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Erin Gattens: English and Spanish Education

Hershey, PA
Major: English and Spanish Education

Erin Gattens felt confident from the start about choosing IUP, but learning about the Honors College made her choice even easier.

I knew IUP had a great teacher education program, and when I found out about the Honors College, I was sold. I had participated in the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for Teaching during the summer between 10th and 11th grade and wanted to find a situation as similar to that as possible. The Honors College seemed to be the answer to my needs. First off, Honors College students are all housed in one building, whereas other Honors Colleges may just permit you to take classes labeled 'Honors.' The Honors College prides itself in its selectivity of students and professors and strives to challenge its students every day. And, the Core curriculum is the most unique aspect of the college, which helps eliminate the boredom of 101 classes where you sit with students who don’t want to be there and don’t care. The Core curriculum focuses on learning rather than grades; it really makes you think rather than memorize and regurgitate information as in many freshman classes. And, as I've heard it said, IUP is most certainly 'the biggest small university.' It facilitates over 14,000 students, yet manages to survive and prosper by keeping class sizes small and hiring the best professors. Plus, IUP provides many opportunities for its students and makes it a priority to network with people in the 'real world.' In particular, IUP helps high school students who may not have done well in school succeed through its Learning Center program. (I’m involved with this through the partnership programs and the tutoring center.) And the best part of it is we’re getting an Ivy League education for the price of a state school. It doesn’t get much better than that.

With a major that spans three departments, English, Spanish and Education, Erin Gattens has gained a broad overview of what IUP is like both in – and outside – the Honors College. Ask her about her experiences in those departments and Erin, without hesitation, replies, "I’ll give you the low down on all three," and begins with the English department.

In general, all of my professors in the English department are very professional and knowledgeable about their subject area. They all have an enthusiasm for their subject matter that just pervades the room when they’re teaching. The teachers in the English Education department are especially caring and intelligent. They will go out of their way to help the students whenever possible. I keep in touch with most of my English professors throughout the years via email…they no longer become just 'teachers,' but friends and colleagues. What is even more amazing is the fact that they all are involved in other endeavors besides those relating to their classes. It’s amazing to see the projects they are working on and see what motivates them to be life-long learners.

The Spanish department, the other half of Erin Gattens' major, is smaller than the English department, but Erin says that, as in English, the professors go that extra distance for their students.

All of the professors, once again, are involved with their students and do everything possible to help them succeed. My advisor and professor, Dr. Eileen Glisan, has gone over and above to help me through the difficulties of managing a double major. She always has time to meet with me and answers my e-mails right away. She is not only a mentor, but also a friend. It is through her that I had the opportunity to work at the University School for an entire year with two grade levels (5th and 6th) instead of just the one grade-one per semester arrangement. She supported all of my efforts to bring technology into the classroom and to use Spanish to communicate with others via the Internet.

As with the English and Spanish departments, Erin found the professors in Education went out of their way to be helpful.

The IUP Education department is a complex web of professionals who all play a role in helping us succeed. There are so many things to worry about when going through the education program, but their 'Four-Step Plan' eases the tension. They are always helpful when I have to apply for credit overload or have problems due to the double-major. They work hard to make connections with the world so that we can have tons of opportunities for jobs and student teaching.

Those opportunities, in the case of Erin Gattens, led to a variety of teaching activities ranging from pre-student teaching in Spanish at the University Middle, a Philadelphia Urban Seminar, along with pre-student teaching in English at Edison High School in Philadelphia, working as a private Spanish tutor, and joining several inner-city partnership programs and participating, as a presenter at IUP's English Undergraduate Conference.

Because of the multitude of opportunities available here at IUP, I feel I am much better prepared for my job as a future educator than are other students at other colleges. I have gained hands-on, 'real world' experience at teaching in a laboratory school, suburban schools, and an urban (inner-city) high school. Thanks to my memberships in professional organizations like Kappa Delta Pi (Education), Sigma Tau Delta (English), NCTE, and others, I am able to be a part of a network of professionals who can contribute and share ideas. By doing this, we are helping to improve education and make as many innovations as possible. I hope to be a secondary educator somewhere. I have no doubt that when I have completed IUP’s program in English and Spanish, I will be fully prepared for this job market.

For Erin Gattens, looking back on all these activities, opportunities, accomplishments, what stands out for her is her work with the University School.

I taught there for an entire year, which was more than I needed to do, but I was helping out my professor since they didn’t have enough student teachers to go around. I used technology and some new teaching methods to really bring the language to the students. When I assessed where they had been at the beginning of the year with where they were at the end of the year, I knew that it was a real accomplishment for the students as well as myself. If I can inspire just one person to keep learning, that is enough reward for me. I know I have done this because since my students have graduated from the University School, they have kept contact with me via email about their progress in Spanish and I am even tutoring some of them privately so that they can keep up their advanced work. These kinds of programs are what make the IUP Education program so wonderful.

Erin’s Accomplishments 

Academic Distinction/Awards

  • Most Outstanding Junior in English Education Award
  • Presenter at English Undergraduate Conference
  • Sigma Tau Delta (English Honors Society)
  • Kappa Delta Pi (Education Honors Society)
  • Phi Eta Sigma (National Honors Society)
  • Phi Kappa Phi (National Honors Society)

Teaching Activities

  • Philadelphia Urban Seminar - student teaching experience working with students at Edison High School in the Multicultural Program
  • Kensington Partnership - a mentorship program with Kensington High School in Philadelphia that helps inner-city juniors and seniors bridge the gap from high school to college
  • Learning Center Tutor for Social Sciences & Spanish
  • Supplemental Instruction Leader for Psychology (1999-2000)
  • Teacher at University School - 5th and 6th grade Spanish classes
  • Volunteer Spanish Instructor at Hershey Elementary School
  • Private Spanish Tutor
  • Working with Reading HS Partnership

Other Activities

  • Summer Work - Development of Pennsylvania State University Medical Center Radiology Webpage
  • American Language Institute Conversation Partner

Study Abroad

  • Two weeks of travel and study in Spain (Barcelona, Madrid, Sevilla, Córdoba)

Publications

  • Study Guide work published in College Success: A Focus on the First Year by Sally Lipsky and Stacy Winstead