School official in Maryland praises Penn State mathematics education graduates
Administrators at Caroline County Public Schools on Maryland’s Eastern Shore aren’t the first to endorse the practice of hiring Penn State College of Education graduates, they’re simply the latest.Within the past 12 months, that school district has placed on its payroll four mathematics teachers from the curriculum and instruction program. Kellie Rizzo, Lauren Pace and Elizabeth Tumpa taught last year, while Amanda Potter is set to begin this fall.
“Teachers from the Penn State program have a good knowledge of research-based best practices for teaching mathematics and demonstrate proficiency in analysis of student work to make data-driven instructional decision,’’ said Melissa Mulligan, the supervisor of instruction for the school district.
Rose Mary Zbiek, department head of Curriculum and Instruction and a professor of mathematics, said the mathematics program at Penn State has a reputation for preparing mathematically competent students who are “pedagogically savvy’’ and committed to their students’ learning.
“Both our field supervisors and school administrators tell me that our students not only have the academic preparation to be good teachers but also have the expectation and preparation to use what they know and stay focused on what their secondary school students are learning and doing,’’ Zbiek said.
“This shared community around secondary school students’ learning motivates all of us to be the best educators we can be and to live daily the joy of teaching mathematics.’’
The educational background with which students depart Penn State leads to a belief and assurance that success in the job market will follow suit. Rizzo is a mathematics teacher at Colonel Richardson High School in Federalsburg, Maryland, within Caroline County Public Schools. She was confident her education would lead to a job quickly after graduation in 2015.
“I felt that I had a very strong education in mathematics that would allow me to teach any subject a school would ask of me,’’ Rizzo said. “The pedagogy education I received also prepared me very well to answer questions about my teaching style.
“I also felt that my student teaching experience was very beneficial. I feel that our student teaching experiences at Penn State and the observation process that is in place is very beneficial to first-year teachers. Going into my interviews I was able to give examples of how I improved based on constructive criticisms and was very much able to identify strengths and weaknesses in my teaching,’’ she said.
The strengths far outweighed any weaknesses, according to Mulligan. “Kellie, Lauren and Liz have been an excellent addition to the (Caroline County Public Schools) math team,’’ she said. “In addition to their enthusiasm about teaching, their eagerness to learn and grow in the profession will have the greatest impact on the students in Caroline County. These three women have demonstrated a dedication to meeting the needs of all of our students,’’ Mulligan said.
Statements about student success are exactly what Zbiek likes to hear. “We prepare teachers to be real, to be smart and to know that their students are the reason why they enter the classroom,’’ she said. “The Penn State mathematics education community comes together around not faculty or Penn State students but around K-12 students – the learners who give our daily work meaning.’’
Rizzo said she appreciated the network of colleagues she built while at Penn State. “Going through classes in a cohort allowed me to become very close with other prospective high school math teachers,’’ she said. “We still talk very often about our experiences and turn to each other when we have a question or need advice.
“I also feel very confident that if I ever needed to, I could reach out to any College of Education professor for advice, letters of recommendation, or anything else that may come up in the course of my career. I feel that all of the professors in the College of Education want their graduates to succeed and will do anything they can to help make that happen,’’ Rizzo said.
Daily learning is a staple in any instructional program but the College of Education focus is on the future, according to Zbiek.
“We prepare teachers not simply to succeed here on campus but to be ready to do good things on a daily basis with their students, now and in the years to come,’’ she said.
The College of Education recently received a grant to fund mathematics education scholarships for 15 students over a three-year period and allow them to complete their last two years of college tuition-free. For more information, visit http://news.psu.edu/story/407023/2016/04/27/academics/college-education-receives-1-million-grant-fund-scholarship online.