ABINGTON, Pa. — Stephanie Hidalgo graduated from Penn State Abington this month and is prepared for the role she has dreamed of her entire life: Elementary school teacher.
“I’ve wanted to teach ever since I was a kid playing school with dolls and friends. I would pretend to be the teacher. I tutored, too. It was very satisfying to see someone understand something after I finished explaining it,” she said.
Hidalgo recently accepted a position as a first-grade dual-language (English as a Second Language) teacher at McClure Elementary School in North Philadelphia. She knows McClure well since she just completed student-teaching 24 third-graders there.
“I taught two days a week in the fall and full-time in the spring through Zoom. I’m glad I learned to teach that way because I have it under my belt to plan activities appropriate for virtual learning. It’s been good for me to create activities and engaging lessons that don’t involve manipulatives,” she said.
“Normally, you rely a lot with science lessons on experiments, but I have used YouTube videos instead. We used a virtual reality experience with the weather, looking at different countries around the world,” Hidalgo said.
The Philadelphia resident said the elementary and early childhood education major at Abington prepared her well for her career.
“We did a wide range of classroom observations, and going into different schools to teach lessons was really valuable. We would do this multiple times a semester before our senior year. We would teach different grades and put together 30-minute lessons and teach them to small groups,” she said.
Hidalgo said achieving balance was a challenge at one point in her academic career.
“I had to do observations, then go to class, go to work at the mall, and do homework,” she said.
"Your professors want to help you, especially because classes are really small. Ask them for resources and connect with your adviser."
—Stephanie Hidalgo, Penn State Abington, class of 2021
But she made the time to hone her skills. As a junior, Hidalgo participated in Lions Read, a mentoring program designed to enhance the early reading, math, and science skills of children in communities surrounding Penn State's campuses. Meanwhile, Penn State students have the opportunity to give back, gain work experience, and earn financial aid through Federal Work-Study.
“It was a really good experience helping kids with math and working on group projects in kindergarten, first, second, and fourth grades. I learned that things don’t always go the way you planned so it made me more flexible,” she said.
“I worked with students who were English-language learners and students who were behind or under grade level. I gained experience in classroom management and teaching content,” she continued.
As the first in her family to graduate from a four-year college in this country, Hidalgo navigated the admissions process herself.
“My mom is from Nicaragua and didn’t know the system in the United States, and I don‘t have older relatives who went to college. I thought you just show up and pick your classes. The only thing I knew for sure was that I wanted to teach,” she said.
Once she was accepted, Hidalgo found mentors at Abington to support her, including Rachael Eriksen Brown, assistant professor of math education, and Ann Martinelli, associate teaching professor of elementary and early childhood education.
“They taught me so much. They were both role models for directing me on the path I wanted to go on. Dr. Brown was my adviser, and she helped me with meeting the requirements to enter the education program,” she said.
Hidalgo advises other Abington students to connect with their professors.
“Your professors want to help you, especially because classes are really small. Ask them for resources and get to know your adviser. My adviser was really helpful with choosing classes and exploring other options,” she said.
About Penn State Abington
Penn State Abington provides an affordable, accessible and high-impact education resulting in the success of a diverse student body. It is committed to student success through innovative approaches to 21st-century public higher education within a world-class research university. With about 3,700 students, Penn State Abington is a residential campus that offers baccalaureate degrees in 23 majors, undergraduate research, the Schreyer honors program, NCAA Division III athletics, and more.