how to become a middle school teacher

Meet Me in the Middle!

By Dr. Kathleen Wallace

Did you know that University of Bridgeport is the only university in Connecticut that currently offers certification for teaching in middle-grade classrooms? Now, more than ever, we need teachers with the knowledge and experience to meet the needs of learners during this unique and ever-changing time in their lives — a time of rapid developmental, academic, and personal growth. As these young people transition from their childhood into their adolescent years, they need teachers who are caring and patient; individuals who are equipped with content knowledge, the ability to communicate effectively, and a unique sense of humor.

What makes the middle-grades the right choice for teachers?

You Get to Connect with Young People During a Special Time in Their Lives.

The middle is more fun! Students from ages 11 to 15 are undergoing tremendous changes in their lives. They are developing rapidly, navigating the rocky waters between their childhood and young adult worlds. This time for children can seem like a study in contrasts — they constantly move back and forth between childlike behaviors and more mature behaviors. The result is nothing short of amazing and often downright hilarious. As a middle-grades teacher, you’ll be surprised at how many times a day your students make you laugh.

As a middle-grades teacher, you’ll have the ability to foster their confidence and watch them gain skills right before your eyes. Students at this stage in development are concerned with fitting in, standing out, and finding their niche — their confidence can be shaky, but you’ll be there as a support person to cheer them up and cheer them on!

As funny as middle-graders can be, they can also be deeply sensitive and emotional. They’re curious about taking risks and becoming more adventurous, but they’re also easily hurt and worried about what others think of them. Connecting with students at this stage in their development can leave a lasting impression on their lives, and can lead to a rewarding career in education. These students will remember your sage advice and unwavering support for the rest of their lives.

If fostering curiosity and supporting students as they continue to grow into themselves sounds appealing to you, then middle-grades is the place to be as a teacher. You can be their safety net as they learn how to become more independent, and their booster as they navigate life’s new challenges.

You’re There to Address the Unique Needs of the Middle-Level Learner.

The team-teaching model and the coursework offered in middle school are carefully considered to address these unique learners.

  • The coursework is specifically designed to address the need of the middle level learning (social-emotional and academic needs).
  • Teachers focus on the intersections between middle level learner’s language, cognition, and social development with content knowledge and literacy.

School looks very different for middle-graders, and you’ll support your students through that transition. Elementary schools usually have self-contained classrooms — one teacher all year aside from specials. BUT middle school features a more complex curriculum and a different teacher for every subject. Students are assigned to a team with 5-6 different teachers and move from classroom-to-classroom multiple times a day. This means they have newfound independence, but also the new responsibility to answer to multiple teachers and adapt to the expectations of various classrooms.

In addition to the changes in the school environment, middle schoolers are also discovering and developing their unique identities throughout their middle school experiences. As a middle school teacher, you’ll create a safe haven in which these young people are supported, feel safe and encouraged, and thrive under your guidance.

Teaching is the Only Profession That Creates and Touches all Other Professions.

As a middle-grades teacher, you’ll expose students to topics, ideas, people, and places that can pique their interests, spark dreams, and light fires among students who will go on to realize those life goals. You’ll serve as a mentor, listener, advocate, and cheerleader. At some point in anyone’s life, they have been taught by and touched by a teacher, and it is often the educators at this important developmental stage that can have the biggest impact. Let us help you become the teacher your students will remember as always being there for them.

The School of Education at University of Bridgeport offers coursework specifically designed to address the unique needs of the middle-level learner. Our 33-credit master’s in Education program focusing on middle grades teaching certification can be completed in as few as three semesters with an additional semester of student teaching. Courses focus on the intersection of middle-level learners’ language, cognition, and social development with content knowledge and literacy, including science, math, and social studies, which are now critical shortage areas in Connecticut.

If you are ready to embark on a new career pathway or even add a cross-endorsement to your existing teaching certificate, the faculty, and staff in the School of Education at University of Bridgeport would be thrilled to assist you in achieving your goals.

To find out how to apply, reach out to us today!

Kathleen K. Wallace, Ed.D., M.Ed., B.A.

Dr. Kathleen Wallace received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Loyola University in Maryland. Her early career in education included teaching secondary English, serving as a reading specialist and literacy coach with both students and faculty P – 8, and finally serving as an intermediate school principal for eight years.

Kat received her doctoral degree in 2020 from The University of Bridgeport in Educational Leadership with an international concentration.

Currently, Kat is a full-time Assistant Professor of Elementary Literacy in UB’s School of Engineering, Business, and Education. Kat is also the Coordinator for the Teacher Preparation Program & the Elementary Education Program at UB and serves as dissertation faculty in the Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership. Her research interests include domestic and international teacher preparation programs, culturally sustaining pedagogy (CSP), and exploring how to embed CSP elements into teacher preparation and assessment.

Kat lives in Fairfield with her husband, Patrick, and her four sons: Patrick (22), Joshua (20), Colin (16), and Shane (6).