What career path can lead to an effective AP Social Studies teacher?

Posted by Ronald | March 6, 2014  |  No Comment

Stephanie Middleton is the 2014 Teacher of the Year for the Professional and Technical High School and the School District of Osceola County, Florida. Middleton excels in integrating the latest technology in the classroom to make learning attractive and fun for her students. As a result, the average passing rates for her students on the Advanced Placement (AP) exam in Human Geography in the past two years were reported as being higher than the national average.  An excerpt of the interview with Middleton follows:

What career path led to your profession of AP Social Studies Teacher?

As a Social Studies teacher, I am qualified to teach a host of courses such as world history, American History, economics, government, psychology and sociology.  In college, I thought I wanted to teach American History. Throughout high school, I had excellent American History teachers and not so great, World History teachers. I’m sure this was a contributing factor for my wanting to teach American History. Initially, I was really disappointed when my student teaching assignment was with a World History teacher.  The assignment, however, became the best placement for me.  I had a dynamic cooperative teacher with an educational philosophy and teaching style much like mine. Through him, I gained an appreciation of World History and finally realized how awesome of a subject area World History was and how much I really liked it.

When I graduated from college, I accepted a teaching job as a World History teacher and my love for the subject has grown. About four years ago, my school decided to add AP Human Geography and wanted volunteers for the position.  I did not apply because I loved what I was teaching. I also knew the kind of intensity, pressure and work required from teachers who taught AP classes.  But, my principal basically told me that I would teach AP Human Geography as he felt I was the best candidate for the position.  I was a little grumpy over this at first. As a positive person, I refocused myself. I knew if I were going to do this, I was going to do my best for my students and myself.  As I started planning for the course, I began to see how much connection and crossover there was between World History and AP Human Geography. My interest and enjoyment grew in the content area, teaching and mentoring of AP students. I feel a kinship with the students and feel I have much to offer.

What educational background and/or training are essential for your profession?

As a secondary teacher, I think you have to have content knowledge.  But just as important, I think it is essential that you have training or an educational background in methods of teaching. You can have all the content knowledge in the world, but if you don’t know how to teach, and don’t know how to teach children of a given developmental age, content knowledge alone doesn’t help you much. I also think as teachers, we never stop learning because things are always changing. While good teaching strategies at the core don’t change, there is much about the methodology that does. Technology integration, for example, is an ever evolving in education. As teachers, we must continually adapt to stay current while staying true to good teaching principles.

What influenced you to pursue a career in your profession?

I’m a third generation teacher. My grandmother taught in a one-room school house, and my mother taught in high school. I once said, “I will never be a teacher” because of the amount of finances, time and effort my parents put into it and seeing how little teachers were appreciated and compensated. While in high school, I began to recognize that teaching was my gift, and I had a passion for being involved in education. I love to learn and had a desire to be a positive role model to teens. I also love helping teens realize their power – power to change things and do good in the world, even at their young age.

What are students saying about the innovative learning devices (Apps) you use in your classroom?

Students say: (1) Devices make it easy to take notes on Evernote and easier to pay attention in class since I don’t have write notes. I love taking all the pictures of the notes and resources in class.  Evernote is the best app ever made. The Quizlet app is awesome since you can study and quiz yourself on vocabulary anywhere. Using devices makes class fun.

(2) For daily use, my favorite app is Evernote. If you’re a visual learner, you can take pictures of whatever the teacher is talking about or if you learn better with hearing, then you can record the class lecture and listen to it later. Evernote helps me stay more organized, and it is really convenient when I want to review something on the go.

(3) The mobile devices helps me with the  organization of notes and helps me to find them again when I need to study.  Quizlet enables me to go through all the vocabulary and review, whenever I want without having to find someone to help quiz me.

What professional, civic or community organizations do you belong?

I have affiliation with the National Education Association, Osceola County Education Association, the National Council for Social Studies and Guardian Ad Litem, Board of Directors. I do volunteer work with other groups such as the Osceola Historical Society and Give Kids Safe Shelter of Osceola.

What advice do you give to students who would like to become a teacher?

This has to be your passion.  Teachers are expected to give and give and give.  If  you plan to be a quality, caring and effective educator, you have to love doing this job. You have to be in the profession for the right reasons. Don’t let anyone dissuade you from becoming a teacher if it truly is your dream.

What is your typical work schedule?

I typically get to school around 6:30am to prepare my room. I have a group of students who come to my classroom before school to do work and socialize. Like many teachers, it’s these less structured times where we become life counselors for our students.  After school, there are typically meetings on many days, or I have my after school club that meets almost weekly, or study sessions for my AP course. There’s also prep work to do for upcoming lessons and other teacher administrative duties.  I’ve never left school at 2:30 p.m. As many people who aren’t educators don’t realize, we’re never really off the clock. I frequently have meetings in the evening for various committees or organizations I’m involved through my capacity as an educator.  I also attend sporting events that my students are involved to show support for them.  In addition, I regularly hold online chats with my students in the evening to provide homework help and test prep or we use them to have discussions over novels they might be reading in class.

I am available to my students pretty much 24/7 through email and other digital communication methods. I answer questions about homework for a portion of the evening.  Each evening, I spend time reviewing homework, planning lessons and preparing various activities for those lessons.  Because I love the teaching profession and my students, I spend a wealth of time at school in pursuit of personal excellence to support them academically and socially.

 Dr. Ronald Holmes is the author of four books, “Education Questions to be Answered,”  “Current Issues and Answers in Education,”  “How to Eradicate Hazing and “Professional Career Paths.” He is publisher of “The Holmes Education Post,” an education focused Internet newspaper.  Holmes is a former teacher, school administrator and district superintendent. He can be reached at [email protected].

Leave a Comment