UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Sydney McQuiggan has been selected to represent her classmates as the College of the Liberal Arts’ student marshal at Penn State’s summer 2023 commencement ceremony on Saturday, Aug. 12. The Schreyer Scholar and Philadelphia native will graduate this summer with bachelor’s degrees in German and world languages education and a minor in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).
McQuiggan has spent her four years at Penn State learning diverse strategies to build community both inside and outside the classroom.
“I knew I wanted to be a teacher before I even came to Penn State,” she said. “I learned that Penn State offered a program in world language education, and that felt like the perfect way to combine my interests in teaching and language learning.”
A meeting with her academic adviser in the College of Education during her first year prompted McQuiggan to add the German major. The TESOL minor eventually followed as well, further enhancing her ability to share her love for language learning in a classroom environment.
McQuiggan relished the opportunity to practice her skills firsthand this past spring by teaching beginning- and intermediate-level German as a student teacher at Altoona (Pa.) Area High School. That experience, combined with her own coursework, has helped her develop a nuanced view for teaching German to students.
“Some students say they will never be able to travel abroad, and some say they don’t have an interest in traveling to Germany — but that’s not the focus of the German classroom,” she said. “My teaching perspective moves toward building a classroom community and understanding a culture different from our own, which allows for more students to be immersed in learning.”
McQuiggan said one course in particular — Intermediate German Culture, taught by Teaching Professor of German and Jewish Studies Bettina Brandt — played an especially key role in shaping her perspective.
“The course focused on Germany’s history and how it has impacted and shaped the current German culture and language we know today,” she said. “The knowledge I gained from this course will surely help me better understand where my students are coming from.”
The COVID-19 pandemic interfered with McQuiggan’s plans to study abroad as a student. That won’t be the case as an alumna, however, as she will travel to Bremen, Germany, in August to participate in the 2023 Goethe-Institut Summer Academy. While there, McQuiggan will learn different approaches to teaching American students about German language and culture.
“I’m excited to travel to Germany and use German in my everyday life, and to learn more about topics such as immigration and sustainability,” McQuiggan said. “I’ll be learning about the educational system, the political climate, and the socioeconomic world of Germany and how to best teach about those things in the classroom.”
McQuiggan will then move to Austria in September to participate in the Fulbright U.S. Teaching Assistantship program, where she will teach and serve as a U.S. cultural ambassador to Austrian high school students.
“Austrian German is different than typical German due to different dialects, so I’m really curious to see which dialects I’ll come across and if I’ll be able to understand them as easily,” McQuiggan said. “I hope to learn some new vocabulary and talk about my experiences with the language differences in my future classroom.”
The soon-to-be alumna had the following advice to offer to current and future Penn Staters.
“Be open to studying a language or studying a culture other than your own, especially since Penn State offers so many different courses,” she said. “Learning about other ways of being and living opens your eyes to things that you may not have ever considered otherwise.”