College of Education > News and Publications > News: Oct. - Dec. 2010 > Kristen Burnett Named Fall 2010 College Marshal

Kristen Burnett Named Fall 2010 College Marshal

Kristen Burnett, student marshal for the College of Education's fall 2010 semester, describes her experiences with a secondary education major in the College at Penn State.

by Marilyn Perez (November 2010)

Penn State Schreyer honors scholar Kristen Burnett has lived by the motto that the best way to be an outstanding teacher is to lead by example.

“I’m the first person in my family to go to college right after high school,” said Burnett. “It’s really exciting to have that opportunity. If I’m going to eventually teach kids about the importance of education, I need to have a pretty good handle on it myself. How am I going to teach it to them if I don’t do it myself?”

Burnett will graduate in December and will serve as the College of Education’s fall semester 2010 student marshal. Her academic and honors’ thesis adviser, Scott Metzger, will escort her as the College’s faculty marshal. Her mother, Henrietta Burnett, plans to attend the commencement ceremony. This honor came as a surprise to Burnett.

“It’s exciting because I thought, ‘There has to be somebody who’s a bit higher than me,’ ” she said with a laugh. “It’s gratifying because all the hard work has paid off.”

Burnett loves pedagogy, and she has had positive experiences working with a range of students from kindergarten to high school. She advised other college students studying to become teachers to never forget why they’re in the field.

“This is what you’re going to be doing for the rest of your life,” she said. “Make sure you love it. Some days are going to be hard, but you’re in it because you want to help kids. That’s what my motivation has been. If the day hasn’t been the greatest day in the whole entire world, you think, ‘I'll go back tomorrow, and I’m there to help them.’”

Currently, she’s working with a group she particularly enjoys. She is student teaching economics, U.S. history, and psychology in Bald Eagle Area High School in Wingate, Pa.

“Once you start to develop a bit of a rapport with students, they start to understand that if they work with the teacher, the teacher will work with them,” Burnett said.

Burnett discovered her affinity for teaching in her 9th-grade history class in State College Area High School. By tenth grade, she said she knew teaching social studies was the career she should pursue. And, indeed she did. She is majoring in secondary education with a social studies option and has earned minors in history, Spanish, and English as a second language. She holds a 3.97 GPA and has earned Dean’s List honors each semester.

Burnett decided to take on English as a second language to pair with her Spanish minor, but it quickly turned into something more meaningful.

“Working with kids who are just learning English is really gratifying,” she said. “It’s something that I started out saying ‘OK, I can just add this on,’ and then I really got into it.”

Through her English as a second language minor, Burnett had the opportunity to tutor a Korean Ph.D. candidate for a semester.

“I wasn’t just tutoring him on pronunciation. We were getting to know each other by talking about culture,” Burnett said. “It’s not only teaching ESL. Especially for me coming from a social studies background, it was kind of exciting to get the best of both worlds.”

Burnett has participated in numerous programs and organizations ranging from an ESL Enrichment Camp, LifeLink PSU, and the Pennsylvania State Education Association. She has been recognized with many awards, including the ETS Recognition of Excellence Award for Social Studies: Content Knowledge.

One program in particular affected her thoughts on her future as a teacher. Ever since Burnett’s participation in the two-week Philadelphia Urban Seminar Program in the summer of 2008, she has considered teaching in an inner-city area. During the program, she observed the dynamics and challenges of inner-city classrooms and attended seminars at night where professors would discuss ways to cope with some of the challenges presented.

Burnett said that after graduating in December, she will apply to teaching jobs all over, and she wouldn’t rule out either an urban or rural area. But, because of this experience in Philadelphia, she said she is more likely to consider working with students in an urban area.

“I could see myself working with them,” she said, adding that she is open to teaching in a wide variety of areas. “They need someone who says ‘Hey, you can do this too.’ ”

Burnett is currently working on her honors thesis, which discusses the integration of art into social studies classrooms. It targets the need for more visual analysis in schools, which if provided, would help students think critically and use evidence-based reasoning. In essence, it allows students to come to their own conclusions rather than merely reading it in a textbook.