From Reporting to Report Cards: Lindsey Gerdes, GED’15, Transitions to Teaching

October 14, 2015

"It made me really think about my path and where I could make the biggest difference.”

interview by Juliana Rosati

Woman with light hair smiling.
Photo by Daniel Burke Photography

Former journalist Lindsey Gerdes, GED’15, completed her journey to an education career by accepting a teaching position at McClure Elementary School in The School District of Philadelphia shortly after graduating from Penn GSE’s Teacher Education Program this past spring. A recipient of the MRM Term Scholarship at GSE, Gerdes opened up to us about the challenges and rewards of pursuing a new path.

What was it like to begin a second career at Penn GSE?


After ten years in the working world, it was daunting at first to get used to being a student again, but ultimately the experience was incredibly rewarding. We’ve all heard of that dream where you walk into school and realize you aren’t wearing any clothes. Well, my first week at Penn GSE, something a little bit like that happened to me in real life—I walked into a classroom where almost everyone looked a dozen years younger than me! I was surprised to discover that I was a senior member of a particularly young cohort. But over the following months, an amazing thing happened: despite the age difference, I found myself part of a true community. My classmates became my constant sounding boards, future colleagues and collaborators, and some of the most supportive friends I could ever imagine having.

What were some highlights of your journalism career?


I wrote for Newsweek, Fortune Small Business, and many other publications. For a number of years I was a staff editor at BusinessWeek, where I worked to blaze a path for recent graduates with my “Best Places to Launch a Career” feature. I loved talking with eager young people embarking on their next step and offering them advice in my column. When I enrolled at GSE, I found it ironic to be on the other side of that equation, seeking advice as I started something new. I am so grateful to GSE and my wonderful program director and advisor, Dr. Frances Rust, for all the opportunities and support I have received.

Why did you decide to pursue teaching?


I’ve always loved working with children, and did so in a number of volunteer capacities through the years. It’s something I always knew I’d like to do full time in the future. When I dealt with a cancer diagnosis a few years back, like many life-altering experiences, it made me really think about my path and where I could make the biggest difference. Luckily, I’m feeling great now and am so grateful to have the health and energy to educate a large class of first graders.

What does Penn GSE mean to you?


In addition to terrific friendships, it means the chance to challenge myself academically for the first time in a decade, learn as much as possible during ten months through hands-on experience combined with a rigorous curriculum, and get to know a wonderful city brimming with possibility.

What are you looking forward to about your new position?


I am thrilled to have a foothold in the field of education in this great city. I’m particularly excited to be part of the District during this exciting time when Superintendent Hite is implementing an ambitious program called “READ! by 4th” with the goal that all students read on grade level by the end of third grade. Having been an English major, literacy is near and dear to my heart.

What are your future career goals?


Someday I would like to find the opportunity to implement the concept of “long-term looping,” which means teaching the same cohort of students for more than one year. My ultimate goal is to start my own school, hopefully in Philadelphia.

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of The Penn GSE Magazine.

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