ALUMNUS Spring 2022 - Mississippi State University

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The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians has more than 11,000 members.

She said her goal is to help them feel support for their dreams “It helped me understand a lot about how kids learn and that I and academic pursuits. But she also wants them to feel supported need to take that into account when planning my lessons,” Willis emotionally. Willis said she believes that, ultimately, the key to having said. “It also helped me learn about myself, like if I don’t understand a successful classroom is showing the students that you care about this, then I can’t help my kids understand it either. them both in school and away. “My MSU courses also taught me to be flexible within my “I have a wall in my room where my students classroom,” Willis continued. write important dates to them,” Willis explained. She explained that teaching at a tribal "THE TRIBE’S TEACHER INITIATIVE IS “If it’s an event that I’m able to attend, I do and that school means many of the students come WHAT ALLOWED ME TO BECOME A has built the rapport between my kids and me.” from homes where the Choctaw language is Willis is currently working toward a master’s what’s spoken, which can make switching to TEACHER, AND TEACHING IS MY WAY OF in counselor education at MSU-Meridian—a English for school challenging. Willis said GIVING BACK TO MY TRIBE. MY KIDS ARE natural step in her desire to positively impact she sometimes has to explain things in both languages to get the concept across, but no her students’ lives. Already an active member in MY REASON FOR DOING ALL OF THIS. her community as president of both the Tucker matter how she has to teach it, it’s rewarding when a student who has been struggling begins AND I DON’T JUST MEAN MY BIOLOGICAL Development Club and the Tucker Elementary to understand. School Parent-Teacher Organization, she said she CHILDREN, I MEAN MY NIECES, NEPHEWS, believes studying school counseling only furthers “Mississippi State prepared me to her ability to relate to her students and better recognize that my students are all different COUSINS AND ALL MY SCHOOL BABIES, serve her community. types of learners who need to be taught in Willis said her background already resonates different ways,” Willis said. “I think that’s OF COURSE. IT’S THE KIDS ALL AROUND with her students because it is so like what what has helped my success as a teacher and ME, IN MY COMMUNITY AND MY TRIBE, her students are experiencing. By becoming a getting my students to be great learners.” counselor, she hopes to reach even more children Willis works to get her students excited THEY’RE MY REASON FOR DOING and be a positive force in their lives. about learning and the world. At the end of EVERYTHING." - ASHLAND WILLIS “I just want to be that someone for them. That every class, she pulls up Google Maps, with person who has also been through it, and can its street-view capabilities, and lets students show them it will be OK,” Willis said. “I want to help them and let pick a place they want to explore. In 2020, she earned a $5,000 grant them know that they’re not alone. They can see that, ‘Hey, Mrs. Coby from the Society for Science that allowed her to provide each student went through that too, and look at how far she’s come.’ And they can with hands-on science activities while they learned from home do it, too. I always say, it’s their turn to be even better than me.” n during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ashland “Coby” Willis, who teaches fourth through eighth grade science at Tucker Elementary, credits her MSU studies for improving her understanding of children’s learning styles.

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