Education concentrations offer alternate pathway to career in secondary education

School of Education offers concentrations to a variety of majors. Grace Everett | Photographer

By Jenna Fitzgerald | Copy Editor

Although they’re a little-known opportunity in the School of Education, education concentrations give students majoring in biology, health science studies, history and mathematics an alternate pathway to a career in secondary education.

Education concentrations, which are similar to minors and require 31 additional course hours, allow students who are studying one of those four core content areas to supplement their degree with not only pedagogical instruction but also hands-on classroom experience as a teaching associate and intern.

Dr. Suzanne Nesmith, associate dean of undergraduate education, said one of the biggest benefits of education concentrations is that by offering an alternative to the traditional education major, they enable more students to learn about and pursue the field of secondary education.

“We want individuals who are interested in education — be that interested in ‘I want to teach young children’ or ‘I want to share my love and passion and expertise in this content with others’ or ‘It was a teacher that got me interested in chemistry; I would love to do that for young people,’” Nesmith said.

Dr. Madelon McCall, coordinator of the secondary education program, said there are multiple reasons why students may choose to concentrate in education instead of majoring in it. While some may want to have a more in-depth study of their chosen content area, others may realize later on in their college careers that they want to pursue education without having to extend their time in undergrad.

“Baylor students often get involved working with middle school or high school students and realize how much fun it is to help mold those young lives and decide, ‘You know what? I love the content. I love the kids. What job can I possibly do that would marry those two passions?’” McCall said. “And teaching is one of those options.”

No matter what leads students to choose a concentration over a major, McCall said those who are on the path to becoming teachers are united in their desire to serve.

“Baylor students are very mission-minded, so they want to serve, and they find out that the best way to serve is to be a teacher,” McCall said. “There are really no other career opportunities where you get to touch a student’s life every day of the week. Even pastors and youth ministers do not see folks in their flock as often as teachers do.”

Since part of Baylor’s mission is “to educate men and women for worldwide leadership and service,” Nesmith said Baylor’s students are uniquely suited to the field of teaching.

“I truly believe that teaching is more than a profession; it’s a calling,” Nesmith said. “And I think individuals who come to Baylor, by and large, choose Baylor because they are very service-oriented. They look at ways to serve their communities, ways to serve society, and one of the most incredible ways to serve is through education.”

Dr. Jenifer Johnson, director of recruitment and first-year experience, said education concentrations provide students with a strong skill set that will benefit them regardless of whether or not they end up with a job in education.

“I think the biggest benefit is the skill set you learn,” Johnson said. “I think a lot of times, people think about education, they know that they’re going to be teachers, but teachers also know how to be organized, know how to reach different types of learners, learn how to speak professionally and things like that. And you can take those skills with you into any role that you decide to pursue.”

Nesmith, McCall and Johnson all said the existence of education concentrations is not very widely publicized on campus, but the School of Education is working to spread the word on this opportunity.

“We want all students in college to know their options,” McCall said. “We don’t want them to think, if they cannot do whatever they came into college planning to do, that there are only one or two options when there are many, many options. So letting students know that teaching is not only an option, it is a life service — something that they can do and channel their passions for kids, for serving people and for their content area.”

Austin senior Didi Maloney, who is majoring in biology with an education concentration, said it is especially important for students to be aware of this opportunity now because of the teacher shortage brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. She said her biggest piece of advice to those who are considering adding an education concentration is to “just do it.”

“Just 100% go for it,” Maloney said. “You would be surprised at how much you can accomplish. A lot of the classes in the minor kind of mirror what you’re already doing for your major. So if you plan it, you can actually have additional experience in those classes and kind of solidify the content that you’re learning in your major classes. So it’s just like an added bonus.”