Beyond Student Teaching: Penn State University-Abington partners with local schools to provide teacher candidates opportunities to give back
An interview by Caitlin Fritz
This fall I had the opportunity to visit Penn State University-Abington to have a conversation with Ann Martinelli, Ed.D. Ann is a Lecturer in Education at PSU-Abington with a specialty in literacy, elementary and early childhood education. In 2013, Ann helped establish partnerships with four local elementary schools in Philadelphia, Norristown, and Bensalem School Districts.
Caitlin: Can you tell us about the partnerships you have developed?
Ann: When I joined the PSU-Abington team in 2013, I was looking for a way to authentically marry theory and practice for our pre-service teacher candidates. Centered around our mission of service, the partnerships are built on meeting the needs of our partners schools as they change over time in a collaborative relationship. This has allowed us to embed service-learning into our pre-service teacher training. PSU students not only engage in real classroom teaching, with students that represent diversity and inclusion, but also give back through service-learning projects that address the needs of our partner schools.
Caitlin: What are some of the projects the PSU students are involved in?
Ann: Based on the assessed needs of our partner schools, the PSU teacher candidates develop a plan of action to address these needs. This has led to student-generated fundraisers and supply drives. The PSU students work together to collect school supplies, coats, and books. Our partner schools also have many children and families who encounter domestic violence. In response, the PSU students organized ‘Purses with a Purpose.’ Purses filled with toiletries, a book, and a personal note were assembled by the PSU students. The students have also organized fundraisers to purchase needed supplies for our partner schools.
Caitlin: What other projects have the PSU students been involved in?
Ann: PSU teacher candidates research, plan, and host professional development days for the community partnership teachers. Many of these professional development days focus on early literacy. The PSU students lead many aspects of the day. It also gives them the opportunity to learn alongside veteran teachers.
Caitlin: I see you are also busy planning an upcoming event. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?
Ann: Yes, the teacher candidates also investigate seek out local children’s authors and plan an event on PSU-Abington’s campus for students from our partner schools. The author reads a sample of their books and gives a signed copy to the children. We are currently working on hosting Janet Wong on October 17th for some of the 2nd graders who we work with.
Caitlin: Since you work closely with the PSU pre-service teacher candidates, from your perspective, how have these experiences impacted them?
Ann: The mission of the PSU Education program is to build leaders in the teaching field that are driven by scholarship and service to others. Working with partnerships schools provides a venue for teacher candidates to think outside their own experiences and they certainly rise to the challenge. These service projects have established a high level of self-efficacy among the PSU students. In addition, they also begin to see themselves as agents of change in their communities.
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