It was a lofty goal. But Dr. David Hough doesn’t shy away from big ideas.
Hough has served as dean in the College of Education for 16 years. In that time, he’s implemented several successful programs.
The latest: Bear in Every Building. It’s a movement to have a Missouri State education graduate in every school in the Show-Me State.
Promoting their profession, and Missouri State University programs
Launched in fall 2019, Bear in Every Building, or BIEB, celebrates Missouri State’s rich education heritage.
It’s a way for Missouri State to connect with education alumni, and for MSU to attract future education majors.
It’s open to teachers, staff members and administrators in all levels pre-K through 12th grade.
It is also open to alumni in early childhood education, said Dr. Rhonda Bishop, clinical instructor in the childhood education and family studies department.
It’s a way for MSU College of Education alumni to share the great things about their profession with the next generation.
Alumni who sign up for the Bear in Every Building initiative:
- Promote education to their students as a great career.
- Recruit the next generation of educators.
- Wear BearWear.
- Display MSU teacher education pennants and posters in their classrooms.
- Take Flat Boomer, a cutout of Missouri State’s mascot, on field trips and school events.
- Read the Hough Post, the College of Education dean’s blog.
- Attend MSU events.
“Missouri State University produces more teachers than any other higher education institution in the state,” said Hough.
“We’re at the top of the pack on the annual report cards on performance of our graduates. Whenever they leave Missouri State and they get a job, their ratings by their principals are higher than any other group. So, I often say internally, ‘We’re not only the biggest, but we’re the best.’”
He said of the roughly 68,000 teachers in the state, more than 9,000 of those are MSU graduates.
“They are in one in eight classrooms.”
Alumni quickly surge past first goal of 500 participants
The first step for BIEB was to connect with those 9,000 Bears who are in classrooms. Bishop sent an email to alumni.
The goal was to sign up 500 participants in the program’s first year.
“We went from 40 to 50, 60 to 500 Bears overnight,” Bishop said.
There are now 900 in the program.
The new goal is to have 2,020 by Dec. 1, 2020.
When alumni sign up, they receive a swag bag with BearWear, a Be a Teacher poster and décor for their wall, and a flat Boomer. Many teachers take selfies with their Boomer and send them back to the College of Education.
The Bear in Every Building recruits also commit to helping promote the profession.
“They work with us to create a positive narrative about education. They’re invited to events. They’re wearing their BearWear, representing us. And they agreed to talk to their students about their experience at Missouri State,” Hough said.
There’s a private Facebook group where BIEB members can network and share ideas.
Bishop says they are seeing a pattern: When they get one Bear signed up, other Bears in the same building follow.
That is an exciting aspect of this program, says Rich Dameron, ’16, a BIEB participant who teaches at Reed Academy, a middle school in Springfield.
“I think it’s great on many levels,” Dameron said. “It lets people who are graduates of Missouri State celebrate that. For the university to come back and want to partner with you, that’s nice. And to celebrate that I did go to Missouri State, and I want to share that, that is special.”
Program will help teacher shortage in Missouri and beyond
The education system is facing challenges, said Hough.
According to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, there is a 5% shortage in the number of qualified instructors in the state.
Some prospective college students may have doubts about considering education as major. Hough hopes the info provided by alumni in BIEB will chip away at any of their misperceptions.
Through this program, Bears will elevate their profession by talking to students and attracting more teachers.
This helps MSU address the state’s need for more educators.
“We are having a dialogue about teaching itself,” Bishop said. “We really want to start that conversation at the university and beyond to say, ‘We want more teachers.’ We want people to realize it’s a great profession.”
Courtney Dameron, ’06
Courtney Dameron goes to work every day knowing she’s changing lives.
Since elementary school, she wanted to be a teacher.
At Hillcrest High School in Springfield, she discovered what type of teacher.
Dameron took a family and consumer sciences, or FACS, class and found her mentor. FACS was formerly known as home economics.
“I was raised in a very family-oriented environment,” Dameron said. “I also was raised with a mother who had a lot of skills. She could cook. She could sew. I was taught those things at home. And when I took those classes in high school, just for fun, I ended up actually being a huge help to the teacher and would kind of assist her. I realized there were so many kids who didn’t have that knowledge and who wanted it. I wanted to be able to pass that on.”
When she graduated from Hillcrest, she enrolled in Missouri State’s family and consumer sciences program.
“It was a great program,” she said. “What I enjoyed the most was that I was able to experience every single thing that I was going to teach.”
FACS has many content areas.
“I didn’t just have a class about cooking, I took the culinary arts class that the culinary arts students were taking. On top of my education classes, I took interior design, early childhood education and fashion construction. It was all hands-on.”
Initially she taught at Central High School in Springfield, then was a stay-at-home mom for a while.
Her goal was to return to Hillcrest.
About five years ago, Dameron got the chance when her high school mentor, Jane Rasmussen, retired.
And Dameron’s work has not gone unnoticed. In April 2019, she was named Springfield Public School’s 2019-20 Teacher of the Year.
It was a proud moment. But as a teacher, her life is peppered with proud moments.
“I love the relationships with the kids, being able to encourage them and help them find their potential,” she said. “I am able to teach them life skills that they may not be getting in other places, skills they can take with them for the rest of their lives.”
Bryan Campbell, ’98, ’03, ’07
When Bryan Campbell strolls through the halls of Maplecrest Elementary in Lebanon, Missouri, he’s fulfilling a dream.
From the time he was a kid, Campbell felt called to education.
