Students Teaching Students challenges undergraduates to teach their peers

Michaela Harpster
July 24, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- During the spring 2020 semester, Michael Miller and Josie Krieger launched a new program called Students Teaching Students. The core of the program is simple: students can teach.

Putting this idea into action, Students Teaching Students provides undergraduate students with the opportunity to teach official courses that count towards the minimum credit requirement for graduation. Course topics range, covering everything from LSAT test prep to Kanye West.

Miller will be a senior this fall and is taking advantage of Penn State’s bachelor of philosophy program, which let him create his own major: values-driven product design. He is also working on a Chinese minor. Krieger, a Paterno Fellow who will be a junior, is majoring in history and economics.

This past spring, the program piloted five courses. Courses for fall 2020 are currently available on LionPATH and include The Horror of Writing, Introduction to the Goddess, Church and State in Pre-Islamic Iran, and Dutch Culture: Art, History, and Society. 

Miller and Krieger said they see students as an underutilized learning resource.

“Over the past year, we set out on an ambitious mission to challenge the idea that students can only collect knowledge but cannot share it,” said Miller.

The program is centered around longevity. “Our main goal is to build a sustainable program that sees dozens of students teaching smaller, niche, and highly-engaging courses each semester. When we're old, Josie and I want to be able to return to a Penn State where student-led education has blossomed, and where students are viewed as partners—not just recipients—in the education process,” Miller said. 

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the student instructors successfully transitioned to online teaching this spring—which Miller and Krieger say is an impressive feat. 

Both Krieger and Miller emphasized the impact of their liberal arts education on both Students Teaching Students and their overall Penn State experience. 

“The liberal arts program encourages curiosity—something I am incredibly grateful for as I have applied to many areas in my life,” said Krieger. “It has allowed me to challenge the status quo and ask questions like 'why can’t students teach?' Similarly, my peers in liberal arts are an inspiration. They are change makers—passionate and ambitious individuals who have been an essential part of my academic career.” She added that being a Paterno Fellow has afforded Krieger unique experiences of intellectual exploration, as well as exposure to the stories of other impressive students at Penn State. 

“The most exciting part of Penn State is being part of a community of learners, dreamers and doers,” said Miller. “The College of the Liberal Arts shares in this understanding, and most of our Students Teaching Students courses so far live within the college... From strong friendships to world-class opportunities, my liberal arts education is the toolbox on my mission to making positive, lasting change in this world.”

Both Krieger and Miller, along with Students Teaching Students Assistant Director Amanda Mohamed, are members of the Presidential Leadership Academy, which allows select students to learn leadership fundamentals in a complex, diverse world. 

In addition to founding Students Teaching Students, Miller is the co-founder and head of design for Loancrunch, an app that lets students and graduates navigate, understand and pay back their student loans—all in one place. He spent last summer developing Loancrunch in Penn State's Summer Founders Program. The app is currently in development.

In high school, Miller co-founded the student-led nonprofit Walk for Clean Water. Since 2016, the organization has grown into a national movement of community-based walks that raise funds and awareness to fight the global water crisis. Since its inaugural walk, the organization has raised more than $95,000 to fund eight clean water wells in the African nation of Swaziland, giving more than 5,000 people clean water for life.

Students Teaching Students partners with both the Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence and Student Engagement Network. If any student is interested in teaching or taking one of the Students Teaching Students courses, they are encouraged to visit stspsu.org

To learn more about the Liberal Arts Change Makers, visit la.psu.edu/changemakers.

  • Headshot of Michael Miller

    Michael Miller, a rising senior, created his own major, values-driven product design, through the bachelor of philosophy program.

    IMAGE: Provided by Michael Miller
  • Headshot of Josie Krieger

    Josie Krieger, a Paterno Fellow and rising junior, is majoring in history and economics.

    IMAGE: Provided by Josie Krieger
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Last Updated July 24, 2020