Jones College alumnus, Tyler Shows earns prestigious educator honor

ELLISVILLE – Petal native and 2010 Jones College graduate, Tyler Shows is still trying to comprehend how he could be one of about 34 educators selected nationwide to receive the Milken Family Foundations’ Milken Educator Award. Plans for his unrestricted $25,000 cash award as a 2022-2023 recipient of the highest award in education known as the “Oscars of Teaching” have also not been determined. Shows explained he’s still uncomfortable about being in the spotlight after receiving the big check last October at a surprise announcement at Petal Upper Elementary School.

Tyler’s parents, Barnard & Georgia Shows

“It’s weird! I have mixed feelings about it because there are about 34 educators awarded this each year nationwide, so I was like, how did I get here? I’m more of a non-traditional teacher,” said Shows. “The Milken Foundation looks for people who do their job well at their schools. I’m very appreciative of the honor but it’s really hard to single out your abilities when I know a lot of people here are equally eligible for this award.”

Only 74 Mississippians have been selected as Milken Award winners since the Foundation began the educator award program in 1987. Nationwide, the honorees represent the top one percent of the three million educators.

Shows shared education was not his first choice as a career; education “found” him. A career in athletics seemed logical considering his love for sports when he began working at the Petal YMCA in high school. He also contemplated a career in science, much like his uncle, Eric Shows, the current Dean of the School of Science and Engineering at Jones College. However, after graduating from Petal High School in 2008, he still didn’t have a clear career path. After earning a Tennis scholarship at Jones College, he met JCJC teachers Mary Boleware, Stephanie Green and Wyatt Moulds who influenced his career path. The Petal native took Physics I and II with Mary Boleware, in addition to a few other upper-level science classes before realizing he really didn’t enjoy science as much as he thought.

“After taking physics with Mrs. Boleware, we had a very honest conversation about my future. I appreciated it. Nobody at JCJC was there just collecting a paycheck. They spent a lot of time with me, asking me about career options without pressuring me. Mrs. Boleware helped me realize science was not in my future,” said Shows. “Jones also did a lot for me in the way of independence. I was not a very independent 18–19-year-old so I really did appreciate a lot of my instructors helping me in that area too.”

Tyler’s aunt Natalie (Shows) Welch graduated from Jones in 2007 and was beginning a career as a Certified Public Accountant at Sanderson Farms. Tyler followed in Natalie’s footsteps and earned a business degree with an emphasis in accounting, at the University of Mississippi in 2012. However, he quickly realized while studying for the CPA exam, this was not his life’s calling. While a student at JC, Tyler continued working at the YMCA’s after-school camps, and transitioned to membership services and sports coordinator after graduating from Ole Miss. After two years, he knew he needed to find another job.

The next career option was education, inspired by his mother, Georgia Shows who has been employed with the Petal School District. Over 27 years, she worked as a secretary before joining the Human Resources Office in the Central District Office and finishing her career in the athletics department. Tyler realized he enjoyed being around the “school world” while his mother worked in his youth. His “epiphany” about being an educator came from then, Petal Football Coach, Britt Rowell.

“He was very honest with me and told me to sign up for education classes at William Carey University. So, I did the Alternate Route while working at the YMCA. I finally found what I was meant to do! Additionally, I decided to earn my master’s degree in gifted education.”

Now, the licensed teacher was hoping to find a job in Petal. When Petal Upper Elementary School was formed, Tyler explained, it was a “D” rated school with a lot of openings for new teachers and administrators. When the principal, Gloria Wyatt called for an interview it confirmed his career path. They were coming off a difficult year, and both principals were new the year he accepted his first teaching job. With a lot of new teachers, there was also a lot of support. He credits his mentor, Sarah Beth Henderson for “making his entire career” because of her guidance. The current Milken Educator also credits every teacher and both principals for successfully becoming an “A” rated school within one year.

Principal Emily Branch & Tyler Shows

“Tyler’s not trying to hoard success for himself. He wants everyone here to be successful and that can make all the difference when a person has that mindset,” said Petal Upper Elementary School Principal, Emily Branch. “It’s my job through the hiring process to seek out really smart and talented people but then give them the freedom to figure out what works. If we’re going to empower students, like our mission statement says, then we must empower the teachers.”

