The concept of service learning has come to life for Ashley Cardona ’17, a first grade teacher at the Alexander K. McClure School in North Philadelphia. This pedagogy was instilled in Ashley during her time at Penn State Abington, where the teacher education program weaves authentic, real-world experiences throughout the undergraduate years. But it wasn’t until Ashley came to McClure that she realized how important these experiences were.
McClure is a Penn State Abington partnership school and has a collaborative relationship with the Elementary and Early Childhood Education department at Abington. Partner schools are located in struggling socioeconomic areas and work closely with Abington faculty and students to build a mutually beneficial relationship. As part of their service learning experience, Abington students donate time and talent while also gaining experience through classroom observation and mini-lessons.
Ashley’s connection to teaching, and this school in Hunting Park where she now teaches, started at a young age. Ashley grew up in the neighborhood and traces her career inspiration to her kindergarten and fourth grade teachers. She visited McClure during her time at Abington and also conducted her student teaching at the school. Ashley made connections at the school and, following graduation, joined the teaching staff full-time. The school is home to her now.
Ashley’s first year in the classroom was admittedly tough, but she relied on her experiences from Abington and the encouragement and guidance from faculty including department head, Ann Martinelli. She refused to become discouraged and focused on pushing through obstacles to manage a classroom in a busy, city school.
When you talk to Ashley about her students, you instantly recognize her deep commitment to not only educating, but also nurturing these young people to become kind and emotionally intelligent individuals who want to affect others in a positive way. She works alongside other Penn Staters at McClure – alumni and student teachers from Abington. They are all focused on providing not only a basic education, but also helping students to establish the tools necessary to being good people.