Penn Fellows: Integral Members of Our Community
by Jacob Aronoff on Friday, April 24th, 2015
Only seven years ago, the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate Fellowship program did not exist. However, since it was created, the program has become an integral part of private schools across the country—including Milton, which plays host to four Penn Fellows: Mr. Heath, Mr. Owens, Ms. Lewer, and Ms. Cheng.
The Penn Fellowship program is a two-year graduate program that places participants in a real teaching environment. Fellows teach a range of subjects, including Math, History, and Science. Each fellow has a mentor at their school who also teaches in their discipline. During their second year, fellows investigate a certain question—this project is aptly named an “inquiry project.” This question is explored through their class experience and is their final project that they present at seasonal conferences where Fellows can learn about different education practices. During the spring conference each year, the graduating cohort presents his project which analyzes a question in the classroom environment. Fellows explain what they’ve been investigating, how it’s related to an educational environment, how they’ve researched their classrooms, and ultimately their findings.
The fellows take classes in psychology and the “History and Culture of Boarding Schools,” all the while learning to apply these concepts. These classes help the fellows develop their teaching styles as well and show them how to employ their skills. Mentors accompany their fellows to the conference, allowing fellows like Mr. Owens the ability to “hang out with math Fellows. It’s nice to be able to talk about math with people who teach math.” Ms. Cheng loves the ability “to sit down for meals and talk to different seasoned teachers from different disciplines about their experiences.”
Each fellow is paired with a mentor who helps him build lasting connections with students; Ms. Lewer is paired with Mr. Hilgendorf, Ms. Cheng with Ms. Starks, Mr. Heath with Mr. McGuirk, and Mr. Owens with Mr. Reilley. Ms. Lewer says, “These mentors serve as a sounding board and an advisor. They also observe classes and give feedback.”
During a fellow’s first year at Milton, he or she teaches 1-2 sections of a subject and has many other requirements to complete. Fellows meet weekly with Mrs. Singh, the liaison between Milton and Penn, to talk about questions and issues that manifest in the classroom. Fellows also observe classes and plan course syllabuses.
In addition to their meetings, fellows are required live in a dorm, coach a team, and participate in specific extracurricular activities. Ms. Lewer works with the speech team and is also a social awareness teacher. Ms. Cheng is The Asian’s faculty advisor and occasionally helps out with Asian Society and International Students Club. Along with helping organize community service, Mr. Heath is the faculty advisor for the Model UN Club and is a faculty teacher for HS&R classes. Mr. Owens has coached 3rds Girls’ Basketball and is currently the coach for both Boys’ JV and 3rds Tennis. All of the fellows go to sit down dinners, participate in residential events, and build relationships with students. Ms. Cheng is affiliated with Hathaway, Ms. Lewer with Robbins, Mr. Owens with Norris, and Mr. Heath with Forbes.
Each fellow emphasizes that he/she teaches because he loves to work with students and wants to share positive experiences. Mr. Heath “went to a public school and felt completely behind in college. [He] want[s] to be the person who could have really great relationships with kids and prepare them for anything they want to pursue.” Mr. Owens “became a teacher as a result of positive experiences in high school. [He] had great connections with teachers at his private high school and hopes to be on the other side and help kids through high school.”
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