College of Education student group endows award

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Students involved in the Student Pennsylvania State Education Association (SPSEA) are used to helping others. Now, their efforts will benefit one of their own, as the group has raised enough money to endow its own award.

The group over the years has methodically collected enough money to finally endow a modest award that will be awarded annually to one of its own.

"We’ve done Homecoming, we do a lot of merchandise for our club and we’ve been handing out T-shirts to advertise for our club," said club president Emily Gibbs, a graduate of Northeastern High School in York County who will do her student teaching next fall in the Bald Eagle Area School District.

"Our biggest fund-raiser has been through merchandise. We design shirts for our club members and they pay an amount and we raise money that way and it comes back into our club. That’s been our biggest fundraiser and we have some more plans for the spring."

Contributions and donations since 2010 reached $20,000, which meets the standard of endowing an award. "We were short, there was a gap we had to fill," Gibbs said. "It turns out in our account we had enough to cover the gap."

Gibbs and associate professor of education (mathematics) Andrea McCloskey, the club’s adviser, said the plan is to award one SPSEA student with an award of about $800, and eventually raise enough money to give two awards worth $500 each.

McCloskey said the group is leaning toward an application process for active members, which SPSEA officers would review to select a winner. "I really trust them to decide who has been an active and contributing member each year," she said.

"There are already a group of committed students every year who get a lot of things done. They’re grateful for the opportunity to reward them with a little bit of money which will be useful, but also with this recognition which probably will be more useful to the students.

"They’ll have an award they can name on their CVs (curriculum vitae) and just kind of a public way to recognize the way that these students will be continuing to contribute to the College and organization," McCloskey said. "Students have been doing it anyway without this award in place. In many ways, this is just kind of a way to recognize what’s already been happening."

Gibbs said the application process will be based on involvement in the club as well as leadership positions. "That can be volunteering for the club or stepping up to just help in some way. It’s going to be based around those fundamentals," she said.

"We’re really excited to start this (award). It will be really great to know that students coming in to the Penn State College of Education will have that opportunity to get rewarded for the effort they put in," Gibbs said.

That’s what the SPSEA is about at Penn State – volunteering, raising not only some money but some educational awareness and helping each other become better teachers within the College of Education.

Many club members log volunteer hours at Schlow Library in State College. Some head to cities such as Memphis or Houston over their spring break to learn what different schools value and what challenges they face, as well as perform manual labor that can include organizing a library to beautifying a playground.

"I’m developing a real appreciation for the professionalization that happens through this organization. They learn from each other," McCloskey said.

"They do a great job bringing in current teachers, alumni who maybe have won awards or were active in the group when they were here as students at Penn State, to come in and talk to them about very practical ways you can deal with classroom management problems you might have in your first year. I really appreciate the way they complement the academic preparation we provide here. I think it’s great."

Gibbs said various professionals speak to the group on a weekly basis, from College of Education alumni to career services representatives and even last year’s Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year, Cindy Olendyke. "It’s a whole different array of speakers but they all provide insight that’s really helpful to us education majors," Gibbs said.

Overall, McCloskey said, the SPSEA is an organization that people want to deal with.

"They are one of the groups the Dean’s Office will call upon for kid activities if we know there’s going to be something where we want to be able to invite families and have some meaningful interaction," McCloskey said.

"Quite a few organizations in town are aware of that group and will reach out to them directly to ask them to come and help us for a few hours. They’ve done a good job of building a reputation around town as a good, reliable organization."

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Last Updated March 08, 2017