Currently, Tyler is the Lead 5th Grade Math teacher at Petal Upper Elementary School, Nationally Board-Certified, and he was recently invited to work for USM and its World Class Teaching Program as a support provider, helping more teachers earn their national board certification.

Dr. Jane Foley, Senior Vice President of the Milken Family Foundation explained Tyler is a perfect example of everything they are looking for in a Milken Educator. This top honor is reserved for teachers committed to their students, who are creative in the classroom and are leaders in their schools and community. The Milken Foundation partners with the state’s department of education; the recipient is not nominated but chosen because of the impact they make in education.

“He’s not just a teacher. Tyler gives back to the teaching field as a leader in the profession and beyond, which is one of the five criteria for the award. We know they are going to have an influence on their students and a strong influence on their colleagues and community,” said Foley. “Every successful person can remember a teacher that changed their life, and our recipients are those individuals that students remember far into their future. We know our recipients have the potential to be educators and leaders in education for decades to come. Tyler is the teacher that his students will remember throughout their life,” said Foley.

Another key indicator of success at Petal High School is the teacher selected to receive the one ticket High School Seniors give to their “Favorite Teacher Ticket” to attend the high school graduation. Tyler has attended numerous graduations with numerous tickets from students who still think of Tyler as more than a math teacher.

Jones College sophomore music students perform

ELLISVILLE –Five Jones College sophomore music students are inviting the public to hear their last solo performances before graduation.  Sophomores expected to perform are Hanna Grace Wood of Sandersville, Jessica Long of Carnes, Katlyn Myrick of Laurel, Anna Leigh Ragsdale of Mize and Kaylea Yates of Ellisville.

Anna Leigh Ragsdale

On Thursday, April 13, at 7 p.m. in the Foote Chapel, soprano, Anna Leigh Ragsdale of Mize will join flutist, Jessica Long of Carnes for their individual final performances. Ragsdale will perform Va godendo by Handel, and music from other composers such as Claude Debussy, Henri Duparc and Gian Carlo Menotti. After graduation she plans to continue her education at the University of Mississippi.

Long’s last performance will feature the challenging and beautiful flute solo, Hungarian Pastoral Fantasy by Albert Franz Doppler. The Wayne County High School graduate plans to attend Mississippi State University after graduating from Jones College.

 The following Thursday, April 20, at 7 p.m. in the Foote Chapel, pianist Hanna Grace Wood will be performing her last concert at Jones along with flutist, Kaylea Yates of Ellisville and Katlyn Myrick of Laurel on clarinet. Wood is a piano and voice major whose future plans include attending the University of Southern Mississippi. She will be performing the piano solo from composer, Claude Debussy’s Prélude VIII, La fille aux cheveux de Lin.

South Jones High School graduate, Kaylea Yates’ flute performance pieces include, Andante Pastoral by Paul Taffanel, and composers, Francis Poulenc and Robert Schumann. She plans to continue her education at the University of Southern Mississippi.

Katlyn Myrick’s performance pieces include the B flat clarinet solo by composer, Camille Saint-Saens’ Sonate, Op.167, Allegretto. The Northeast Jones High School graduate plans to transfer to Mississippi State University after graduating from Jones College.

The recitals are free and open to the public. These performances are a part of the sophomore music student’s degree requirements for Jones College. For more information about the JC music program or the sophomore recitals call the Fine Arts department at 601-477-4203.

Kaylea Yates, Hanna Grace Wood & Katlyn Myrick

60 new members inducted in Jones College’s Rho Sigma Chapter-Phi Theta Kappa

Alexia Jones, Kadin Johnston, Kendall Johnson & Brice Johnson

ELLISVILLE – Sixty new members of the Rho Sigma Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa at Jones College were officially inducted into the two-year International Honor Society. Advisors of the honor society opened the spring induction ceremony to include any current member on campus wishing to participate in an in-person ceremony, including those that were inducted virtually in a previous semester. More than 100 members became official members this semester, however only 60 wanted to participate in the open induction ceremony, explained PTK Advisor and Dean of the College of Science and Technology, Eric Shows. More than 300 invitations were sent, and more than 100 students joined and paid dues to date.

