Kelly Locastro had no intention of attending Mississippi College when she visited campus.
“I grew up a couple of hours south,” Locastro said. “I was determined to go to a big state school. My brother ended up going to Mississippi College, which made me not want to go there even more.”
Still, it was the small school in Clinton, Mississippi, that ended up stealing her heart.
“I just loved the atmosphere,” she said. “I didn’t think I was going to like a small school, but I loved it. It’s a small atmosphere where it’s easier to get involved. I got really involved doing my undergrad.”
Locastro came away from Mississippi College with two degrees, experience as a graduate assistant and her soulmate. She graduated with a Master of Education in Elementary Education degree in 2015, married Weston Locastro the following summer and now teaches second grade at Oxford Elementary School in Oxford, Mississippi.
“I didn’t see myself in the classroom permanently,” Locastro said. “I wanted to be there for a few years, but I thought about doing administration. I’m really thinking more about maybe even getting my doctorate and teaching at the collegiate level. That’s one reason I wanted my master’s. I wasn’t planning on doing it immediately. I was planning on getting some experience first.”
Locastro interviewed for several teaching positions after she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education in 2014. Instead, she got a firsthand look at teaching at the collegiate level.
“They called and offered me the graduate assistantship in the education department,” she said. “They pay for school if you work for them, so it was just an offer I couldn’t turn down.”
Additionally, Locastro had key opportunities as a graduate assistant to gain valuable insight in the field before embarking on her own teaching career.
“It gave me a lot more perspective,” she said. “I got to go out and observe other graduate students that were in the classroom. I got to watch them and see how they were doing. I was still out in the schools a lot. I was the one who went in and observed other student teachers and graded them, so that gave me a lot of experience, too.”
That aspect of her job also helped her make a smooth transition into teaching after graduation.
“If I hadn’t had the graduate assistant internship, I think it would have been beneficial for me to have some experience before I started my master’s because some of the things they were teaching me would have had more meaning,” she said. “Once you have that experience, it’s like, ‘I know what they’re talking about because I’ve experienced it.’”
Locastro’s first job out of college was teaching second grade at a school in Madison County, right outside of Jackson, Mississippi. She moved to Oxford after her wedding and honeymoon in Cancun.
“Graduation was kind of cool,” she said. “It’s a small program, so you kind of know other people. I have other friends that graduated with me. It was a little dorky, but it was cool.”
Preparing to Teach
Locastro said some of the courses in the M.Ed. in Elementary Education program, which is now available fully online, provided her with classroom skills and techniques.
“One of my favorite courses was Teaching Elementary & Middle School Mathematics [EDU 6503] with Dr. Sydney Holbert,” Locastro said. “It was really hands on. She’s basically taught us to teach math. We did a lot of problem-solving and discovery learning. I use a lot of her stuff in my classroom now.”
Locastro said she also enjoyed Materials & Methods for Teaching the Gifted [EDU 6549].
“I loved that one because it gave me a whole new perspective,” she said. “A lot of the classes run together because they’re teaching a lot of the same things, but that one really stood out. It helps me in my regular classroom because even though I’m not a gifted teacher, I have gifted students. I have like six gifted students in my classroom, so it helps me understand them a little bit more.”
Locastro said she got plenty of support from her friends and family … even her brother, Joseph Henderson, who graduated from Mississippi College in 2013.
“They all encouraged me,” she said. “My sister is finishing her education degree at Mississippi State. She’s planning on getting her master’s, as well.”
Locastro said she highly recommends the Master of Education in Elementary Education degree program at Mississippi College and offered some insight into preparing for the degree program:
“Just stay on top of things,” she said. “It’s not as hard as it seems. I would say make the attempt to learn in there. Once you’re out in the field, it’s so much more than just a degree.
“I kind of wish I could go back through it now and say, ‘What did they tell me?’ I remember things they said but not specifically. I remember strategies but maybe not specific strategies. Absorb it all because you’ll need it all later.”
Plus, there could be even more than earning a degree at Mississippi College in store.
“You could meet your husband here,” Locastro said.
Learn more about the MC online M.Ed. in Elementary Education program.