Prospective teacher thankful for Penn State's educational environment

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Insert a love for mathematics, a passion for students, and an inclination to learn more about both into an equation and the outcome equals Leigh Boggs.

The Penn State College of Education and Schreyer Honors College student completed her student-teaching duties at Thomas Jefferson High School in Pittsburgh, and graduated in May. Bigger and better things are on the horizon.

A graduate of Warwick High School in Lancaster County, Boggs was living pretty large as an undergraduate in her own little Penn State academic world. 

She has been a member of the Mathematics Education Student Group and participated in the Presidential Leadership Academy, the Education Student Council and the Education Ambassadors in the College of Education, Exploration U and Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ), on top of writing her dual honors thesis on education psychology and mathematics education within Schreyer.

She also was the recipient of the 2016 Undergraduate Student Leadership and Service Award presented by the College of Education. It recognizes a student who demonstrates interest and actions that enhance the purpose of the college; promotes leadership and service to individuals, the University and civic life; and fosters professional development of peers through example.

That seems to summarize Boggs’ four-year career.

“It’s really easy to capture a student by their involvement, but what I would most hope people would see when they look at me is really my heart for people and how that’s a motivating force of going into teaching,” Boggs said. “Any volunteering I’ve done or leadership role I’ve held is really just to see the people I have an opportunity to lead or teach to just be a student, and see them learn and grow.

“That’s kind of my motivating force and probably what I pride myself on and motivate myself by. It’s really been the environment that I’ve been placed into in my time at Penn State that has led to all of this.”

Boggs got in on the ground floor and ascended to leadership roles in all of her activities. But it’s her love for mathematics and working with students that drives her. She taught pre-calculus/trigonometry to juniors and seniors at Thomas Jefferson, and she wants to become dual-certified in math and physics. “My students (all took) physics at the same time as trig, and I am able to make those parallels really easily because I know that content well,” she said.

Being exposed to the research process as an undergraduate also was a huge plus, she said. “That research process of creating a study, gathering data in another classroom, and sharing that perspective has helped me in my own classroom and to see how I can continually learn myself to really see my students learn best,” Boggs said. “My research really enhanced my education through Schreyer and the College of Education.”

Through the Mathematics Education Student Group, Boggs was teaching while being taught. “Our goal is to provide support to math education majors,” she said. “As math ed majors, we take a lot of education classes as well as mathematics classes, and sometimes the connect between those two isn’t very obvious, so our goal is to provide support to freshmen and sophomore students who are in the major and don’t yet see that connection and say there is hope.”

With Exploration U, effort was put forth to devise ways to make math more engaging. “Unfortunately, not everyone sees it (math) like we do,” Boggs said. “It was geared toward elementary school students and we have some math magic tricks and some little puzzles that we can do. We kind of get their attention that way and we try and explain to them how we did the math. Hopefully we can convince elementary school students that math is more than just adding and subtracting and they can find it interesting, too.”

Boggs also added time for Penn State’s prestigious Presidential Leadership Academy, through which students are urged to develop critical-thinking skills and understand issues broadly with consideration for the complexity and variability of world matters, decisions and life’s circumstances.

That entailed a “broad spectrum of things,” Boggs said, including three classes with former Schreyer Honors College Dean Christian Brady, University President Eric Barron, and interim Schreyer Honors College Dean Kathy Bieschke. The 30 academy members examine “gray areas of decisions that should be black and white,” Boggs said. “We spend a lot of time on how do you approach these situations in a way that is fair and a way that accounts for all parties.

“President Barron would talk us through how he as president of the University responds to a problem from a faculty perspective, a student perspective and a public perspective. We had the opportunity to not only listen to how leaders do that but also do that on our own. We created a policy paper, and our group looked at teacher pay and the current scale that it is based on and whether or not that’s an accurate representation on how teachers should be rewarded monetarily,” Boggs said.

She served as vice president of the Education Student Council and also led prospective students on tours of the College of Education in her role as an Education Ambassador. “It has been a pleasure to work with Leigh for the past three years,”  said Phil Hoy, former assistant director of alumni relations in the College of Education. “She is a bright student and pays close attention to detail. She will be an outstanding teacher.”

Boggs’ leadership role in Cru was important to her as well. 

“I love organization, that’s the math part of me kind of sneaking out,” Boggs said. “I tried to make it a fun, welcoming environment not only for people who are in Cru but also for people who might just want to know what we’re about. We call ourselves the ‘Community to Support Christ, Capturing Hearts and Transforming Lives.’ I loved my time in Cru, it was a really great opportunity for me to serve people as well as share with them one of the most important aspects of my life, which is my faith.”

Another is education, and Boggs is thankful for the College of Education. “Being surrounded by a community of educators is not something that you get in every single college in Penn State,” she said. “To walk into a classroom, to walk into the advising center, to walk into my thesis adviser’s office and know that it’s not just a professor sitting on the other side but an educator who not only shares the same passion in seeing students grow and succeed in the classroom and encouraging that aspect in me.

“It’s been the environment that I’ve been placed in in my time at Penn State that has led to all of this. I would like to thank all of those people for even giving me the opportunities to be where I am today.”

Contacts: 
Last Updated May 17, 2017