The Distinctive Strengths of Kent State Geauga’s Middle Childhood Education Program

Robin Dever

It takes a special type of person to pursue a career in Middle Childhood Education (MCED). While most people distance themselves from that awkward middle school stage and leave it in the hazy past, there are others who have a passion for kids in grades four through nine. It’s a calling. And those who have been called deserve to be best equipped. This is where the MCED program at Kent State University Geauga comes in.

The most unique aspect of this program is that it is an International Baccalaureate (IB)-authorized program in the Middle Years Programme (MYP), says Associate Professor and Program Coordinator Robin Dever, Ph.D. The program is subject to a strict accreditation process monitored by the IB, ensuring a high-quality education. “We are one of only three universities in the country that have incorporated the MYP into its undergraduate program,” Dever says.

Students learn IB best practices, an approach dedicated to student-centered learning. This holistic approach to teaching helps students to draw connections between all subject areas. According to the International Baccalaureate approach, learning is explicitly linked to the students’ world, participation in a foreign language is required, and a variety of formal and informal assessments are used to inform teaching and learning. The IB website explains that “global points of view are infused wherever possible in order to promote understanding of other cultures, an awareness of the human condition and an understanding that there is a commonality of human experience.”

Upon graduation, students are eligible to receive the IB Teaching and Learning Certification for MYP, making them valuable educators both domestically and internationally. The KSU-Geauga program is also accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, Association of Middle-Level Educators. As a testament to the strength of the MCED program at Kent State Geauga. Dever says that approximately 68% of majors are employed full-time in a school within a year after graduation.  

Another strength of the MCED program at Kent State Geauga is its intimate learning environment.  “With small cohort sizes, students in the program receive individualized attention and work closely with the professors,” Dever says. In addition, students are offered the opportunity to complete a variety of field experience opportunities at a minimum of four different school districts across multiple demographic areas. 

While Middle Childhood Education majors choose two concentrations from the following: Language Arts (courses in communication, grammar, literature, reading and writing); Mathematics (algebra, trigonometry, calculus, geometry and statistics); Science (chemistry, biology, geology and physics); and Social Studies (economics, history, political science, geography and anthropology) … Dever says that the ideal MCED major is someone who not only has a genuine passion for teaching their chosen subjects but especially for interacting with young adolescents.

“It is not enough to be passionate about a content area such as math or science,” she explains. “The ideal candidate will possess a strong desire and excitement for middle schools and not as a default from elementary or high school.“ Dever adds that the ideal MCED major also needs to “balance multiple factors at once since teaching is about juggling and multi-tasking! They should be able to make split-second decisions and possess the ability to be flexible. They should also be creative and be a problem solver.  Each young adolescent is unique and deserves individualized solutions to meet their needs. An ideal candidate will be able to see these unique needs and celebrate them!”

Dever says that the most satisfying aspect of this major is working with young adolescents, which is also the most challenging aspect of the career. Young adolescence is a highly critical period of development. “Experiencing rapid growth and periods of radical changes can be exciting, yet at the same time, it requires teachers to be continually in tune with the students’ ever-evolving needs. However, helping these students succeed can be extremely satisfying. It is what drives teachers to do what they do!”
Since MCED majors work within a small cohort model beginning junior year, they form close bonds with the students in their cohort. These relationships serve as a support system for students both inside and outside of the campus classroom, Dever says.  
Also, faculty members are always accessible to students. Students have the same set of faculty members for two years, so students can forge a close, professional relationship with the faculty and can a turn to them for support and guidance. 

“Even post-graduation, the alumni network of MCED grads is strong and they turn to each other (and the faculty) well past graduation for help getting jobs, setting up new classrooms, or working through issues in their classrooms,” Dever says. “ They never stop being a member of the Kent State Geauga community!”