For Suzannah Holsenbeck, Ed.M.'09, it's all about the students. In fact, the Pennsylvania native credits the students that she taught in HGSE's Teacher Education Program (TEP) with keeping her inspired over the course of the year. "No matter how frustrated I got with a paper or how stressed I was during finals, the knowledge that I was doing this all for my students kept me going and helped me to stay focused on my purpose for being here," Holsenbeck says.
"Suzannah is well deserving of this award," says Lecturer Katherine Merseth, director of TEP. "She has been a solid contributor to the TEP spirit and a caring member of our community. Her classmates respect her, look for her leadership, and have deeply appreciated her contributions in their classes."
Following commencement, Holsenbeck will teach English at a Title 1 performing-arts high school in New Haven, Conn. Upon learning that she had been honored with the Intellectual Contribution/Faculty Tribute Award for TEP, she answered some questions about her time at the Ed School and beyond.
What was your goal upon entering the Ed School?
After graduating from Yale with a degree in English, I headed out to the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota and taught high school special education for two years. The incredible challenges my students faced humbled me and inspired me to work as hard as possible to ensure that they were experiencing empowering, affirming, challenging education every day. My commitment to teaching in under-resourced schools was solidified in South Dakota.
I came to the Ed School because I feel it is my responsibility to ensure that I am fulfilling my potential as an educator for the benefit of my students. I had significant experiences in the classroom already, and I wanted to go back and strengthen my theoretical frameworks so that my teaching, in turn, is enriched.
The work we do in our classrooms is not easy. But it is sustainable if we have developed a critical understanding of the systems in place as well as methods for challenging and improving them. My goal was to soak up as much theory and wisdom about education as possible before taking it back to my students.
What is something that you learned at HGSE that you will take with you throughout your career in education?
There is so much! But I guess I have to pick one example. This past semester I had the pleasure of taking a module on Authorship and Technology. We studied Web 2.0 media and its potential uses for educators and students. As a result of this class I developed several websites for my students at Brighton High School through a network site called Ning. My students have never been more engaged, and students who were not coming to school or not turning in their homework are now participating in ways other teachers have never seen them participate. Marielle Palombo, the doctoral student who taught the module, has truly inspired me to become an advocate for my students and empower them by publicizing their successes on this site. I am excited to continue thinking about how we can improve student engagement via new technology.
Is there any professor who significantly shaped your experience at the Ed School?
[Lecturer] Vicki Jacobs has been an incredible support system and inspiration from day one. Her insistence on always having a purpose for what we teach has strengthened my practice like nothing else I've studied at HGSE. She is always accessible and ready to listen, challenge, sooth, and encourage, whether it be with a basket of chocolates or her ever ready "what and why" questions.
What advice do you have for next year's students going through TEP?
Never give up on the theory. It may seem like it doesn't relate to what you're experiencing with your students, but trust me, the more you keep at it, the more all you are studying here will fall into place. Remember that teaching is one of the most profoundly difficult and profoundly rewarding professions you will ever pursue.
If you could transport one person/place/thing in Harvard Square to your next destination, what would it be?
Burdick chocolates? Just kidding. The second floor of Gutman!
2009 Intellectual Contribution/Faculty Tribute Award Recipients
Suzannah Holsenbeck, TEP
Elisha Brookover, L&L'09
Mangala Nanda, IEP'09
Andrew Cabot, SS'09
Nancy Schoolcraft, MBE'09
Joe Baker, EPM'09
Kathy Yang, L&T'09
Angelica Brisk, AIE'09
Melissa Mayes, R&P'09
Jerome "Jay" Green, HDP'09
Ashton Wheeler Clemmmons, SLP'09
Terri-Nicole Singleton, TIE'09
Emily Almas, HE'09