Literature, passion for teaching drives outstanding MSU-Meridian student

Contact:  Lisa Sollie

Portrait of Rachel

MERIDIAN, Miss.—Rachel Laird of Meehan, a Mississippi State University-Meridian graduating senior, loved books even before she could read them. To be recognized as the MSU-Meridian Outstanding Undergraduate Student in the Division of Education at the university’s May 5 spring commencement, Laird continued her early passion for literature through graduation from Meridian Christian Home Educators homeschool association and then while a student at East Central Community College.

“Our East Central instructor Ms. Shackelford had each of us stand up in front of the class and ‘teach’ a chapter from the novel we were reading. And that was when the proverbial light bulb went off,” Laird said about the moment she realized literature could lead to a career. “I thought, I love this--I want to do this.”
Laird said she took every literature course ECCC offered before graduating with an associate’s degree and transferring to MSU-Meridian to study secondary education with an English concentration.

“I didn’t really have any idea what I wanted to do when I started at ECCC,” she said, “but once my path was set, there was no looking back or second guessing myself.”
The oldest of four children, Laird is a Riley Scholar and a member of Phi Theta Kappa honor society, who recently was inducted into Alpha Chi honor society. She spent her final semester at Newton County High School, sharing her passion with 11th-grade students as a college student intern. She is completing her college career with a perfect 4.0 grade-point average.

Accepted into the Master of Arts in Teaching Community College Education degree program, she is excited to continue her education at MSU-Meridian.
“I like that I’ve been able to stay local through my undergraduate and now graduate studies,” Laird said.  “My home is here, my church is here, and my family is here.”
Earning a graduate degree, she said, will give her the opportunity to teach on a high-school, college level or both through dual credit. 
“I want to show students--especially those who don’t like to read--how English is practical and relevant to their everyday lives. I want them to understand that it’s much more than a bunch of rules about grammar and punctuation, or boring books they don’t understand,” she said. “I have learned a lot of different ways to engage students through my classes at MSU-Meridian, and I have been able to try them out on the students I taught at Newton County High School. I can’t wait until I have my own classroom one day.”        
MSU-Meridian serves primarily east central Mississippi and West Alabama. Learn more at
MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at

← Back