“I had a teacher who made a difference in my life, and my mom worked at Missouri State, so I’d always been around school people. I just knew it was what I wanted to do,” he said.
His mother, Judy Campbell, spent more than 40 years at MSU. She is retiring as administrative assistant in the counseling, leadership and special education department.
Naturally, he knew he’d be a Bear.
Campbell earned three degrees from MSU: a bachelor’s in elementary education in 1998, a master’s in educational administration in 2003 and an education specialist degree in 2007.
“I loved MSU for my bachelor’s, so it was just, ‘That’s where I’m going to go back,’” Campbell said. “When you leave there, you are prepared for the classroom. It’s a great program.”
Today, Campbell is the principal at Maplecrest Elementary.
Since joining Bear in Every Building, he’s connected with other teachers in his district — and even in his own building — who he had not realized were MSU alumni.
As an administrator, Campbell values the BIEB initiative.
“It’s very important. Education is not as sought-after a profession as it used to be. We need to help recruit new teachers for the next round,” Campbell said.
He hopes BIEB can help encourage people to become educators, and he’s happy to see MSU leading the charge.
To him, the positives of the profession need to be emphasized because those can’t be measured.
“If you’re in it for the kids, it always pays off in the end,” Campbell said. “The rewards are just immense.”
Symantha Campbell, ’18
Like many college students, Symantha Campbell didn’t have a clear path when she enrolled at Missouri State in 2014.
The Saint Genevieve, Missouri, native initially pictured herself in engineering or the medical field.
That all changed when she took an education class.
“I was at Greenwood (Laboratory School) and I was with a teacher who’s been in it for so long. He had a lot of experience and connected with the kids. Because the kids opened up and liked him, it wasn’t only about math, it was about their lives. That was my favorite part. Their relationship with their teacher helped them learn and focus on math.”
After that practicum, Campbell decided to become a high school math teacher.
Today, Campbell teaches geometry in Farmington, Missouri, which is where she did her student-teaching.
She’s also a Bear in Every Building. Aside from being a proud Bear, Campbell wanted to promote the profession and connect with other teachers.
“We’re at an all-time low of high school math teachers in rural areas,” she said.
“I wanted to be able to collaborate with other people to figure out: How can we make our profession look positive? How can we make it look worthwhile? What are they doing in their classrooms?”
What Campbell is doing is connecting with youth.
Every Monday, she asks her students how they are and what they did over the weekend. Every Friday, she tells them she wants to see them next week. Every day, she tells them they’re appreciated.
Simple words, but powerful.
One student told Campbell she’s the only one who ever asks how he’s doing.
And that is the power of teaching, she said: “This is so fulfilling.”
Rich Dameron, ’16
Rich Dameron was a volunteer youth pastor when he married a teacher (Courtney Dameron, also profiled).
He knew he wanted to work with children more often.
“She was able to be around kids all the time, and I wasn’t as much. I thought, ‘I could be around kids all the time if I was a teacher,’ but I didn’t want to go back to school,” he said.
Years later, Dameron gave into that gnawing feeling and earned his teaching certification. In 2016, he received his master’s in educational administration from Missouri State.
“If you’re going to go into teaching, Missouri State is founded upon that and is an excellent place to go,” Dameron said.
He loved the flexibility of the master’s program, but what really stood out to him were the professors.
“The professors were always there and willing to meet with me. Missouri State is large. But I still felt like I was more than just a number, that I was important to them and they wanted me to be successful.”
Dameron is now a special education teacher at Reed Academy, a Springfield middle school.
He felt called to special education because his sister is hearing-impaired and his uncle is intellectually disabled.
“I wanted to advocate for kids,” Dameron said. “It’s been very rewarding to see them learn, grow and build those relationships. It’s been a special thing.”
Last year, he learned about the Bear in Every Building program.
“I was super excited, and I think a lot of other people were, too, to see that Missouri State wanted to partner with their graduates to promote the excellent university that it is. I’m proud to be a part of it,” he said.
Dameron is also the coordinator of the Buddy Bears program at Reed. For Buddy Bears, student-athletes from Missouri State come to Reed and spend time with special education students.
“When those students from the university come over and give up their time, they’re blessing us,” he said.
“So, if I can help do something on my end to promote the university, I want to return the favor.”
Jennifer Baxter, ’01, ’05
After Jennifer Baxter took a family and consumer sciences class at Missouri State, she shifted gears from biology to education.
That was more than 20 years ago, and she’s never looked back.
Baxter now teaches family and consumer sciences at Willard High School in Willard, Missouri.
She specializes in child development.
“The education professors that I had, we were just a small little family. You’re not just a number. People know who you are and they care about your future,” Baxter said.
Along with her bachelor’s in family and consumer sciences, she has a master’s in secondary education from MSU.
This Mount Vernon, Missouri, native was one of the early recruits to Bear in Every Building. She was enthusiastic to join not just because of her experience at MSU. She’s already working to promote the teaching profession. Baxter teaches a high school dual-credit class called Introduction to Elementary Education.
“Those kids want to be teachers. What a great opportunity for me to be able to influence my students who are seniors who want to go into education to go to Missouri State. I talk so highly of my experience, I think that solidifies it for them.”
The class averages 20 students a year, and when they complete the course, they have credit hours towards Missouri State.
Joining BIEB has also helped her connect to other educators.
“Even the networking within my district has been awesome,” she said.
Teaching is special, Baxter said, and there’s something even more special about teaching future teachers.
“When they finish and they get their teaching degree, and come back and tell me how meaningful my classes were to them, and how the classes shaped them to be the teacher they are today, that’s a proud moment.”