“We are always excited to celebrate the academic achievements of our students that allow them to gain membership in PTK. The group of inductees includes students that joined this semester along with others that accepted membership in previous semesters when we were only able to offer a virtual induction ceremony because of COVID-19 restrictions. We are especially glad that all of them got to be recognized in-person, with their family and friends in attendance. All told, we will likely have over 150 new members added to our chapter this semester, which is a great testament to the hard work of our students and faculty members at Jones,” said Shows.

At the Induction Ceremony, JC’s newest PTK members heard from Dean of the Shackouls Honors College at Mississippi State University, Dr. Tommy Anderson who encouraged students to continue participating in the Honors College program at the university or college where they continue their education. Membership into PTK is reserved for freshmen with 15 hours of transferable credits completed at Jones College and are currently enrolled full-time with a cumulative GPA of 3.5.

Jones College students listed below as joining in Spring 2023 are new invitees for the current semester. Those listing Fall 2022 joined in the fall. Students listing other dates joined during COVID-19 semesters when virtual induction ceremonies were held. 

Jones College PTK Spring Induction – March 9, 2023 – Attendees             

Name                                      Hometown     Major                                     Joined

Natalie Grace Abraham       Mendenhall     Pharmacy            Spring 2023

Emily Kaye Ali        Ellisville         Health sciences              Spring 2023

Griffin Lee Bailey     Decatur           Pre-Physical Therapy        Spring 2023

Andrea Marie Booth       Sumrall           Undecided            Spring 2023

Sophia Ann Bowden        Ellisville         Accounting        Spring 2023

Brookelyn Brewer    Richton      Ultrasound Technician        Spring 2023

Davis Brown     Ellisville         Engineering             Spring 2023

Destiny Brown   Taylorsville     Business Administration        Spring 2022

Rayya  Nha Lan Cao     Petal         Law        Spring 2023

Bethany Grace Chaney Hickory  Ag. Ed. Leadership/Comm     Spring 2023

Jaylynn Sierra Conner     Waynesboro    Journalism      Spring 2023

Holly Nicole Craft      Raleigh           Kinesiology       Spring 2022

Titus Andrew Crouch      Ellisville         Nursing     Spring 2023

Bryanna Leigh Davidson        Lucedale        Art     Fall 2022

Lillian Nicole Dixon  Smithdale       Agriculture Business        Spring 2023

Katie Ann Edwards       Rose Hill         Nursing   Spring 2023

Chanel Latreece Evans      Magee      Psychology     Fall 2022

Karlye Kaye Flanagin     Brandon    Dental Hygiene       Spring 2023

Virginia Ann Fortenberry  New Hebron   Medical Sciences Spring 2022

Meg Gatlin             Summit           History          Spring 2023

Natalie Reshay Graves       Laurel             Art        Spring 2023

Jay Earl Green       Terry       Journalism     Spring 2023

Autumn Henderson   Petal      Mechanical Engineering         Fall 2021

Allen Herrington          Heidelberg      Business      Spring 2023

Gabrielle Elizabeth Hoffman Florence    Radiology    Spring 2022

Kate Holm       Hattiesburg     Architecture      Spring 2023

Casie Jane Husack        Moselle           Psychology      Spring 2023

Jha’lana Shanta Jackson         Petal      Early Childhood Education    Spring 2023

