Student Profile: Blake Colaianne

Blake Colaianne

M.Ed. in Earth Sciences at Penn State’s World Campus Student Profile: Blake Colaianne

Year graduated: 2014
Hometown: Latrobe, PA
Profession: High School Earth Sciences Teacher

Why did you decide to get your masters and why with the M.Ed. in Earth Sciences program at Penn State’s World Campus?
I have always had a sincere interest in Earth science and wanted to learn more. I was able to take many geology courses at my undergraduate institution (Juniata College), but Penn State had such a unique program, I couldn’t pass it up. The M.Ed. courses have this incredible approach of teaching Earth Science content through an education lens. Even though a key motivator for teachers to continue their education is to earn a pay raise, this degree gave me so much more than I expected.

Because I was already teaching, I needed an online format. After searching through several online science education programs, Penn State’s program was the only one I found that specifically focused on Earth Science Education. I’m certain I made the right choice. I can’t say enough good things about the courses and the professors.
How has this degree impacted your career?
The high school where I teach only had one level of Earth and Space Science. While I was a student in this M.Ed. program, I pitched the idea to my administration to create a new Honors version of Earth and Space Science. They agreed to let me develop an upper level class for seniors. Because of Penn State’s courses, I now had so many more ideas for projects, discussions, and lesson plans to use for this new class. I developed several lesson plans throughout my courses, and I used all of them in my classroom. I even Skyped a few of the Penn State professors into my class for my students to interview.
What was a highlight or opportunity from the program for you?
I think it is critical for teachers to receive feedback when developing complicated lesson plans. Normally, education professors are the only ones available to critique your structure and format. However, through the M.Ed. program, I had actual Earth scientists critiquing my content. This became invaluable. The professors helped ensure that misconceptions would not arise as I translated the information for a high school audience.  
Because of this, I gained the confidence to present my curriculum ideas to a broader audience. During my time as a student in the program, I wrote a curriculum article on climate change education that was published in The Science Teacher. I presented the curriculum for my new Honors Earth and Space Science class at the national GSA conference. I was also awarded the 2015 Outstanding Earth Science Teacher for Pennsylvania by the National Association of Geoscience Teachers.
What advice can you give students considering this program?
I’ll admit that I was very hesitant about getting a degree through an online format. I was not sure how much I would learn or engage with the information. However, I can assure you that Penn State has figured out how to do it. I loved the structure and content of my courses.

There will be few opportunities in your career to collaborate with actual researchers on developing high school curriculum. Take this unique opportunity.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Teaching is exhausting. So when I do get free time, I enjoy doing absolutely nothing. But for the sake of not sounding like a boring human, I’ll also add: friends, movies, happy hour, piano, running, and not grading papers.

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