“A Spark, Not A Lark”
A Personal Message from the Director
Dr. Mehri Fadavi
My fifth grade summer school math teacher changed my life. As a fifth grade child, I had to retake a mathematics course in summer school and pass an examination or I would have had to repeat the entire fifth grade. During that summer program, my math teacher inspired a “spark” in me and I realized that I could be a mathematician. Later that year I scored the third highest on the test given in my entire province, but my regular administrators and teachers thought that it was a lark. They did not realize that my summer math teacher had sparked my imagination and belief in myself. In high school, my physics teacher motivated me. After three years of studying mathematics as an undergraduate, I realized that I wanted a more concrete scientific education and changed my major from mathematics to physics. Ultimately, I received my Ph.D. in physics. My early inspiration from teachers in the elementary and high school levels still fuels my devotion to teacher professional development and giving young people the experiences I had been given.
When I came to Jackson State University in 1993, I worked with upcoming 10th graders in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. After working with these students, I realized the state had a challenge in teaching science and mathematics. I then decided to commit the most productive years of my life to teacher professional development and K-12 students because our children deserve much better. I live and work in Mississippi and I give my best to Mississippi. I want my living and working environment to be the best as well. Not only for me, but I want my colleagues, university students, teachers and kids to also have the best equipment, curriculum and technology. Project MAST recruits the best guest faculty and instructors for our programs, and work with my peers in JSU and from across the nation and world to expose our teachers to their great expertise and creativity. We can resolve long-standing educational issues together and celebrate each other.
When someone says that JSU or the State of Mississippi has a model program in Project MAST, I feel great joy because it is a collective accomplishment. All of us work hard and support each other to achieve very high standards often with limited resources. This is one reason why I care for Mississippi: we know how to rise to the occasion. I encourage everyone involved to do their very best work. I am a dreamer, and I feel as if my dreams are coming true. I love my work and seeing the difference that science and math can make in the lives of children. One teacher tells me that her students talk everyday about their 20 minute experience in the STARLAB Portable Planetarium. Imagine if they have an on-going immersion in thrilling scientific experiences. In-service teachers express how enthusiastic they are to learn from the team-teaching of university professors and actual elementary and high school teachers who understand their experiences. MSP wants to create a spark in the lives of every teacher and student touched by our programs so they will light this world with their compassion, mastery of sciences and mathematics and a greater sense of purpose. This work is bigger than I am, and I invite you to join MSP in realizing such joy through having an impact.