Anna Rebbecca James    Raleigh    Biological Sciences      Spring 2023

Brice Jordan Johnson    Raleigh           Art   Spring 2023

Kendall Johnson      Laurel             Biology        Spring 2023

Kadin Perry Johnston  Waynesboro    Physical Therapy         Spring 2023

Alexia Jones   Hattiesburg     Culinary Arts    Spring 2023

LaKieundria Kangar      Crystal Springs Pharmacy   Spring 2023

Julia King          Lucedale         Hospitality/Tourism Mngt.     Spring 2023

Kelsey Chyann Lawrence       Ellisville         Nursing          Spring 2023

Pablo Lopez     Waynesboro    Finance       Spring 2023

Zy’Brayla Mackey         Bay Springs    Radiology   Spring 2023

Makayla Mason       Laurel    Criminal Justice   Spring 2022

Kaitlyn Elaine Massie     Ellisville         General studies       Spring 2023

Jade Kaylen McBride    Hattiesburg     Veterinarian Medicine       Spring 2023

Aubree Brooke McMullan     Raleigh       Nursing      Spring 2023

Hilton Banks McNair      Madison     Accounting  Spring 2023

Renecia Catassia Mosley    Waynesboro    Paralegal Technology Spring 2023

J’len Noel     Pachuta    Electro-Mechanical Tech.      Fall 2022

Rebecca Danielle Parker    Laurel    Business Administration   Spring 2023

Morgan Helena Prestage   Raleigh   Nursing          Spring 2023

Sommer Janae Ramsey      Laurel   Nursing     Spring 2023

Christopher Floyd Ritz   Sumrall       Electrical Engineering       Fall 2021

Jaycee Jordan Scott    Lucedale     Psychology    Spring 2023

Kena Monique Smith   Laurel   Music Education Spring 2023

James Matthew Smith    Laurel     Coaching/Physical Ed.     Spring 2023

Skylar Lynlee Terrell    Liberty    Radiography    Spring 2023

Abbie Thrash       Laurel   Elementary Education      Fall 2022

Amaria Trotter       Laurel        Psychology   Spring 2023

Keylan Dajuan Walker     Mount Olive   Art       Spring 2023

Ashleigh Westbrook   Brandon  Psychology          Spring 2023

Sheridan White       Laurel     Journalism       Spring 2023

Laken Tori Wilson   Sandersville    Health Related Professions    Fall 2022

Jeffery Jaylen Wimbley, Jr.    Chatom, AL    Engineering  Spring 2023

Jones College’s music department hosts, “The Topaz Trio”

Dr. Lorraine Duso-Kitts, Gail Levinsky & Jackie Edwards-Henry

ELLISVILLE – The Jones College music department is hosting a concert featuring, “The Topaz Trio” on Wednesday, March 29, at 12:30 p.m. in the Foote Chapel on the Ellisville campus. The Topaz Trio, consists of Dr. Lorraine Duso Kitts on oboe, with Dr. Gail B. Levinsky playing saxophone, and pianist, Dr. Jackie Edwards Henry. Founded in 2019, the trio explores the tonal sounds created by the unique combination of the oboe and saxophone families. To date, The Topaz Trio has performed at international and national conferences, including the International Double Reed Society (IDRS), North Association of College Wind and Percussion Instructors (NACWPI), and International Alliance for Women in Music (IAWS). As avid supporters of new music, the ensemble has commissions of new works by Michele Schelle, Stephanie Berg, Paul Dickinson, Karen Griebling, Adam Har-Zvi and Douglas McConnell. The three will also be hosting a Masterclass for students following the free concert.

Edwards and Levinsky are former Mississippi State University professors of music. Dr. Duso-Kitts is currently a professor of double reeds at the University of Central Arkansas. Dr. Duso-Kitts also plays oboe with the Arkansas and Conway Symphony Orchestras. Additionally, she has performed with the Orquesta Philharmonica de Santa Cruz in Bolivia, Orquesta Sinfonica de Estado de Mexico and Orquesta Sinfonia de Jalapa in Mexico. She received her Bachelor of Music from Indiana University, her Master of Music from Manhattan School of Music and her DMA from the University of Michigan.  

Dr. Levinsky currently serves on the faculty as Professor of Music at Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania. Her performance credits, commissions and premieres include presentations both nationally and internationally. Dr. Levinsky earned her Master, Artist Certificate and Doctorate degrees from Northwestern University. She has published varied saxophone chapters about teaching saxophone and recently completed a solo CD featuring music of women composers.

Dr. Jackie Edwards Henry is a collaborative pianist, harpsichordist, church musician, group piano specialist and teacher of adults. She has performed nationally and internationally, with her duo partner, Dr. Levinsky since 1994 and with the Topaz Trio since 2019. She was the Professor of Piano and Coordinator of Group Piano at MSU from 1991-2022.

