Princeton Day School-Penn Fellows teachers Toni Dunlap and Grace Ederer capped off their second year of the Penn Fellows teaching residency program at PDS with a virtual graduation ceremony in May from the highly regarded University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. Both have also been permanently hired at PDS, where Ms. Ederer will continue teaching Spanish and Ms. Dunlap will continue teaching Middle and Upper School computer science.
"I am so excited and grateful for the opportunity to continue my teaching career at PDS," Ms. Ederer shared. "After two years of immense learning and growth, I feel privileged to become a full-time faculty member and look forward to immersing myself more deeply in the life of the school."
"I have learned so much about the vast field of education from the PDS-Penn Fellows program and gained invaluable experience studying alongside my grad school cohort and working with my PDS colleagues to develop and expand the PDS computer science program. My time at Penn has transformed me into a reflective practitioner—an educator who consistently challenges myself to reflect on my actions, and the actions of my students, to engage in a process of continuous learning and pedagogical innovation," Ms. Dunlap shared.
Since 2016, the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education and Princeton Day School have partnered on a groundbreaking teaching residency program along with a consortium of the nation’s leading independent day and boarding schools. The Day School Teaching Residency Program (DSTR) enables carefully chosen, aspiring educators to receive a master’s degree in education from Penn while completing an intensive, two-year teaching fellowship focused on best practice across three distinct strands: Teaching and Learning, Social Context and Reflective Practice. To enhance the process, PDS established mentors for each Penn Fellow and a program co-director framework to support and leverage the partnership framework and resources.
"Among the cornerstones of the Penn Program is the emphasis on student-centered practice. In my observations of each fellow's teaching, it is clear that they instruct with the student experience in mind. Both fellows are already reflective practitioners, willing to go the extra mile—or miles—for their students," program co-director Dr. Charles Alt reflected.
"It has been particularly meaningful to witness the evolution of the fellows, specifically their transformation from Penn fellow into PDS colleague. One of the highlights of that transformation came during the summer months, during our PDS professional development preparations for teaching on site during COVID. Early on in those conversations, faculty strategically focused on a teaching practice called Understanding By Design (or Backwards Design). Through their training at Penn, both Grace and Toni were already proficient at this practice, and they were able to lead conversations with colleagues about designing curriculum in the COVID era," he continued.
Ms. Dunlap stated: "I am so thankful to Princeton Day School for believing in me and supporting me along my journey as a Penn Fellow. Special thank you to my partnership mentors, Alesia Klein last year and Annemarie Strange this year, PDS-Penn Fellows program coordinators Caroline Lee and Dr. Alt, my PDS Middle School faculty team mentor Channing McCullough, my math department chair Dr. Chandra Smith, and my division heads Renée Price and Chris Rhodes, along with the entire PDS administrative team and board of trustees for their efforts and support to make my fellowship possible. I'd also like to thank my students, my family, colleagues of the math and computer science department, my UPenn instructors, and the countless members of our PDS faculty/staff who have supported and encouraged me over these two years."
PDS mentor Annemarie Strange, who teaches Middle School science and coordinates the signature Da Vinci program, noted: "Being a Penn Fellows mentor was a wonderful experience. It was so rewarding to observe and talk to and reflect with Toni about her lesson planning, teaching and general process in her approach to computer science education. It has been wonderful to see her grow both as a teacher and as a person over the past year and I'm so happy that she is staying at PDS. She's a rock star addition to our faculty!"
"Working with Grace, Toni, Charlie, Annemarie and Alesia has truly been a gift. The Penn Fellows Program cultivates an authentic community of practice that has allowed all of us, regardless of experience, to get better at our craft, to ask questions, to experiment, to make mistakes, to reset and to reflect," program co-director Lee explained.
"This past year, the roles as mentor and fellow have dissolved as we have all had to learn how to teach in an unfamiliar context. Grace and Toni have not only been sources of inspiration and fresh thinking, but they have also been models of resilience and growth. Their positive impact on our community has certainly been felt through their engagement with our students and their contributions to our faculty's development," she added.
While graduation from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education was held virtually in May due to COVID restrictions, the PDS crew enjoyed the opportunity to celebrate privately at an outdoor dinner hosted by the PDS-Penn Fellows faculty advisors. "Our journey as Penn Fellows has been richer because of our faculty mentors and program coordinators, who have been with us every step of the way," Ms. Ederer noted.
The PDS-Penn Fellows partnership continues with the addition of Connor Fitch, who will be teaching Middle School science/STEAM courses starting this fall while participating in the Penn Fellows Graduate School of Education cohort for the next two years.
Photos (from top): split graduation photo of Toni Dunlap (l) and Grace Ederer (r); individual photo of Grace followed by one of Toni; Penn Fellows 2021 graduation dinner with (l to r) Grace Ederer, Nick Dobson, Charlie Alt, Caroline Lee, Toni Dunlap and Kathy Quinlan; new Penn Fellow Connor Fitch