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Returning Adult Named Student Marshal for Summer 2008

Elaine Siddons is the 2008 summer student marshal for the College of Education.

by Pamela Batson (August 2008)

siddons.jpg When Penn State adult student Elaine Siddons walked across the stage to accept her diploma on August 16, she fulfilled a lifelong dream to be a teacher. Along the way, Siddons distinguished herself as an outstanding student. As the top student with a 3.95 grade point average, she was the College of Education’s Student Marshal for the 2008 summer session and carried the College’s banner, leading the procession of all students at the commencement ceremony at the Bryce Jordan Center. Siddons graduated with a baccalaureate degree in Elementary Education.

In addition this honor, the College of Education Alumni Society named Siddons the Outstanding Student Teacher for the 2008 spring semester. She made the Dean’s List each semester and was the recipient of the Jeanne Leonhard Scholarship.

Penn State has been a highlight of my life,” says Siddons. “To all adults considering returning to college, I say, ‘Go for it!’ The support from everyone at Penn State — from my advisor Diane Bremer to all my instructors, supervisors, and classmates — has been phenomenal. There might be 40,000 students on this big, beautiful campus, but you become incredibly close to everyone in the College of Education.”

A native of New York, Siddons, 50, moved in 1981 to Lewistown, Pa., where she worked for 25 years at The Sentinel as a reporter/photographer, page designer, and editor. She started her journey at Penn State in the fall of 2006. As a returning adult, Siddons reflects on those who influenced her career in journalism and those who encouraged her to become a teacher.

As a student at Washingtonville Senior High in New York, her guidance counselor suggested she choose a career other than teaching because of the surplus of elementary teachers at the time. “I certainly have no regrets and enjoyed my career in journalism, but I make a point of encouraging my three daughters to pursue their own dreams,” she says.

During her student teaching practicum at Lewistown Elementary School in spring 2008, Siddons’ Penn State student teaching supervisor was Daniel McClenahen. Ironically, it was McClenahen who observed her interacting with children at their church a few years ago, and said, “Elaine, you should be a teacher.” She says his comment took her by surprise because most people would say, “You should have been a teacher.” She credits this as the first moment when she began to seriously consider returning to college. “Then I felt truly blessed when he assigned me to the greatest mentor teacher, Susan Earp, who so willingly shared her teaching talents and the sweetest fifth-graders!”

While a student, Siddons was influenced by Dr. Kathleen Sillman, whom she also chose to escort her at commencement as the College’s Faculty Marshal. Says Siddons, “I dreaded the thought of taking and teaching science, and then along came Kate. Her enthusiasm and rapport with the students was amazing. She turned a subject that I wasn’t confident in into one that I found fun. I learned so much from her that I was able to use in my 5th grade student teaching class.”

Says Sillman, “Elaine emerged early as a leader in the class because she shared her thinking easily and respectfully listened to others, which made them feel comfortable to share and learn.”

Siddons will have her own class when she begins her teaching career as a 2nd grade teacher at Lewistown Elementary on August 25.

In addition to being a full-time student, Siddons is active in her community and involved in family life. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Mifflin County Historical Society and the Board of Deacons at the Lewistown Presbyterian Church, where she teaches Sunday school and directs the children’s choir. Daughter, Leah, will be a junior this fall majoring in Elementary Education at Shippensburg University; Sarah will be a first-year student at Penn State in the forensic science department, and Chelsea will be a sophomore at Lewistown Area High School. Her husband, Bradley, is a 1975 Penn State alumnus in print journalism.

Siddons’ mother, Irene Sauer, from New York also attended commencement.

Siddons reflects, “I thank God every day for the many blessings he has given me — my family, opportunities to work with children in my church and community, and, of course, Penn State!”