MSU-Meridian to graduate six in first cohort of PANTA students

Contact:  Lisa SollieFour elementary education students standing outside at MSU-Meridian

MERIDIAN, Miss.—Six Mississippi State University-Meridian students in the inaugural Professional Advancement Network for Teacher Assistants initiative cohort will graduate during Fall Commencement, set for Dec 13 at the MSU Riley Center for Education and Performing Arts.

Implemented in 2017, the PANTA initiative helps teacher assistants complete the educational requirements to become licensed teachers. Currently, 25 teacher assistants representing 10 school districts participate in this initiative.

Chastity Galyean, a teacher assistant at Enterprise Elementary School who began working in education more than 10 years ago, said she often has been encouraged by her peers to finish her degree.

“I really wanted to go back to school, but as a wife, mother and full-time employee, a traditional college class schedule would have been extremely difficult, if not impossible to juggle,” Gaylean said.

Through PANTA and its blended delivery format, the mother of four was able to gain the academic knowledge and skills required to become a licensed teacher, while still working full time with her school district.

“Through PANTA I had the opportunity to put into practice what I was learning in my university classroom, as well as share new and innovative teaching strategies with my fellow teachers back at my school,” Galyean said. “This has been a long, but extremely rewarding journey for me. I am grateful to MSU-Meridian and look forward to having my own classroom once a teacher vacancy within our district opens.”

Jeffrey Leffler, assistant professor of elementary education and director of graduate studies for MSU-Meridian’s Division of Education, said the blended delivery format allows PANTA students to participate in either face-to-face instruction or remotely when they are unable to attend class. Students also can view archived lectures.

Maddie Collins, a Petal Elementary School teacher assistant, also took advantage of MSU-Meridian’s blended delivery course offerings.

“When I moved in June, it was basically impossible for me to make the hour-and-a-half drive back to Meridian for class after working in the classroom all day,” Collins said. “Being able to log on to my computer and participate live in all aspects of the class as if I were actually there—including class discussion—helped me tremendously. I had a great experience at MSU-Meridian through the PANTA initiative, and I can’t wait to receive my degree December 13.”

All six graduates will receive a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education, with concentrations in either early childhood or middle-level education. They also are completing requirements for one of three licensure options: pre-kindergarten through third grade; pre-K through sixth grade; or K-6 with seventh- and eighth-grade endorsements in two subject areas.

For more information about the PANTA initiative, contact Kevin Entrekin, MSU-Meridian academic adviser, at or 601-484-0244.

Complete details about MSU-Meridian are online at

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