College of Education > News and Publications > News: Oct. - Dec. 2010 > Education with an Electric Twist

Education with an Electric Twist

Penn State doctoral student Vince Youngbauer discusses his undergraduate academic career and his time spent teaching in Lewistown, Pennsylvania.

by Marilyn Perez (October 2010)

Just relax.

If a teacher follows those two words of advice, he/she will already be one step ahead, said Penn State doctoral student and former high school teacher Vince Youngbauer.

Vince1.jpg“I always tell my student teachers, ‘Don’t sweat the petty things and don’t pet the sweaty things.’ ” Youngbauer said. “If you worry about all the small stuff, you’re setting yourself up for failure – or having an ulcer at least.”

Although he can give advice based on his years in the field now, the Jeannette, Pa. native did not always know that teaching would be his path. He began his academic career in 1982 at the then Penn State Mckeesport campus (now Penn State Greater Allegheny.) After exploring the typical high-salary fields of engineering and accounting, Youngbauer decided on music education. The experience, though, was anticlimactic.

“It was me and a bunch of Blue Band people – I had long hair, and there was just this cultural confusion,” he said. “Mostly, I was disappointed that I had finally made a decision on something I really loved and then it just didn’t work out.”

Three years later, in 1985, he decided to drop out of Penn State.

Never leaving the area, he worked as a professional musician and as a guitar, piano and martial arts instructor. Youngbauer said he couldn’t help but acknowledge the naturally occurring trend of teaching in his life.

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“It was kind of like, ‘Well, this is what I’m doing, and I seem to be good at it.’ ”

After marrying and starting a family, he returned to Penn State and received his bachelor’s degree from the College of Education in 1998. Within a few months, he was hired as a high school social studies teacher for Mifflin County School District in Lewistown, Pa., where he stayed for ten years.

“I really like the interaction from teaching, I guess from being a musician,” he said. “When I taught high school, it was still my show. It’s an arrogance; I won’t lie. You’re telling somebody something they don’t know. There’s a rush from that.”

Youngbauer wanted to stand on his own as a social studies teacher, so he hid his former life as a musician from his students. He covered tattoos, but over the years, students started to catch on.

Somehow, he said, “by the planets aligning the right way,” he and four students rearranged the Tran-Siberian Orchestra’s version of “Carol of the Bells” and created a music video that was displayed to the whole school the day before Christmas break.

The students involved with this music video ended up making CDs and selling them. They raised this money with the hopes that Youngbauer would use it towards the funding of a guitar club, which would eventually be known as the String Guild.

“With that I bought some small amplifiers and tuners and stuff. They wanted that to be their legacy—it was warming,” he said. “This was something I had trouble with because I didn’t want to be that teacher. I didn’t want to be the guitar teacher.”

There were about 50 members of the guitar club, and Youngbauer would hold sessions early in the morning.

“I can remember a parent showing up one morning, and I said ‘Hey, can I help you with anything?’ She said ‘I just want to know what got my son out of bed at six in the morning so he could be here. I’ve never seen this from him,’ ” Youngbauer related.

The way it happened was ideal for what Youngbauer had wanted--he established himself as a teacher first, and the rest fell into place.

As for the future, Youngbauer has plans to affect more than just classrooms of students.

“I want to teach at the university level,” Youngbauer said. “I kept getting recognized as being this great teacher, and being a teacher is very honorable, but what if I actually taught teachers? Instead of meeting 120 students a year, I could affect, hopefully, the lives of many more students.”

Youngbauer is currently working on his thesis, which discusses the fact that students and young people need to learn how to sift through news media, which can be profit driven. He stresses that this is crucial as young people become eligible to vote. He plans to finish his degree in the spring.