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Graduate Ready: Recent Alum Teaching at Hayes Middle School

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Recent University of Kentucky College of Education grad Kate Topley is teaching classrooms of 7th and 8th grade science students at Edythe J. Hayes Middle School in Lexington.  She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Education from UK in May 2015, majoring in Middle School Education, with concentrations in Science and English Language Arts. Topley recently shared about her experience at UK.

Why did you choose UK?

I choose to attend the University of Kentucky because of the strong reputation that the College of Education had among the surrounding counties, and with principals within the area.  I knew I wanted a strong foundation in educational strategies and practices, as well as a supportive learning environment from my peers and professors.

Why did you become a teacher?

I became a teacher because of my younger brother.  He was a very active, smart, and innovative learner, but struggled in school during the middle school years.  I noticed that many times the teachers he was working with had lost some of the passion that education must have.  I wanted to bring passion and excitement into a classroom for students who may be struggling through these important years.  I also wanted to help students start to develop the idea of who they are, be ok with their interests, and build confidence in their ideas.

What advice would you give to a high school student considering becoming a teacher?

My advice to any person considering education as a career path is to work with children of different ages consistently throughout your time in high school and college.  Finding your specific age group is a very important aspect to teaching.  I knew middle school was the age division that I felt passion for because I was able to work at summer camps, learning centers, and coached volleyball.  The students feed off of your energy and excitement for your content.  If you don’t feel passion for your subject, your students won’t either.

In what ways did UK prepare you for your first year as a teacher?

One of the best aspects of my time spent at UK was the amount of time I was able to be within the classroom with supportive and knowledgeable cooperating teachers.  UK has amazing connections with the surrounding counties, which allows their students to learn and teach with experienced and dedicated teachers. I was able to enter my first year of teaching with a sound knowledge of my content and teaching practices, and a confidence in my abilities instilled in me by the support of my professors.

Any particular classes or professors that made a difference/impact for you?

One professor that made a huge impact on my time at UK was Dr. Margaret Rintamaa.  Not only is she the coordinator of the Middle School Program, she also teaches you and mentors you throughout your entire time within the program.  She challenged me during my observed lessons to show my personality within my classroom, and to not only see myself as a teacher, but also as someone who invests in and motivates children and their interests.

How do you hope to use your career to make an impact?

My hope for my career is that I will teach students to not only enjoy their education, but to push themselves further than they thought they could achieve.  I also hope to pursue a Master’s in Educational Administration and continue to support and mentor students as an associate principal within a middle school.