Campbell’s Middle Grades Program receives Program to Watch award

BUIES CREEK — Lorae Roukema describes the teacher preparation program for middle grades she directs in Campbell University’s School of Education as “small but mighty.”

That might has led Campbell’s Middle Grades Program to be honored with the first-ever Teacher Preparation Program to Watch Award for North Carolina’s Eastern Region. Given by the North Carolina Middle School Association (NCMSA) and the N.C. Professors of Middle Level Education (NCPOMLE), the peer-nominated award recognizes excellence of middle grade academic programs and the efforts of faculty and graduates to advance the aims of exemplary middle grade education.

“This is an honor,” said Roukema, an associate professor of education at Campbell. “We were up against a lot of schools in the region that have big education departments, so for us to actually win the award makes it even more special.”

Other universities in the same region as Campbell include East Carolina University, North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

“The Campbell University Middle Grades Program is truly a program to watch,” said Karen Nery, dean of Campbell’s School of Education. “Over the past 10 years, it has grown from a small program that only offered licensure in language arts and social studies to a full-blown program offering licensure in language arts, social studies, math and science, as well as providing opportunities for elementary and special education majors to add middle grades licensure.”

Campbell is the only university in the state to offer students in its elementary and exceptional education programs the option to extend their certification to middle grade levels. When students who are elementary or exceptional education majors are juniors, they can take a course on young adolescents with middle grade majors that Roukema teaches. In order to receive the extended certification, students must also take several additional courses in content areas such as math, science, social studies or language arts, and pass the Praxis II licensing exam in their content area.

Roukema said the School of Education added the option in 2010 because principals in Harnett and Johnston countries who have attended advisory committee meetings with Campbell faculty in recent years have often said that they need more educators qualified to teach middle school.

When Roukema started working at Campbell 10 years ago, there were nine total students in the Middle Grades Program. That number has since grown to around 30 students each year, but that still trails the 160 or so students in Campbell’s elementary teacher preparation program.

“Students either want the little kids or the big kids. It’s always a hard sell to attract candidates for middle grades,” Roukema said. “Principals in the area say what happens is that people end up teaching middle school because it’s the only job they can get but they don’t want to be there.

“We started the extension program to meet the needs of our community.”

Last May, three graduates of the elementary school program who participated in the extension program went on to teach at middle schools. This year, Roukema has 21 elementary school majors in her young adolescence class. “Once students go through the experience of learning about middle school students, they realize that middle school isn’t so bad and they find they like the kids,” she said.

In addition to the extension program, Campbell’s Middle Grades Program has an active student chapter of the Collegiate Middle Level Association (CMLA), a Tier 1 club at Campbell. When the NCMSA hosts its annual conference this March, it’ll mark the third year in a row that Campbell’s club has run the CMLA session at the conference. Campbell’s students also hosted a CMLA session at last fall’s annual symposium for the NCPOMLE.

Such student participation in CMLA is important for students in the Middle Grades Program, Roukema said, because the state of North Carolina emphasizes teacher leadership. “Teachers need to lead in their classrooms, they need to lead in their schools, and they need to lead in their communities,” she said. “Giving our students the opportunity to lead helps strengthen their skills and make them more marketable.”

Roukema and students in Campbell’s CMLA will officially receive the Teacher Preparation Program to Watch Award during a luncheon on Tuesday, March 19, at the annual NCMSA conference at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro.

Image: The logo for the Campbell University School of Education’s Middle Grades Program

Article by Cherry Crayton, digital content coordinator