Nellums sets lofty goals for his teachers because students will learn most effectively from versatile teachers with multiple ways of instructing, he said. For example, a teacher who lectures is not being as effective. He envisions teachers using non-traditional methods to transform the lives of children.
“The approach to teaching changes,” Nellums said. “This is going to take a lot of work. This is the only collaborative program of its kind in Arkansas. … We are excited to be viewed as a progressive school district. We have the potential to be a model for urban districts.”
Board of Education member Henry Dabner helped set up meetings between high school administrators and university employees, Nellums said. He credited Superintendent Linda Watson; Deputy Superintendent Rudolph Howard; University Chancellor Laurence Alexander; University Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Elbert Bennett; University Recruitment Officer Carl Whimper; and George Hertz, the interim dean for the Graduate Studies and Continuing Education at the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff.
George Hertz called the partnership a success.
“It is strengthening the link between higher education and public schools,” Hertz said. “We need to do our part in adding to the economic development in our community.”
The university is willing to enter into similar agreements with other high schools, Hertz said.