Read what some of our alumni have to say about our program:
Galeet Cohen grew up in Northeast Philadelphia and attended Philadelphia public schools. She was excited to return to Philadelphia to attend PennGSE’s program and student teach in Philadelphia public schools.
Galeet majored in biology at the University of Chicago, graduating in 2001. After graduation, she moved to New York and worked in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park as an aquatic ecologist. She also developed and implemented the10th grade chemistry field studies curriculum for the Brooklyn Academy of Science and the Environment charter school. Galeet was drawn to teaching because she found that “laboratory work was monotonous and did not guarantee a great contribution to science. Teaching, on the other hand is a guaranteed adventure with nearly endless opportunities to affect young people and engage with the most exciting parts of a discipline.”
The structure of PennGSE’s program was particularly important to Galeet. She found that spending an entire school year in one classroom gave her the opportunity to watch her students learn over eight months and she felt that she was able to make meaningful connections and experience real teaching over that time. She also found her Penn Mentor extremely supportive, visiting her school placement once a week. Her Mentor was available for consultation any time and cared about Galeet’s well-being and professional development.
Galeet now teaches environmental science at a Philadelphia public school and was the recipient of the Puente-Forchic Scholarship in 2005-2006.
Sarah AdamsElementary Education, 2006
Sarah grew up in Montebello, a suburb east of Los Angeles. She was a political science major at UC Berkeley preparing for law school. However, when it came time to apply to law schools, the prospect of doing legal work was less and less appealing. It was then that she started thinking about what she would enjoy doing and would make a significant positive impact toward building a more equitable society. At the time, she was tutoring a first grader in Berkeley, California. The time spent with this student soon came to be the highlight of her week; she enjoyed helping her build her literacy skills and watching her grow. Her student’s enthusiasm for learning and Sarah’s sense of fulfillment led her to pursue a career in teaching because she knew that the experience would not only be rewarding, it would also benefit her future goal of becoming a policy maker or even a US Senator. As a policy maker she would have the opportunity to shape education policy for social justice purposes.
Sarah credits the faculty at PennGSE with making her experience so rewarding. She feels that each instructor possesses a passion for education that they is conveyed in their individual approaches and lenses, and from which they view the study of education. She feels that all her professors shared her vision for working toward a more equitable society through education. With the encouragement of her instructors, she has developed a self-reflective stance in her teaching practice.
Sarah is committed to urban education and is currently teaching at an elementary school in the School District of Philadelphia. She was the recipient of the Puente-Forchic Scholarship in 2005-2006.
Jaunelle PrattElementary Education, 2006
Jaunelle grew up in Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey but studied journalism and educational studies at Emory University in Atlanta. Although originally planning a career in journalism, she found that her experiences volunteering in schools in Atlanta were incredibly rewarding. The more she tutored and volunteered, the more she realized that education was the best career choice for her.
Jaunelle enjoys teaching because she finds that the classroom is a place where every individual is constantly growing and learning, including herself. She feels that she learns as much from her students as they learn from her, and the time spent in the classroom is engaging and constantly changing. This unique environment allows for an experience unlike any other and makes everyday something to which she looks forward.
Jaunelle found her student teaching experience to be incredibly valuable and says, “There is no greater teacher than experience. As I walk away from the program, I feel as though I am ready to embark on my teaching journey and the adventure of having my own classroom.” She learned that it was okay to make mistakes during her student teaching, and found that each mistake was an opportunity to learn and grow.
Jaunelle teaches 5th grade at LEAP Academy, a public charter school in Camden, NJ.
Alex was born in Mukinge, Zambia, and lived there until he was 5. He spent the rest of his childhood in Chattanooga, Tennessee until he left for Pennsylvania to study mathematics at Muhlenberg College. Alex enjoys teaching because he loves to witness the “wow” moments on students’ faces when they finally understand a new concept. He feels comfortable working with students and enjoys math, so a career in teaching was the perfect way for Alex to invest his time and energy in something he enjoys.
Alex felt that Penn prepared him for long-term success in teaching by encouraging him to subject himself to honest, constructive self-criticism. He says, “There is always room for improvement but it's often difficult to acknowledge that we need improvement as teachers because we then face responsibility for doing something about it. However, the benefits for our students make self-assessment well worth the effort in the long-run.”
Alex teaches Algebra II and Pre-Calculus in Bethlehem, PA. Alex is the recipient of the Knowles Foundation Fellowship, which will provide him with support during his first five years of teaching. http://www.kstf.org/teaching_fellowships_home.aspx
Monica was born and raised in Philadelphia and is the oldest of seven children. Her first experience as a teacher were when she played school with her younger siblings. Monica loves to read, write and travel, so teaching provided opportunities to explore all three of her passions. She believes teaching also provides her life with meaning and purpose. Monica came to Penn’s program after teaching at a private school.
Monica says, “The best teaching experiences I have had are when I am actively learning. When you reflect on your own pedagogy, you discover wondrous and not-so wondrous stances and attitudes. This type of inquiry, which I hope I encouraage students to adopt in their own lives, leads to important discoveries that push one into what Vygotsky (1978) calls the ‘Zone of Proximal Development.’ Although this position - one of seeking, problem solving, and not necessarily knowing something for certain - can be unsettling, but it is where great learning and growth take place. To become grandiose and perhaps sappy, these moments of student and teacher engagement are replete with possibilities.” Monica finds that every day offers new possibilities in the classroom, new reasons to feel hope and to inspire someone to push herself academically.
The other students in the program were a great support for Monica during her student teaching. She became part of a continual and on-going ethnography collaboration group. They presented their research at PennGSE’s Ethnography Forum and continued to meet weekly. They will also be presenting their research this fall in New York. They discuss issues from the field and problematize each other's assumptions. Often teachers feel isolated in the classroom but through her experiences she feels like she has colleagues and is not alone. Monica also felt that PennGSE’s academic rigor was a highlight of the program. In the past she felt bothered by the lack of respect teachers in society were accorded (especially in the elementary grades). PennGSE purposely positions itself as a place where theory relies on practice and practice relies on theory. One of her long-term goals is to work on changing perceptions about teaching as a semi-profession. PennGSE has given her the tools to start that work.
Aruna grew up in Nanuet, a suburb of New York. She was drawn to teaching through her experiences volunteering with adolescents in Rochester, NY, while attending the University of Rochester. She knew she wanted to work with people, particularly students, so she felt teaching was a logical choice.
Aruna says that her students are what she loves most about teaching. “They teach me as much as I teach them, and they make me laugh a whole lot. They make my job totally worth it.”
The most rewarding part of student teaching for Aruna was working with the same students all year long so she was able to see both how much the students progressed and how much she had progressed as a teacher. Aruna found the other teachers at her student teaching site to be very supportive. Her co-workers, Penn Mentor and Classroom Mentor were a great support system that helped Aruna in various ways - new ideas, moral support, resources, or feedback on her teaching.
PennGSE provided her with a number of resources, which were very useful to a new teacher in a rather unfamiliar environment. Whether the resource was information, ideas, or places to go for ideas, support, etc, the access to various resources were one of the most important things to her during the year. Aruna also credits PennGSE with providing her with a network of fellow student teachers to share ideas and support one another.
Aruna teaches in the School District of Philadelphia at The School of the Future, a new school that is a partnership between Microsoft and the School District of Philadelphia.