About Us

Together, we are teachers working to improve the English language arts instruction in grades 7-12 of the State College Area School District. Historically, our number of teachers and interns numbers approximately 30 each year, and hopefully our work expands the support for students' literacy learning and identity development in the hundreds of classrooms in which they interact with PDS participants.

In our work together to support literacy education of secondary school students, we have negotiated our roles and responsibilities in a continuous manner to always keep the needs of learning at the center of our activities. Thus our "structures" or "assigned activities" as PDS participants have evolved each year, and developed flexibly according to the particular relationships between interns, mentors, students, and associates. We continually announce that "each person must learn to teach out of who they are as a person," "we do not want all teachers to be same," and "we learn from difference, not conformity." By the end of each year together, we also hope that each teacher has learned that who they are is based in collaboration with other teachers." Our archive of artifacts for each year and inquiry projects by participants present the ever-changing identities, relationships, and values that support the power of our PDS to generate greater agency within teachers and students.

Our PDS community is framed by the desire to support life-long learning, and the continual development of our uses of literacy to improve our personal and public lives. How we use language and media with each other creates the kind of social world in which our identities and relationships become possible. As a community of inquirers into language, literacy, knowing, and belonging we establish goals and reflect on the characteristics of our community striving for more agency and social negotiation of the kinds of communities in which we hope to live. We feel that we have established some important democratic learning practices, but realize that the goals and characteristics of our inquiry community are continually negotiated with our classroom and community members.

Our intern teachers, mentor teachers, and university associate teachers enact an inquiry pedagogy through various planned activities framed by five inquiry strategies. However, we continually experience tensions in our communities and our own practices between models of learning that emphasize inquiry versus the more traditional transmission of knowledge. It is important to move this tension away from a contest between content knowledge versus students' interests, towards a negotiation of multiple perspectives and multiple texts for some community purpose. Thus, in the English classroom we consider how a literacy practice orientation to curriculum can help us to negotiate and create more equitable and empowered community membership and activity.

Our work has been recognized by the Holmes Partnership in 2004 as the Nancy Zimpher/Ken Howey Award for Best Partnership. The following video summarizes our larger work in developing professional development partnerships in both elementary and secondary English education. One characteristic goal of professional development collaborations is to merge the traditional university missions of teaching, research, and service with the public school missions of teaching and service to the community and youth. Our 1998-2003 PDS report highlights some of the benefits of the program and our scholarship into the best practices for teaching secondary school English language arts.