College of Education spring 2021 News and Notes

April 17, 2021

Teaching in Alaska an ‘amazing’ experience

A Penn State secondary education social studies graduate with a minor in history, Anais Biesecker is spending her first year teaching in Utqiagvik, Alaska, nearly 3,500 miles away from her home in Adams County, Pennsylvania. Situated at the northern tip of Alaska, Utqiagvik is one of the northernmost cities and towns in the world and the northernmost in the United States.

“I read the listing and thought, why not. They probably weren’t going to contact me and at least I could say that I had tried. But they did, the next day, too,” Biesecker said. “I applied on a Friday and had the job by Sunday afternoon. It was surreal. I then had about 18 days to get everything together from the day I found out to the day I left for Alaska.”

Biesecker has had to make some adjustments while teaching and living in a town with a population of just under 4,500, where the polar night lasts from November to January every year.

“It has taken a bit to get used to but it really isn’t as bad as you think. As long as you take a good amount of Vitamin D supplements, you really don’t feel the effects too much. It mostly just makes getting out of bed a bit harder in the morning, as it feels like you are just waking up by accident in the middle of the night.”

Read more about her experiences, and why she recommends that others follow her northward, online.

Outstanding graduate earns Alumni Achievement Award

Alumna Heather Bennett is one of 16 outstanding Penn Staters recognized by the Penn State Alumni Association with the Alumni Achievement Award.

The award recognizes alumni 35 years of age and younger for their extraordinary professional accomplishments. Winners are nominated by an academic college and invited by the president of the University to return to campus to share their expertise with students, faculty and administrators. They demonstrate to students that Penn State alumni succeed in exceptional fashion at an early age.

Bennett earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the College of Education in 2017. She also earned her law degree from Penn State Law in 2013 and is a 2008 graduate of the College of the Liberal Arts.

Goodling Institute research guiding literacy initiative

The William Penn Foundation is funding a family literacy initiative in Philadelphia, and the Goodling Institute for Research in Family Literacy, in Penn State’s College of Education, has had a key, collaborative role in the multi-program endeavor.

The Goodling Institute provides national leadership promoting the value of family literacy for adults and children, while also supporting program improvement through research and its application to practice and professional development.

The William Penn Foundation’s mission is helping to improve access to high-quality education for children from low-income families, ensuring a sustainable environment, fostering creative communities that enhance civic life and advancing philanthropy in the Greater Philadelphia region.

The Goodling Institute was awarded a three-year grant worth nearly $500,000 to evaluate the project and provide professional development and technical assistance to the family literacy programs.

“We haven’t analyzed all of the data yet and we won’t until the entire study is over,” said Carol Clymer, co-director of the Goodling Institute for Research in Family Literacy and the Institute for the Study of Adult Literacy. “The William Penn Foundation is very interested in the findings; they’re the ones who funded the programs in Philadelphia and they want to see if this does help families. This is the kind of research work that we do at the Goodling Institute.”

Read more about the project online.

Certificate helps teachers navigate online instruction

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, educators in kindergarten through 12th grade settings across the country have had to adapt their classrooms and curriculum for online instruction.

Educators said earning a credential through Penn State World Campus helped them prepare for this transition and become better online teachers.

The Postbaccalaureate Certificate in Teaching and Learning Online in K–12 Settings is offered online through Penn State World Campus and the Penn State College of Education. The 15-credit certificate can help teachers, supervisors and administrators expand their knowledge of the terminology, technology and methods that drive institutional decisions about online course design and delivery for a K–12 audience.

These skills have been especially relevant since teachers have had to continue teaching online and in person, or with a combination of instruction methods, in the months after the pandemic started.

Joshua Kirby, the program coordinator and assistant professor of education (learning, design, and technology), said the value of the certificate program is that skilled online educators create access and opportunities for students who otherwise wouldn’t have them.

Learn more about the program online.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated April 27, 2021