Alumni recognized for their impact on education through professional development

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.—The College of Education’s Professional Development School (PDS) is committed to helping teacher candidates develop into leaders in their field. Now alumni of the College’s PDS program are impacting education across the nation with new PDS programs that are being recognized with national awards.

Oliver Dreon (’08 Ph.D. C&I), an associate professor at Millersville University (MU) and a College of Education alumnus, helped to create a PDS program at the university in Millersville, Pa. He said that he has worked to put into action the teacher-preparation strategies he learned while he supported the PDS at Penn State.

“At Penn State, I worked with several faculty members that were instrumental in my development and my understanding of innovative teacher preparation programs,” said Dreon.

The MU PDS program has slowly grown to include almost 50 secondary interns working in seven different schools, according to Dreon. The National Association for Professional Development Schools (NAPDS) recently recognized the MU PDS with the Exemplary Professional Development School Achievement Award. This award recognizes PDS relationships for their ongoing contributions to the mission and vision of the NAPDS in creating and sustaining genuine collaborative partnerships between P-12 and higher education that shapes educator leadership and practice.

“Receiving this award is both humbling and gratifying,” said Dreon. “It means that the struggles and challenges were worth it and that we’ve stayed true to the overall mission of Professional Development School models.”

College of Education alumni are also involved with the award-winning PDS program at the University of South Florida (USF). Four Penn State College of Education graduates, Amanda Bellas (’06 B.S. EKED), Rebecca West Burns (’02 B.S. EKED, ’08 M.Ed. C&I, ’12 Ph.D. C&I), Jennifer Jacobs (’99 B.S. EKED) and Diane Yendol-Hoppey (’86 M.A. C&I, ’99 Ph.D. C&I), are part of the USF PDS. This program recently won three national awards, the Exemplary Professional Development School Achievement Award, the 2014 Association for Teacher Educators Distinguished Program Award and the 2014 Spirit of Partnership Award.

University of South Florida PDS

The University of South Florida PDS group at award ceremony

Image: Penn State

Yendol-Hoppey, chair of USF’s Department of Childhood Education and Literacy Studies and soon-to-be Associate Dean of Teacher Education, is a former teacher in State College Area School District (SCASD), the school district partner in the Penn State PDS. She said the three awards that USF received for their work in elementary-teacher education are concrete signals that their program is making a serious impact in teacher education. She points to Penn State as a catalyst for this impact.

“The Penn State College of Education serves as a conduit to prepare not only pre-service teachers using the PDS model,” said Yendol-Hoppey, “but also to ready future teacher-education faculty for their work in preparing the next generation of teachers.”

She added that Penn State graduates are armed with strong research skills that allow them to build on important conceptual underpinnings illustrated in the Penn State PDS as well as to make additional contributions to the field of teacher education by extending, transforming and enhancing PDS work.

Burns, assistant professor at USF, said that the awards mean a great deal to their PDS partnership with Hillsborough County Public Schools (HCPS). She pointed out that USF’s elementary partnership program is very young, and one part, the Urban Teacher Residency Partnership Program (UTRPP), is only in its third year.

“To have this kind of national recognition at such a young age, in terms of partnership years, is truly significant,” said Burns. “I think that is a testament to the faculty that we have working both at USF and for HCPS.”

Burns said that her experience at Penn State’s College of Education was invaluable to her current work in a PDS setting.

“As a doctoral student, I was raised in a PDS culture at Penn State,” said Burns. “The university faculty and school district collaborating teachers and principals were instrumental in supporting my growth and journey to becoming a faculty member who understands and values the role of meaningful, collaborative clinical experiences like those found in PDS.”

Bellas is a teacher leader at Mort Elementary in Tampa, Fla., a USF PDS partner school. She said the awards the program received are an honor and they bring recognition to a school district where this type of partnership is new and innovative.

“It’s exciting to be a part of reform in teacher preparation in this district-university partnership,” said Bellas, who was an intern in the Penn State/SCASD PDS while finishing her degree. She added that her time in Penn State’s PDS shaped her to be a leader in education.

“Because of the Penn State College of Education, I was a part of the class, recognized as another teacher to the students and given experiences that I wouldn’t have had in another teacher-preparation program,” said Bellas. “As a teacher candidate, that put me ahead of others when applying for my first teaching position.”

She added that student-teachers in the PDS can immediately apply what they are learning in their courses to their classroom. Student-teachers can then return to their professors and courses to share their personal experiences, helping others to grow.

From classrooms in K-12 schools to higher-education institutions across the country, College of Education alumni are leading the way. Looking back, graduates recognize that their time in Penn State’s PDS was key in their development as educators.

Dreon added, “I can honestly say that without my experiences at Penn State and with the College of Education’s PDS, the MU PDS would probably not exist.”

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Last Updated June 17, 2014