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JPS Administrators Selected for Mississippi Leading Innovative Teaching & Learning In Early Childhood Institute

November 17, 2023

Dr. Sara Pearson

Varanda Love

Denise Thaggard

Ursula Watson

Dr. Sara Pearson Harper
McWillie Elementary

Mrs. Varanda Love
Asst. Principal
Lake Elementary

Mrs. Denise Thaggard
Asst. Principal
Walton Elementary

Ms. Ursula Watson
Asst. Principal
North Jackson Elementary

Four JPS administrators have been accepted into the Mississippi Leading Innovative Teaching and Learning in Early Childhood Institute (MS L.I.T.E.). The program is a seven-month institute presented in a cohort model. The journey of self-discovery, self-improvement, and leadership development serves and supports early childhood scholars and teachers. The JPS team members involved in the program this year are Dr. Sara Pearson Harper, principal of McWillie Elementary; Varanda Love, assistant principal of Lake Elementary; Denise Thaggard, assistant principal of Walton Elementary; and Ursula Watson, assistant principal of North Jackson Elementary.

Dr. Pearson Harper has invested 24 years of her career in education in Jackson Public Schools. She served for six years in Exceptional Education, five years as a Montessori teacher and team leader at McWillie Elementary, and as principal of McWillie for the last 13 years. She has served in a number of leadership and professional coaching roles, including as a Mississippi College Student Teacher Advisor, on the Principal Advisory Council, and as a Principal Coach.

Mrs. Love brings 17 years of educational experience to her role as assistant principal at Lake. She started her career at Hardy Middle School in JPS. She served in two other central Mississippi school districts as a teacher, leadership coach, and administrator. Love holds both Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts degrees in Teaching from Jackson State University. She also earned a Specialist degree in Educational Leadership from Mississippi College and is a current candidate for the doctoral program.

 Mrs. Thaggard’s career began at Lake Elementary, where she taught pre-K, kindergarten and first grade. She also served as an interventionist before moving to Walton Elementary to accept the assistant principalship. She completed bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Belhaven University and earned a Specialist degree in Educational Leadership from Liberty University. Additionally, she has completed coursework towards a doctoral degree and is in the process of completing her dissertation.

Ms. Watson has over 28 years of experience in education, working as a classroom teacher and school building administrator. She completed her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education at the University of Southern Mississippi and earned a master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Administration from Jackson State University. She considers it her top priority to provide students with a safe and effective learning environment full of rich experiences.

These administrators come from four of the 17 JPS elementary schools with pre-K programs. The JPS pre-K program seeks to expose children to a vocabulary-rich, nurturing environment. The program is intentional in its implementation and primarily focused on developing the whole child.