by Claire Miller
The decision to become a teacher wasn’t a difficult one for Kayla Muñoz – she knew from the time she was in third grade that she wanted to pursue a career in education.
“I always loved working with young kids and explaining things to make it easier for them to understand,” she explained.
Muñoz came to Georgia State University three years ago to earn her degree in middle level education, knowing that GSU’s location in the heart of Atlanta would expose her to people from all walks of life and prepare her for a career teaching middle school-aged students.
For Muñoz, middle level education was the perfect fit – she would be able to specialize in a specific subject and work with students who were old enough to tackle more in-depth assignments than those in elementary school.
“It was like Goldilocks and the Three Bears – elementary school was too young, high school was too old, but middle school was just right,” she said. “Middle school can be a rough time with bullying and peer pressure, so I thought if I could be there for a student, I think it should be during those middle school years.”
In the program, Muñoz treated every class assignment and student teaching experience as though it was a reflection of her as a teacher, and this dedication earned her two awards at the College of Education’s Honors Day ceremony: The Roy M. Hall Award and the Outstanding B.S.E. Student in Middle Level Education.
While the Roy M. Hall Award honors the COE senior with the highest grade-point average in his/her education courses, the Outstanding B.S.E. Student Award is determined by the faculty and recognizes a student whose academic achievements, teaching expertise, community service and commitment to excellence set them apart.
Muñoz said she was surprised when she heard she’d received the two awards, quickly acknowledging her professors for their work and her peers who helped push her to do her best.
“It’s really flattering that my professors think so highly of me,” she said. “In my cohort especially, there were so many people who were creative with how they taught lessons. Everyone pushed everyone else to do their best.”
Muñoz, who graduated with her bachelor’s degree on May 4, will be working at a summer camp at The Westminster School and applying for teaching jobs in the Atlanta area. And she believes her experiences in the field and in the COE have given her a solid foundation for handling all the challenges a career in teaching may offer.
“In your hypotheticals, everybody does their homework and behaves and gives you their full attention. And when things don’t happen that way, you have to figure out how to handle it,” she said. “I think my classes and my student teaching allowed me to be innovative and trying new things, even if they didn’t work, because you can learn from those experiences.”
For more information about the COE’s Middle Level Education program, visit http://msit.gsu.edu/4835.html.