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Long before Dr. Darein Spann enrolled in graduate studies at Mississippi College (MC), all signs pointed toward him becoming a Choctaw.

“I grew up not far from Mississippi College, in Clinton,” he said. “Before I was born, my grandmother, Lillie Spann, worked at MC. She always used to tell me she wanted me to go to Mississippi College.”

Spann recalled the MC clubs and tribes, including one that enlisted the help of children for community service at the park when he was little. “We called them the ‘park people,'” he said.

Once Spann enrolled at Mississippi College, he made up for lost time by graduating with a Master of Education (M.Ed.) in 2005, an Education Specialist (Ed.S.) in Educational Leadership – K-12 Administration in 2008, and a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership and Administration in 2019. He earned all three degrees on the Clinton campus.

“My grandmother saw me graduate with my first degree from Mississippi College the same year she passed away,” Spann said. He is glad she saw him reach that milestone.

Spann has made the most of what he learned in those three programs. He serves as principal of the Technology, Engineering, and Construction Academic House at Starkville High School and was named the Starkville Oktibbeha Consolidated School District’s Administrator of the Year for 2021-22.

“I was excited to win the award,” he said. “Not many people get teacher and administrator of the year. This is my fourth year in administration. My plan is to ascend to become the executive principal here at Starkville.”

Better Late Than Never

In seventh grade, Spann moved to Jackson with his mother. He did not set out to become a teacher after his high school graduation.

“My original plan growing up was to become an obstetrician,” he said. “That fell through. I changed it to mass communications, and I was going to be a news broadcaster. Then, I changed it to English when I attended Jackson State University.”

After he had also given nursing a shot, Spann landed on a career in teaching. He graduated from Belhaven University in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in English and literature.

“I always had a desire to teach,” he said. “I didn’t have anybody in my family who inspired me to teach. My grandmother’s sister taught, but she retired in the early 1980s. I got into teaching through an alternate route program. I enjoyed it and never looked back.”

After three years in the classroom, Spann knew that he wanted to go into administration, so he returned to Mississippi College and enrolled in the Education Specialist in Educational Leadership – K-12 Administration program. He became an assistant principal at Starkville High School in 2018.

“Both the master’s and education specialist programs allowed me to see through the lens of an administrator with different situations at school,” he said. “That helped me support colleagues who were new or hadn’t gone through an educational leadership program. It helped me understand why decisions were being made.”

All Together Now

Spann, who sings in a community choir in Jackson in his free time, serves as vice president of the Mississippi Association of Educators.

“In three years, if I can do some good service there, I may run for president,” he said. “That would take me out of the K-12 setting because it’s a full-time position. We’ll see how it goes. I would also consider becoming a superintendent.”

In addition to what he has accomplished in his short time as an administrator, Spann is the first person in his immediate family to earn a doctoral degree.

“My grandparents were not high school graduates,” he said. “They were good old folks who made a living for themselves and raised 17 children.”

The long and winding path to becoming an MC student that began with weekly trips to the park was worth the effort for Spann. That decision is still paying dividends.

“Once I finished the Ed.S. program at Mississippi College, I felt I could go and lead any school or institution anywhere,” he said. “The teachers were knowledgeable and connected to K-12 in some form or fashion.

“The content was great. The information that they were sharing with us was current. I have always been proud to say that about Mississippi College. The whole program thoroughly prepared me to become an effective leader.”

Learn more about Mississippi College’s online education programs.

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