I just finished my first year teaching eighth grade science and honors physical science at Hardin Valley Middle School here in Knoxville. My first career was in nursing and then I took some time off to be a stay-at home mom. When I decided to return to the workforce, I decided to pursue teaching because I had always wanted to be a teacher; teaching people about a medical diagnosis or instructing them on how to care for their health was one of my favorite parts of nursing. I had also volunteered at my kids’ schools and at church and taught middle school at a local homeschool co-op. I love working with middle school students—they are still kids but are capable of higher-level thinking and having deeper conversations about what they’re learning.

The Master of Arts in Teaching program at Johnson is intense, but it’s worth it. In 14 months you become a fully licensed teacher in your subject area. When I taught at the homeschool co-op, I realized some students weren’t understanding the material, but I didn’t know how to help them. In the MAT program I learned how to create lesson plans and how to support and assess students throughout the learning process.

The most helpful part of the program was student teaching. The JU professors worked hard to fit us with mentors who would help us be successful. I grew close to the people in my cohort; we studied together, encouraged each other, and prayed for each other. I know other people who have done similar programs at other institutions, and they didn’t have that same support system. I am so thankful for and appreciative of the JU professors.