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    • Hopkins English teacher Ana Robinette enjoys her Penn Fellowship.

    • Collin Benedict is a Hopkins French teacher and Penn Fellow.

Penn Fellows Thrive at Hopkins

Theodore Tellides '19, News Editor
Hopkins French teacher Collin Benedict and English teacher Ana Robinette are both fellows in the Penn Day School Teaching Residency Program.  
The Penn Program lasts for two years, and, upon completion, its graduates receive a Master of Science in Education. The Penn Program also consists of a fellowship at a host partner school, such as Hopkins.

Benedict explained how she and Robinette joined the program: “You apply to
the school first. So we both applied to Hopkins and Hopkins decided that we would be good candidates for the program, so they asked us if we would be interested in applying to Penn to get our masters at the same time. Hopkins knew we were both right out of college and we didn’t have our masters degrees yet.”

The core of the program is the fusion of learning and teaching. Fellows read the latest educational research and then apply those theories to the classroom. Two Penn Fellowship programs are run by the university: a 
boarding school program and a new day school program.

Math Teacher Stephen Sacchetti was a Penn fellow at Loomis Chaffee and now uses his knowledge of the program to advise the current Hopkins Penn Fellows. Sacchetti described how the Penn program expanded to Hopkins: “The Penn program started as a boarding school program in 2012. It was an idea that was pitched by St. Paul’s School and adopted by the University of Pennsylvania. The head of the program, Earl Ball, knows Dr. Bynum and they had been in discussion about the program expanding to day schools back when Dr. Bynum was still at Roxbury Latin.

After five successful years in the boarding program, Penn had gotten enough resources to expand and so reached out to several day schools last year to gauge interest. Hopkins was one of those schools, and Dr. Bynum eagerly accepted the invitation.”

Sacchetti commented on the plan for this program’s future: “The program is two years long. 
Next year, the current fellows will be in their second year. We’re hoping to bring in two new first-year fellows so that the Hopkins cohort will be at four fellows overall. From then on, we hope to keep the cohort at four total fellows.”

In a world in which unemploy
ment is a frightening reality to many college students, the Penn Teaching Fellowship Program gives college graduates job experience and a masters degree at the same time. Benedict described the opportunities the Penn program has given her: “I am really glad for this opportunity because getting a Master of Science in Education gives you a lot of mobility in the field. If wanted to work as an administrator, admissions officer, or college counselor I could.” 

In addition to teaching, fellows in the Penn teaching program take three classes: Social Context and History of Day Schools, Learning and Teaching, and
Reflective Practice. Most of the learning occurs online as the Fellows are spread across the East Coast. Benedict and Robinette spend a lot of their time reading educational research and thinking how they can implement these ideas into the classroom. Robinette commented that she tries to balance theory and reality: “Often we talk about the theory of education. For example we go on retreats with the fellows and we get into really in depth conversations about how can we get student to be motivated to learn. In a perfect world, we would teach without grades. Students would inherently want to learn but in application it is not possible because Hopkins assigns grades and it is important to evaluate your students. There are some tricky mismatches between theory and practice but that is part of the pro- gram to make them work together." 

Often teachers need to compromise to attain a balance between theory and practice. Teachers may have to assign graded essays for homework, but in class they can let their students explore and write creatively not burdened by the looming threat of a grade. Robinette described how she tries to focus on letting her students write and think freely: “I talk with my mentor a lot about how to create activities and moments in my class where there is no extrinsic motivation. Students can just sit and write in their journals and reflect on their learning. And those moments to me seem to be the most valuable in the classroom. Those are ideas I am pulling out of my educational theory research and trying to implement in the classroom and see how my students react to them.”

Finding the right balance of theory and real
ity requires experimentation and reflection. Benedict described just one of her many reflective assignments: “For the next assignment I have to take some feedback I gave to a student and write about it and reflect on that feedback. I wouldn’t be do that if I didn’t have students in my own classes and feedback to give.” The beauty of the Penn Teaching program is that learning and practice are integrated so well together. Fellows receive instant feedback as they discover what works in the classroom and how they can improve as educators. 

During her few months as a teacher, Robinette has realized how much work teaching requires: “I learned that teachers have to juggle a lot in the classroom. There is a lot of reflective practice that we do. Through Penn we are learning the best ways to learn. How does learning happen and how can we engage students to make them more motivated to learn? What is the best way to teach the content? Through that process I have learned that there is a lot of thinking that goes into preparing for class every day.”

Every class has a different chal
lenge. For example Robinette teaches English 9, in which the writing level of her students varies greatly. Robinette described how she tries to ensure that the entire class participates: “I’ve been trying to lean on my students who are experts in grammar, perhaps students who have been at Hopkins for seventh and eighth grade. I had a student yesterday who literally recited forty-four prepositions off the top of her head. I let those students shine and be leaders.”

Benedict and Robinette agree that teaching is fun. Both fel
lows say they have become attached to their pupils. Robinette described one her favorite teaching moments: “Once in class, we were talking about the difference between tone and mood so I had my students plot a line chart that would graph character’s mood and tone and see if they actually correlate. That was fun because they were up on the board they were doing something hands on.”

Fellows at The Penn Teaching Program study the psychology of a student. If a teacher understands how a student thinks, they can adapt their teaching style to create the most effective learning envi
ronment. Benedict learned about Hopkins culture through a project where she shadowed a student for month. Benedict described working on the immersive assignment: “I just finished a big project called The Portrait of a Learner where I was able to work with a student for about a month and a half just trying to understand what Hopkins is to him: how he engages in his classes, how he socializes with his peers, how he gets to know his teachers, and how his brain works. That was really cool because I got an in context snapshot of what it is like to be here. It wasn’t even only a snapshot, it was like an entire video. I got to go and see him even sometimes follow him to several classes throughout a day.”

In addition to providing coll
ege graduates with job experience and a graduate degree, The Penn teaching program could improve the quality of teaching at Hopkins. Sacchetti stated, “The hope is that by connecting each fellow with a different mentor, the program might not grow in size, but it will expose more and more of the Hopkins community to the latest educational research and contribute significantly to the professional development culture of our school.” 
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