By: Sarah Rowan, Staff Writer
The National Association of Professors of Middle Level Education (NAPOMLE) awarded Towson University’s secondary and middle school education department (SMED) the Outstanding Middle Level Teacher Education Program award on Oct. 16.
The department was praised for its teaching quality and for the success rate of its graduate employment. It also won the award for its fast growth in program size since its beginning.
Towson University was the first state institution in Maryland to offer a middle school major. The program’s fifth cohort will graduate in Spring 2017, and the program has tripled in size since its inception in Spring 2013, according to associate professor and organizer of SMED Molly Mee.
“The focus of the major is on the young adolescent, their distinct developmental needs and how those needs impact learning,” Mee said. “The middle years are very unique and we need teachers who specialize in that age group to teach the middle group.”
The middle school major is characterized by a dual-content program, meaning that students within the program study any combination of mathematics, science, English and social studies classes as well as their required education courses. This prepares students for careers in education within grades four through nine.
Lecturer and Professional Development School (PDS) liaison John Foley discussed how the SMED program provides students with a connection between classroom training and practical teaching in a school environment.
He said that the SMED students work with three Baltimore county middle schools in internships that give students extra practice before they begin student teaching.
As the PDS liaison to the program, Foley teaches both internship seminars and analysis of student teaching seminars. These internships allow SMED students to learn about, experience and analyze their training throughout the year.
SMED students remain in the same middle school all year long, giving them the opportunity to, “truly have an understanding of the collaboration between teachers and to build relationships with students,” according to Foley.
“It becomes sort of a full package, so when they do student teaching, they’ve already had tremendous amounts of experience with teaching and learning,” Foley said.
Both the award and the addition of the middle school program itself have served to bolster Towson’s notability as the top teaching institution in Maryland, and have proven to be successful recruitment tools for the College of Education.
Students who enter and successfully complete the program are recognized as being highly qualified to teach, and every graduate of the program who has decided to pursue education after graduating has been hired.
Foley explained that the award recognized the efforts already in place within Towson’s College of Education.
“We do so many good things, but we don’t always get that recognition,” Foley said. “It will give those involved in the program the opportunity to see the reward in the work they do with students.”