We Are: More Stories by the People Who Proudly Live Here
Young adult/reference librarian, Schlow Centre Region Library
I am a townie! State College is my hometown and I have lived here for most of my life, although I was not born here. I am a “campus brat” as my parents were faculty members at Dear Old State.
State College knows me, and I know “her” (because all inanimate things sound better as a her). She knows where I went to school, who taught me how to ride a bike and drive a car, how I broke my thumb, and whom I had a crush on. State College has literally “grown up” with me.
The most definitive thing that comes to mind about living here for so long is that I know what the town used to look like in the “old days,” the 1980s. Initially I lived on Westerly Parkway, and would walk to Holmes Foster Park and ride my bike around the block. My clothing choices were limited to what was available at Kmart or at the Nittany Mall, which had JCPenney and Sears, with a few handmade dresses. Fields used to be where housing developments, stores, and roads are now. For example, a horse stable and riding ring occupied the land where the apartments on Vairo Boulevard and Walmart are located.
Running down the ramp at O.W. Houts was always fun while my parents were shopping for appliances, food, or furniture. When Westerly Parkway was extended past Corl Street, we moved out of the borough to a more rural setting, beyond the end of town. Since the move, more housing developments were built, taking over where I used to watch for deer and other wildlife in the early morning or sunset hours.
One of my favorite places in town as a child was the public library, where I now work as the young adult librarian. Almost every Saturday as a child, I spent an hour at Nittany Gymnastics (formerly on Pugh Street), and afterward my mother and I would walk to the library to choose books for the week. Through my current job, I have met other “townies” and several best-selling authors, which is a huge perk to a bibliophile like myself.
Traveling with my parents on trips to cities such as Seattle, Boston, Orlando, and Toronto was always an adventure. Still, it was nice to feel the plane landing at University Park Airport (the terminal was once a small trailer) or seeing Mount Nittany as we arrived home. Yes, I will complain about the humidity and the freezing temperatures, but I still enjoy the different seasons in Happy Valley. You can’t beat the sunsets or night sky. Other highlights of living in Happy Valley include the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts and the July 4th fireworks, which were family traditions during my childhood.
We may not be unique in that we’re a community coming together in time of tragedy, but I don’t think you could find a more loyal or committed group of people, as evidenced by what we’ve seen in recent months. Maybe it’s because this town has a “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” feel to it — I may not know you but I know a friend of a friend of a friend of yours.
Those degrees have perhaps lessened during the past few months and we’ve all become a little closer as friends.
Rachel Mittl, Erika Smith, Sara Dieter, and Chelsea Finley
Interns, Professional Development Schools program
Fifteen years later and the PDS (Professional Development Schools) program is still going strong! The PDS is a partnership between the State College Area School District (SCASD) and Penn State’s College of Education. This partnership is a yearlong program in which senior elementary-education majors are paired with mentor teachers and Professional Development Associates (PDA). Together, they work to enhance, ensure, engage, and educate the next generation of teacher educators.
It is a prime example of the town-and-gown relationship and about the people of the region — whether they’re “townies” or students.
Former SCASD teacher and current PDA Marion Wheland says, “This collaborative partnership is pure gold. It is a win, win, win, win situation.”
PDS interns come out with the experience to successfully begin their first year as teachers, and their mentors come out learning innovative teaching models that they can implement in their classrooms. Professional Development Schools is a national movement to collaboratively redesign the way teachers are prepared, and provide interns with a real blend of theory and practice. The PSU interns take four methods classes during the fall semester in coordination with student-teaching four days a week. This allows the interns to learn theory and practice it in their classrooms the next day. The yearlong internship allows interns to see the entire year unfold rather than a traditional student-teaching model where student teachers are in the classroom 12 to 15 weeks. This program not only prepares PDS interns for their first year of teaching but also gives them the skills to teach for a lifetime. In a society where half of all new teachers leave the profession in four to five years, the PDS program is preparing interns using a new collaborative model of teacher education that promotes longevity in the classroom.
Currently in the elementary-education PDS program there are 60 interns dispersed across the SCASD elementary and middle schools. Everyone in this program is a volunteer, including faculty, teachers, interns, principals, and even school administrators. The partnership has survived a lot of changes and people moving in and out of the district. When the program first started, some parents were skeptical about having interns in their child’s classroom. Now parents often request to have their child placed in a classroom where there is an intern because there are countless benefits this collaboration provides for the SCASD students.
These partnership benefits have been far reaching. The PDS program has received awards from three separate national organizations for being an outstanding teacher-education program. The program’s success also can be seen in its high rate of placing graduates. Currently there are former PDS interns teaching in more than 20 states and four international sites.
Current PDA and former PDS director Jim Nolan described the program as “a partnership between SCASD and the Penn State College of Education that aims to do four things: help children be more successful, prepare excellent beginning teachers, help veteran teachers and university faculty get better at what they do, and prepare future teacher educators who can build these kinds of partnerships.”
The university and school district benefit from the continuous exchange of new ideas and inquiry into what is best for all students. This collaboration proves to be more beneficial each and every day for everyone involved. Happy Anniversary PDS! Here’s to another 15 years!