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College of Education > News and Publications > 2016: 07-09 news > Nicole Titus, Andrea de Carle earn PDS program-related national award

Nicole Titus, Andrea de Carle earn PDS program-related national award

State College Area School District instructors and College of Education graduates honored with Claudia A. Balach Teacher Researcher Award.

A pair of College of Education graduates who are instructors in the State College Area School District and deeply involved with the Professional Development School (PDS) program were honored recently with a national award.

State College Area School District instructional coach Nicole Titus, who has been a Professional Development School mentor, recently won the Claudia A. Balach Teacher Researcher Award. Andrea de Carle, a second-grade teacher at Easterly Parkway Elementary School who has a PDS intern this semester, also was a recipient of the national award given by the American Educational Research Association.
Nicole Titus and Andrea de Carle received the Claudia A. Balach Teacher Researcher Award, which is based on four criteria: ongoing ownership in the research by both P-12 and university collaborators; investigation of issues that impact student outcomes and/or teacher professional development; an ongoing interest in teachers as researchers; and a sustained program of research and inquiry.

“One of my desires is to see a greater representation of P-12 practitioners as principal investigators in scholarly research,’’ Titus said. “Having two teachers recognized by the American Educational Research Association is a tremendous honor. Receiving this award is a reflection of the culture of inquiry that our PDS community values and engages with on a daily basis.’’

Titus graduated from Penn State in August with a doctoral degree in curriculum and instruction. She is an instructional coach at Park Forest Elementary School and Park Forest Middle School in the State College Area School District.

She had been a PDS mentor for a number of years and the context of her dissertation was in the Professional Development School. She participates in a coaches’ collaboration with the math education course instructors for PDS.

“It was very important to become involved with our PDS program as a mentor,’’ Titus said. “There is a great responsibility in educating children in the 21st century that extends beyond the walls of my classroom. Our PDS program is grounded in the beliefs of the four E’s: Enhance (the educational experiences of all children); Ensure (high quality inductions of new teachers into our professions); Engage (in furthering our own professional growth as teachers and teacher educators of all children); and Educate (the next generation of teacher educators).’’

Titus said being a PDS mentor meant that she could enhance the educational experience of her students while mentoring and co-teaching alongside her intern. “It also meant that there were many opportunities for my own professional growth as I co-taught and collaborated with my intern, her PDA (professional development associate), colleagues and university faculty,’’ she said.

Her research revealed how co-teaching was beneficial to both students and co-teachers. “Students appreciated that co-teaching allowed for a greater quantity, quality and efficiency of learning opportunities within the classroom,’’ Titus said. “They understood that the types of lessons and the quality of activities could be enhanced through co-teaching. With decreased teacher-student ratios, students knew that more voices could be heard in classroom discussions.

“Engaging in reflective dialogues with each other and with our students provided multiple lenses for looking at the impact on our students’ learning as well as our own learning through teaching together,’’ Titus said.

de Carle also graduated in August with a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction. She returned this semester to her second-grade classroom at Easterly Parkway Elementary School. She, too, has a PDS intern working with her in her classroom.

“I learn so much from the PDS intern. We have valuable conversations about theory and practice. The intern cares as much about my students as I do.'' --Andrea de Carle

Having a PDS intern in my classroom provides me with ongoing professional development,'' said de Carle, who said she was "honored" to earn the teacher/researcher award. "It makes me ask daily what I am doing and what is my purpose. I want to make sure that I am always modeling good practice.

“I learn so much from the PDS intern,'' de Carle said. "We have valuable conversations about theory and practice. The intern cares as much about my students as I do. It is incredible to have another adult in the room – who is in the process of becoming a professional – discuss, celebrate and problem-solve with me.’’

de Carle said she learned about the program when her children were in school and both had PDS interns in their classrooms.  She spent time as a school-district paraprofessional prior to opting to pursue a teaching degree. She was a PDS intern in 2005-06 and also was a Professional Development Associate for three years.

“The classroom management course, the science methods course and the inquiry conference play a role in who I am as a teacher today,’’ she said. “In the classroom management class I learned the value of knowing my students and that when issues arise I need to question what I can change in myself to help my student be more successful.

“In science, I learned to inquire and get the students to ask questions. I love hearing the students’ ideas and having an opportunity to build off of that. The inquiry cycle is how I approach every day of teaching. What am I wondering? What sort of data can I collect? What can I try? How did it work? Who can I share this new knowledge with?’’ de Carle said.

Her return to the classroom, she said, enabled her to rejoin “a community that enjoys talking about what we are doing, why we are doing it, what is going well and what we can focus in on next.’’ She said school faculty “collaborate with our district instructional coaches, across grade levels, with Penn State faculty in research opportunities and teach methods classes in the PDS.’’

Jim Carlson (September 2016)