Dr. Penney Carden says one of the highlights of her teaching career has been to teach overseas. “On two different occasions I was asked to teach for a month in Beijing, China,” she said. “It was life-changing for me and gave me a whole new outlook on teaching English language learners.” A long time faculty member in Trevecca’s School of Education, Carden currently serves as the school’s coordinator of curriculum, assessment, and instruction and the program director for Trevecca’s English as a second language programs and one of the University’s newest programs, the Master of Education in curriculum and online teaching.
We recently talked with her about how she discovered her love for teaching, what makes the new master’s program special and what she loves most about her work.
- How did you discover your calling?
I have always wanted to be a teacher. As a child, I would set up my mother’s ironing board for a desk and play school. My younger siblings were “forced” to be my students, which caused them at times to challenge my teaching skills!
My mother is an outstanding pianist and started teaching me to play before I even started school. It was something I really enjoyed and worked hard at being proficient, so much so that I started playing for church services when I was in the fifth grade. In high school, I began teaching beginner piano students and playing the accompaniment for our high school musical productions. When I went to college, it was just natural that I would major in piano. My astute advisor suggested that I major in music education to earn a teaching license which I did. Later on, I earned a 7-12 mathematics certification and taught 15 years in middle/high school math. I am so thankful for her wisdom and that I followed her advice, or I wouldn’t be here at Trevecca today!
- You’re the program director of Trevecca’s new curriculum and online teaching program. Why do you think this is an important program for Trevecca to offer, particularly now?
Due to the circumstances of COVID, I believe that the face of education will forever be changed. Educators have been forced outside their comfort zones by having to prepare virtual lessons and use new tools for teaching. In so doing, they are finding that many of these are also appropriate to use in face-to-face classes. This new program will introduce teachers to novel and exciting ways to teach. They will be prepared to write and present engaging virtual lessons, and increase student participation in face-to-face classes. The program provides the background theory and pedagogy knowledge, as well as practice in setting up a class shell for online learning.
- Why should educators consider this degree?
The beautiful thing about this program is that it marries curriculum with online teaching in such a way that it prepares candidates for work in either venue. Candidates will not only be equipped to work as a curriculum coordinator, but will also be ready to oversee virtual class offerings. It is the best of both worlds.
- Is there anything you’ve been reading, listening to or watching recently that has changed or challenged you? Why?
At the risk of sounding trite or “super-religious,” I have to say that this spring I have spent more time reading and studying the Bible. Seven members of our family contracted COVID, but my husband was hit very hard. We took him to the hospital in March. He was immediately placed in ICU on a ventilator, and we were not allowed to visit. Over the next three months, as he battled pneumonia, blood clots, staph infections, and double amputations, I rediscovered the comfort that can come from God’s Word and the encouragement only God’s family can provide. Many days, the Psalms were my lifeline! What a blessing Trevecca president, Dr. Boone and University chaplain, Eric Gernand, were during this time. One of my colleagues, Dr. Richard Parrott, called to pray with our family on different occasions. Multiple times, the School of Education family carried us in prayer. I am so thankful for this kind of support from our campus family. God performed a miracle because of prayer, and my husband was able to come home in July. God’s Word continues to provide what I need: strength, blessing, chastening, guidance, food for my soul!
- What is your favorite part of your work?
I actually have two favorite parts. The first is interacting with students in the classroom. It is such a joy getting to know them on a personal level, listening to their concerns, celebrating their victories, and seeing them become successful in their careers. I only pray that my interaction with them will have a lasting impact on their lives like my advisors had on me! The second favorite part is writing curriculum for our online classes. It is exhilarating to find novel ways to present lessons online. My goal is to create practical assignments for coursework that candidates find useful and can utilize in their own classrooms. As someone once observed, if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life!
Want to know more?
Interested in education and ready to take the next step? Trevecca’s School of Education offers a variety of education degree programs, from undergraduate options to master’s degrees in curriculum and online teaching, library and information science, English as a second language, educational leadership and more.