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My Story

As a child growing up in the Appalachian Mountains of southwestern Virginia, I loved school and I loved learning. Because of this, everyone expected me to become a teacher myself. It took me a few unsatisfying career moves to finally realize what so many others had known all along - education is truly where my passion is. 

I have taught in a range of contexts, including a K8 science and math focused public magnet school, public high school, private two-year college, and large public universities. My K12 public school teaching focused mainly on English language arts and gifted education. As a university professor, I teach undergraduate courses focused on methods for teaching K8 English language arts and graduate courses on research methods, middle grades education, and effective mentoring. 

Sarah E. Pennington standing in front of a research poster at a conference

I am always learning and reflecting. Being a teacher isn't a skill that is ever perfected.

My Philosophy of Teaching

My teaching philosophy is grounded in the belief that education should be interactive and engaging. I believe students learn more effectively when they are authentically involved throughout the learning process. My teaching philosophy stems from a learner-centered approach where I view my role as facilitator, guiding students in understanding and applying effective literacy-focused pedagogical practices in a variety of subject areas, grade levels, and educational contexts. I also believe modeling best practices is a crucial component of educating pre-service and in-service educators. My goal is to strive for excellence in teaching and support student success. In order to achieve this goal, I continually improve my teaching by staying current on research in effective instruction at the K-12 and collegiate levels, engaging in course revision based on student feedback and my own reflection, effectively integrating technology in the classroom, and responding to individual student needs and interests. In addition, I have conducted research into my own teaching to improve my practice and to further model reflective teaching practices for my students.

I strive to keep students actively engaged using a variety of instructional methods that provide opportunities for them to engage with the information and each other, to critically examine and reflect upon the content, and to apply fresh understandings to their future teaching practice. I use a variety of teaching strategies and practices in my own classroom that my students can apply to their own practice. Among these are small group discussions, collaborative projects, hands-on stations activities, and higher-order questioning. This allows me to model best practices to pre-service teachers, allowing them to see engagement and critical thinking as achievable goals in their future practice, with the aim of my students carrying this into their own classrooms as practicing teachers. This same philosophy holds true in my online teaching; I continually use resources regarding best practices, student feedback, and my own reflections regarding the methods I am using to engage students with the course content to improve my practice and more effectively support my students’ learning.

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