Lydia Jones ‘14 came to Meadville from Newburyport, MA, with a passion for working with children. She entered with a major in Psychology and a minor in Communication Arts. Four years later, she’s joining Teach for America as a Special Education teacher in eastern North Carolina.
Education theory and practical courses, along with a variety of humanities, natural science, and social science courses, have filled Lydia’s schedule over the past four years. Courses such as Children’s Literature and Foundations of Special Education exposed Lydia to the “ins-and-outs” of working with diverse learners. However, she also credits her developing identity as a teacher to her Communication Arts and Psychology classes, too, many of which were theory and discussion based.
“I related those classes to education, to what I would do in a classroom, and was able to build that necessary repertoire,” she says.
During the summer after her junior year, she worked at Camp Starfish, a camp designed for children with emotional, behavioral and learning disabilities. It was during this experience that she realized she wanted to focus on Special Education.
She returned to Allegheny that fall and applied to Teach For America (TFA), a highly competitive program that enlists high achieving college graduates to teach for at least two years in low-income communities throughout the United States. Allegheny’s close relationship to TFA and alumni in the program, in this case—Katie Krackhardt ’13 who is currently teaching in Las Vegas—helped Lydia achieve her goal.
“Watching Katie go through the process last year was inspiring and hearing her stories motivated me to apply. She gave me advice and built up my confidence. There are influential faculty helped me with the application process, too,” she says.
Although Lydia is graduating and headed to her next life destination, she is leaving behind a powerful legacy—a new Education Studies minor that she helped to create.
When conversations about a new minor in education began, both Lydia and Katie were invited by Professor of Psychology Juvia Heuchert, then chair of the Education Steering Committee, to participate in these discussions. Students presented the argument for a minor that would give them distinct curricular recognition for taking the many education courses that Allegheny already offered.
Professor Susan Slote explains, “As a committee, we pursued the possibility of the minor. Students were part of every discussion we had during the 2012-13 academic year as we hammered out what the minor would look like in terms of the courses, requirements, and so on…”
The students also collected data, with Heuchert’s guidance, to gauge current student interest in education as a discipline. This data later went on to become an important part of the proposal to the Curriculum Committee.
“Lydia was an important part of the conversation when we presented our suggestions to the Steering Committee in the fall. She continued to participate as we finalized details, and then, once the minor received full college support, as we planned for the kick-off of the minor this coming fall.”
Prof. Slote explains the importance of the new minor. “Nationally, experts in education are focused on how to improve the ways America prepares its teachers. Allegheny is in step with that conversation. Although our students have long been sought after as educators, the minor will help them supplement their liberal arts experiences and in-depth focus in their majors. It also provides an opportunity for students to connect with other students who are passionate about education, and gives them a coherent, carefully constructed curriculum.”
True to her nature, Lydia is already planning ahead. After completing her Teach For America commitment, and upon receiving her teacher certification, she plans to obtain a Master’s degree in Applied Behavioral Analysis so that she will be able to work with children with more severe behaviors.