Rebecca Nyquist Baelen '09

Rebecca Nyquist '09
Natalie Rodriguez-Nelson '18

After graduating from Teacher Prep, I was accepted into UPenn's Residency Master's in Teaching Program. In this program, I spent two years teaching at The Lawrenceville School, while earning a Masters in the Science of Education from UPenn. While at Lawrenceville, I taught 10th Grade World History and World Religions. I also taught a 12th Grade elective on Women and Islam, as well as an Environmental Film-making course. In addition to teaching, I had the good fortune of working as the Assistant Coach of the Girls' Varsity Water Polo team and the Head Coach of the Girls' Varsity Swim Team. Throughout the two years, I worked as a Duty Master in a 12th Grade Girls' dorm and served as an Adviser to 12th Graders.

In the summer between my first and second year at Lawrenceville, I taught a class on the history of tourism and development at the Island School in the Bahamas. This was truly an eye-opening experience, which sparked my interest in historical perspective-taking and the notion of cultivating empathy in students more broadly, the topic for my Master's Thesis. 

During the two years at Lawrenceville, I came to a series of Career Fairs and Open-House events at Princeton to promote Teacher Prep and speak with prospective students. I have also served as a mentor to some students in the Teacher Prep Program, providing advice and support, especially throughout the job search. One event that occurred during Teacher Prep that has served me well was when we went to the Hedgepeth-Williams Middle School, the site of a historical court case involving segregation in schools. This landmark case set into motion efforts to reduce and eventually end segregation in schools. Visiting this historic site and hearing the stories from the people directly affected by segregation at the time was remarkable, as it made me realize how far we have come in just 50 years, but also how far we still have to go. 

As of Fall 2014, I am working as a Research Coordinator for Angela Duckworth at the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. Our lab is studying non-cognitive factors (grit and self-control) that predict educational outcomes and achievement. One project is a longitudinal study examining the impact of grit, self-control, curiosity, pro-social purpose, and gratitude on student achievement and other outcome measures. I am also conducting observations in Baltimore Middle Schools and other middle schools in Philadelphia to determine opportunities for interventions around these non-cognitive factors. Finally, I am doing some research and work around mindfulness meditation and am helping to run a study to examine methods for improving out-of-class meditation in students. Our lab is deeply committed to bridging the divide between research and practice, which makes me very excited. We are striving to expand the literature on the importance of these non-cognitive factors in learning and hope to encourage nationwide efforts to cultivate these strengths in students. I am continually driven by a desire to raise awareness about these factors, so as to inform policy and curricular decisions. I think it is our duty to educate "the whole child" and move away from conventional measures of intelligence and standardized testing. In order to do this, we need to develop measure to assess some of the character strengths measured above. These measurements will then give us a starting point for constructing curriculum and educational approaches for cultivating these strengths in children. This is the future of education and I am excited to be a part of it at the ground level.