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After Mitchell Shears completed the Education Specialist (Ed. S.) degree in Educational Leadership program at Mississippi College, he hoped to keep going for a doctoral degree.

There was just one problem.

“In my graduation exit interview, I informed them I was not going to go into a doctoral program until Mississippi College got one,” Shears said. “When they started the doctoral program, I was in the first cohort. They remembered that statement I made. I really had a good experience at Mississippi College.”

Shears graduated with a Doctor of Education with an emphasis in Educational Leadership from MC in 2012, eight years after he finished the specialist degree. Since then, Shears went from the elementary level all the way to the collegiate level in his career. He is the executive director of Title III at Jackson State University.

“When I was in the classroom teaching, I saw that there were not many males in elementary education — in the classroom or in leadership roles,” he said. “That motivated me to go into administration, and I pretty much wanted to focus on elementary.”

Shears taught fifth grade for two years and fourth grade for one year. He also worked in an elementary curriculum office for two years before moving into a principal role after he completed the Ed.S. in Educational Leadership.

He advanced to executive director of academic support for elementary schools, which was previously called assistant superintendent, in Jackson before landing a job as academic dean and executive director of Title III at Hinds Community College in his hometown of Utica, Mississippi. The dual-purpose campus was the same one where he attended high school.

“Skipping secondary, middle and high school and going to post-secondary actually gave me some experience in middle and high school, because I was able to establish programs for both middle and high school students to transition to college,” he said. “It’s like I got it all in one bundle.”

Transition to Teaching

Shears earned both a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and a master’s degree in elementary education from Alcorn State University. His initial plan was to work as a television broadcaster, but he decided to go the newswriting route instead and got a job working full time in public relations for Alcorn State.

“I could get a master’s degree for free because I was an employee of the university,” he said. “I was looking at the catalogue and chose elementary education, and I was enjoying every class. I also have an aunt who taught.

“I got certified to teach and said, ‘Hey, I might as well use it.’ I gave it a shot and loved it. I especially loved all of the time off — Thanksgiving, Christmas, Summer and Spring Break. Actually, I really had love for children and the profession itself. My experience in mass communications has also tremendously helped in every area that I’ve worked in.”

Once Shears decided to earn the Ed.S. in Educational Leadership, he needed a university in close proximity to attend before online education was readily available.

“There were two options — Jackson State or Mississippi College,” he said. “I had previously attended one of the HBCUs [Historically Black Colleges and Universities], so I wanted a different experience. With Mississippi College being a Christian-based school, the Lord led me there. While there, I said, ‘I just love this atmosphere.'”

That faith-based mission was one of the reasons Shears enjoyed his time at the school so much.

“You are able to freely explore your Christianity in your comments in class and in your writings,” he said. “I remember one time when I was taking a test, and I forgot some of the information. I wrote a prayer to the instructor at the end of the test and said, ‘Please have mercy on me.’ We still laugh about that today.”

Whole New World

Although a change in career direction was not in the plans while Shears was in the Ed.S. in Educational Leadership program, the curriculum helped ready him for the transition to higher education.

“Having creative, practical experience at MC prepared me to share some of that in post-secondary,” Shears said. “In post-secondary, the professors and instructors just have to have postgraduate hours in their area of study. They don’t really know the background of effective teaching pedagogy or how to address the whole child. The teachers in the education leadership program helped me to address that with several teachers on all levels.”

Shears, who enjoys playing tennis and is learning to swim, has sung in the Mississippi Mass Choir since 2001. He participated in his own two graduation ceremonies at MC and also returned to see his classmates from the first doctoral cohort graduate.

“My mom always said she has one child that won’t stop going to school and one child that won’t go to school,” he said. “My parents were very supportive and encouraging. Neither my mother nor my father has a four-year degree, although my mother has a two-year degree. They’re still encouraging and motivating. It’s like they are being exposed to things through me. I’m excited to have their support.”

Now that Shears has moved into higher education, he appreciates the efforts of his instructors even more.

“I would tell students to soak in all of the knowledge from the professors at Mississippi College,” he said. “All of them have experienced the same roles we’re seeking. Many of them have retired from outstanding districts in our state, so I would encourage students to take every bit of knowledge the professors have and don’t just sit on it — apply everything that they’re learning in the program.”

Learn about the Mississippi College online Ed.S. in Educational Leadership program.

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