Fellowship helps train new teachers

Over three years, students earn $30K to work in West Phila. high schools

· November 2, 2009, 1:33 am   ·  Updated November 2, 2009, 12:00 am

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For the second year, College sophomores, juniors and seniors are being offered an opportunity to gain hands-on teaching experience in one of three West Philadelphia high schools.

Over the course of three years, 23 students will be chosen to receive a $30,000 scholarship through the Leonore Annenberg Teaching Fellowship, a partnership between the College of Arts and Sciences, Graduate School of Education and Netter Center for Community Partnership.

Fellows will establish a relationship with one of the three high schools involved in the program as undergraduates. They will then complete a year-long Masters degree in GSE through its urban-focused, social justice-oriented teacher preparation program, after which they will return to the high school to begin a three-year teaching commitment.

The fellowship is funded by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, which selected Penn as one of the program’s four pilot schools. The other three schools involved are Stanford University, the University of Washington and the University of Virginia.

According to Anne Schwieger, the Netter Center’s academically-based community service coordinator, the fellowship may eventually be considered the Rhodes Scholarship for teaching.

The mentorship aspect of the program is what sets it apart, said College Dean Dennis DeTurck. Every fellow will have a faculty mentor from each of the School of Arts and Sciences, GSE and the high school where they teach.

As Cory Bowman, Netter Center associate director, said, the mentorships are intended to be long-term, spanning four to seven years.

“The mentors are supposed to be available on demand, and teams get together once a month during the academic year,” he said, adding that the fellows create the agendas for their meetings based on their own questions and ideas.

The program is also designed to bring about systemic change in Philadelphia public schools.

There is a shortage of teachers in secondary education in the United States, especially in urban settings, according to Kent Peterman, the College’s director of academic affairs.

The program is designed to help fix this problem — to “identify people who want to make a bigger commitment to education [and] help some of the best students in America today consider careers in education,” he said.

Director of GSE’s Teacher Education Program Kathy Schultz agreed, saying the program is intended to encourage the most talented, dedicated undergraduates who would commit to teaching for three years.

Two fellows were chosen last year, according to Deturck, who hopes to see at least six more selected this year.

Alumna Mia King, who graduated from the College in the spring, said she was proud to be in the first cohort of fellows — selected last year — because it allows her to stay in contact with the West Philadelphia high school where she has worked for the past three years.

“It allows me to stay connected to a place where I have already developed relationships,” she said.

A.J. Schiera, an ‘09 College alumnus also selected as a fellow last year, said he is excited for other students to get involved.

He noted that it is important to build a movement where undergraduates at Penn consider teaching in Philadelphia public schools worthwhile.

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