The Transformative Power of Confidence-Building in Middle School

The Transformative Power of Confidence-Building in Middle School


A few years back at an event for prospective families, some of our current students were asked to share what they like most about NYA.  The responses ranged from the friendly dining staff and supportive student body, to the athletic teams and musical groups, to the engaging classes and strong student-teacher connections.  One eighth grade boy, however, remarked that it was the confidence that he had gained during his time at NYA.  “When I first came to NYA, I didn’t have the confidence to stand in front of large a group like this one, but now I do.”  What more could we ask for our students than to develop such confidence and to recognize it as a gift?

Looking back as adults, we often remember middle school as awkward and challenging.  These years are filled with so many changes, when bodies grow at a rapid rate, hormones surge, and the academic, extracurricular, and social demands seem to increase exponentially.  But there is also something magical about middle school, where students enter as children and leave as young adults.  This is a time of tremendous personal growth and a critical place for developing confidence.

ms-sign-flowersAt NYA, we strive to provide students with the tools they need to build such confidence.  We offer a structured and nurturing program that gives students the freedom and the courage to step out of the box, take risks, and try new things.  Students are given numerous opportunities to stretch themselves and to take on leadership roles, such as tackling the high ropes courses at Camp Kieve or singing a solo in the fifth grade musical.  Our program requires students to be involved in visual and performing arts, athletics, and a rigorous academic curriculum, presenting challenges while building on strengths.  We equip students to handle these challenges through class trips, teambuilding exercises, advisory activities, and courses such as Life Skills and Study Skills.  We also help parents learn to step back and let their children assume more responsibility and to understand that it is okay to try and not succeed.

Just this past spring, that same student who commented on his new-found confidence, now a young man who finished his sophomore year at NYA, stood in front of crowd of nearly three hundred students, parents, and staff to recite a poem as part of our annual Poetry Out Loud competition.  It seems that the confidence he found during his middle school years is continuing to grow and to serve him well.  As a middle school educator, I couldn’t be more proud.

Marissa Markonish
Head of Lower and Middle Schools at North Yarmouth Academy

Marissa Markonish joined the staff at NYA in 1995, teaching Latin in both the Middle and Upper schools. She holds a BA in Classics from Wesleyan University in Connecticut and an MAT in Latin and Classical Humanities from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Marissa moved into the role of Head of Middle School in 2010 and helped to open the Lower School in 2013. In her current role as Head of Lower and Middle Schools, she enjoys implementing an engaging and dynamic program for our students from Toddler through eighth grade.

North Yarmouth Academy is an independent, college preparatory, coeducational school for toddlers to students in grade twelve. Since 1814, NYA has fostered integrity, character, and intellect in its students. For more information, please contact NYA at 207-847-5423 or visit our website at