For more information call the JC Fine Arts Department at 601-477-4203 or the website online at or

Jones College’s music department hosts Spring Recital Series

ELLISVILLE – This year, the varied music from the Spring Recital Series will fill the air for four weeks in March and April on the Jones College campus. The musical “feast” featuring musicians from the region and music from around the world, composed centuries ago will be heard on Fridays in the Foote Chapel. The annual Spring Recital Series begins on Friday, March 24, at 12:30 p.m. until 1 p.m., and will continue each Friday through April 21, except for Good Friday/Easter weekend. All concerts are free and open to the public.  For more information call the JC Fine Arts Department at 601-477-4203 or online at

Kontra Duo

On Friday, March 24, at 12:30 p.m. in the Foote Chapel, the Series opens with the Kontra Duo, featuring Daniel Espinoza on saxophone and Kristina Finch on harp for “These Limbs Tell Stories.”  The program features a diverse range of styles and influences, including avant-garde, minimalist, and postmodern contemporary classical music for harp and saxophone, featuring works by living composers from around the world! This dynamic duo has been captivating audiences with their energetic and colorful performances for years. Their unique combination of instruments creates a sound that is both vibrant and innovative.

The Friday, March 31, at 12:30 p.m. in the Foote Chapel, features, “Seasons of Love” with soprano, Claire Vangelisti and pianist, Richard Seiler. This program includes songs/arias about all types of love in musical styles from Baroque to Contemporary. 

With a voice that has been described as “pure, lovely, vibrant, truthful, and lustrous,” Vangelisti has found success on both national and international stages.  Vangelisti’s body of work ranges from performing major soprano roles in the oratorio repertoire, both in the U.S. and in Europe, to leading operatic roles.

Richard Seiler of Brevard, North Carolina, is Professor/Keyboard Area Coordinator at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. A Fazioli artist, Seiler has taught masterclasses and performed as solo/collaborative pianist in Canada, China, Europe, Japan, and throughout the United States, has soloed with orchestras, and has recorded for Centaur Records and MSR Classics.  Seiler is a co-recipient of the NELAC’s 2006 Artist-of-the-Year Award.

A unique program, “Myths & Legends” will feature Richard Perry on tuba, accompanied by Ellen Elder on piano on Friday, April 14, at 12:30 p.m. in Foote Chapel.  This program features 21st century works by composers David Gillingham and John Stevens, based on mythical and literary characters.

Richard H. Perry is Associate Professor of Tuba and Euphonium at the University of Southern Mississippi, where he directs the tuba-euphonium ensemble. He has been active as a clinician, performer, and adjudicator throughout the United States, and has appeared as a soloist and featured performer at numerous regional, national, and international conferences.

Dr. Ellen Price Elder is Associate Professor of Piano at USM, where she teaches applied piano to graduate and undergraduate piano majors, serves as coordinator of the class piano program, and teaches piano pedagogy. She is an active collaborator with USM faculty, and has performed throughout the United States and South America as soloist, collaborator, and masterclass clinician. 

The final musical feast will be served up by a Series regular, The Impromptu Piano Trio with, “The Joy of Tradition” on Friday, April 21, at 12:30 p.m., in the Foote Chapel. The Trio, Borislava Iltcheva on violin, Alexander Russakovsky on cello with Dr. Theresa Sanchez on piano, will perform works from two of the “three B’s” of classical music composers, Beethoven and Brahms.

Borislava Iltcheva started playing the violin at age of five, earning her Bachelor’s degree from the Bulgarian National Academy and Master’s and Doctoral degrees in violin performance from Louisiana State University. Borislava holds prizes from several national and international competitions and has been featured as a soloist with many symphony orchestras.  She has performed recitals throughout Europe, Asia and the United States. Ms. Iltcheva is the Concertmaster of the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra and currently teaches at The University of Southern Mississippi.

Alexander Russakovsky has appeared in numerous solo and chamber music performances in Russia, Israel, Europe and the United States. In the fall of 200,1 Dr. Russakovsky joined the music faculty of the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. Recently, Dr. Russakovsky has given master classes and recitals in Taiwan, Israel, and Latin America.

Pianist Theresa Sanchez pursues a varied performing career as a soloist and collaborative musician.  She has performed as soloist with numerous symphony orchestras, and recorded two concerto discs.  She has been a faculty member at Jones College since 1995, and is a past president of the Mississippi Music Teachers Association. She currently serves as Music Coordinator for the Hattiesburg Concert Association and FestivalSouth, and is listed on the Mississippi Arts Commission’s Touring Artist Roster.