Two education students learn a lot by doing -- and they're doing a lot

Education students Carly Siegle, left, and Taylor Young say their busy schedules are very rewarding. Credit: Jim Carlson / Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — If the time-worn adage that job seekers should limit their resume to a single page remains true, then Penn State students Taylor Young and Carly Siegle are out of luck.

Those two prospective educators in just four semesters have participated in enough educational activities to start to fill a university bulletin. That includes the rigorous academic requirements of being Schreyer Honors College students; majors in math education and English education in the College of Education; and learning assistants, tutors and researchers.

One has completed the Urban Education Seminar, the other will participate in the Teaching ESL with an Ecuador Immersion Experience. One works in the Krause Innovation Center, both serve on the Education Student Council, and both eventually will complete student-teaching duties, one with hopes of being accepted in the College’s Professional Development School program.

And this dynamic academic duo easily can discuss with each other any problems that arise because Young and Siegle, who are from the Philadelphia suburbs of Lansdale and Doylestown, respectively, also are roommates. They discovered they’d be a good fit when they were learning assistants together in an educational psychology class.

“We were getting super close last year as freshmen and at one point we just said we should be roommates,” Siegle said.

Each can appreciate the other’s schedule, because they sort of mirror each other.

“I think when you can look back and you realized what you accomplished in one day … I mean Carly and I both have very busy days,” Young said. “You just sit down at the end of the day and it’s like, wow, this is what I did today. I think it’s very rewarding when you know that it’s going to pay off, and it pays off in the moment, too.”

Though it can be taxing, the daily grind overall is enjoyable, according to Siegle.

“We do it because it’s a learning experience and we do it because we know it’s going to professionally develop us or help us in some way or another,” she said. “And we do it because we like to do it. So, we know internally that this is what we want and we’re doing the right thing.’’

The entire Penn State experience feels right, too, Young said.

“And we both really want to be here,” she said. “We came to college because we want to study and learn and we’re intrinsically motivated to do all these things.”

Though just sophomores, they eventually each will be required to write a thesis through the Schreyer affiliation. Siegle’s research work is with Teaching, Learning and Technology (TLT). She helps with a literature review about active learning, and explores her interest in learning spaces, specifically those on campus and how they are being utilized by professors.

“A lot of my interest is in classroom spaces and how we can effectively use the space itself including the resources in the space to help enhance learning,” Siegle said. “A lot of times people see a projector and computers and laptops as technology; however, there are many other forms of technology in the classroom such as the furniture and the space. It is interesting to explore how a professor can adapt a space to help promote collaborative learning and productive engagement.”

Crystal Ramsay, a research project manager with TLT, said Siegle reached out to her during her first semester at Penn State, wanting to know more about the work of the research and faculty engagement team at TLT.

“She spent time with the team, got to know the individual researchers and our work, and voluntarily participated in TLT events,” Ramsay said. “Beginning in fall 2018, we hired her as our first undergraduate researcher. Carly has an insatiable desire to learn and she avails herself of every opportunity that comes her way.”

Ramsay said Siegle accepted TLT’s invitation to represent Penn State at this spring’s ShapingEDU event at the University of Arizona where the future of learning in the digital age was discussed.

“As a former K-12 educator in Pennsylvania public schools, I couldn’t be more excited at the prospect of someone with Carly’s character, commitment and caliber entering the profession,” Ramsay said. “Carly understands that what she’s learning in her pre-service teacher training has implications for TLT’s higher education clientele.

“Conversely, she knows that what our research team discovers about teaching and learning in higher education will have implications for her future work with secondary students. It’s this mature sensibility, and a genuine desire to bring her best to all she does, that makes me so excited for Carly’s future students.”

Young is working with Rayne Sperling, associate dean of undergraduate and graduate studies in the College of Education, on a project called Missions with Monty, a game-based approach to comprehension monitoring with informational science text.

“I’m really interested in meta-cognition and seeing how you can improve students’ awareness and their knowledge of what they do know and what they don’t know and how you can use different skills to improve their learning,” Young said.

Sperling believes Young will become an excellent teacher … and maybe more.

“She’s always positive … always positive. And very interested in learning. I think that she may find a future in research,” Sperling said. “She collaborates very well with all of her peers. From the first time I met her, I knew that she was going to be a contribution to our community. She’s having opportunities to work with graduate students and then colleagues at two other research institutions.”

Siegle has a passion for math, she said, because it’s like solving a puzzle and trying to figure out the unknown.

“I really like that part and a lot of people can’t make those kinds of connections to the patterns we see in math, and because I always understood that and I love helping people, I always saw myself in the classroom,” she said. “I wanted to help make that connection for students.”

Young, a secondary education English major with an Education Policy Studies minor, said she had difficulty choosing between world language education Spanish and secondary education English.

“But I ultimately went with secondary English because I can incorporate Spanish literature into that and my knowledge of Spanish in the classroom,” she said. "Also, I can always speak Spanish in my English class. I want my students to know that no language is the best language, because all languages have value and are unique. I want my students to feel free to use languages other than English in my classroom.

“I’ve always loved the idea of being in the classroom and helping people," said Young. "I always loved school but my peers didn’t necessarily like it, so I’d like to be a teacher to help the students who don’t necessarily like school that much and find a reason why they can like it. And English … I love writing and analyzing text and finding a deeper meaning in things. Language is so powerful and flexible. I hope that as an educator, I can guide my students in discovering this and that they find it enjoyable and meaningful.

They’ve had a jump on teaching by serving as learning assistants and tutors as well. 

“For most of your undergrad and even when you were in class from K-12, you saw a classroom from a student perspective,” Siegle said about being a learning assistant. “When you can kind of flip the lens and look at it from a teacher’s perspective and where students can have misconceptions about information or how can I help them understand this, you have a totally different mind-set about the class and classroom experience.”

Young tutors a student in the State College Area School District through the Volunteers in Public Schools Program in Spanish for just one hour a week but enjoys the experience.

“It was a great opportunity to practice my Spanish and have great opportunities to explain it to the student,” she said. “I was having so much fun with it that I decided to continue with it this semester too. I’ve learned a lot about how to explain concepts in different ways so the student understands and feels more confident."

Young and Siegle are examples of students taking advantage of countless options available within the College of Education specifically and Penn State in general.

“Carly and I have so many great opportunities here with what we’ve gotten involved with being LA’s, doing research, the student council, studying abroad; there’s so many different opportunities provided by the College of Ed,” Young said. “Because it is a smaller college, you do get to make better connections with people. I’m really grateful for those relationships.”

So grateful that she wants to let prospective students know the virtually unlimited options that await them in the College.

“I like to talk about all the opportunities. That’s one of my main things; you can go on listing all the opportunities in the College of Ed and Penn State as a whole,” Young said. “That scale is just huge; it’s kind of a little scary but it’s nice when you realize how many opportunities there are because you’re like, ‘oh, I want to do everything.’

“Also, the support, I always talk about how much support I get as a student here, financially and academically. If I ever have any questions, I never hesitate to reach out to Dr. Sperling or my adviser, and everybody’s always willing to help. I think that’s really important.”

Siegle appreciates how a university setting so large can feel small and manageable.

“We really push the small community feel here. I see that. I’m at a university with how many students and I have class with the same 20 students five days a week and I’m only a sophomore,” she said. 

“The fact that you can say that, that you have a class with somebody or people that you know really helps, because students think they’re going to come here and just be another number or just be one of the 40,000 students, and you’re not. When you can make a connection with people and you can have that small-group feel, I think that’s really important for students to hear,” Siegle said.

Last Updated June 21, 2019