UW Alumna Brings Morgridge Center Values into Madison Elementary Classroom

Becca Penn arrived at the University of Wisconsin–Madison unsure of what her future would hold after graduation.

Morgridge Center alumna Becca Penn
Morgridge Center alumna Becca Penn

Far from what she could have imagined, Penn is now a teacher in the Madison Metropolitan School District — preserving through pandemic-related barriers to connect with her fourth grade class amid one of the most challenging periods our education system has ever faced.

She says she wouldn’t be there today without the Morgridge Center for Public Service.


“I didn’t know what I wanted my career to be or what the best fit was for me,” Penn says. “But when I started working at the Morgridge Center, I realized as long as what I was doing had the same values as the Morgridge Center … I could make it meaningful.”

Penn is a former operations intern (OI) who worked at the Morgridge Center for five semesters of her undergraduate education. After graduating in 2018 with a degree in Elementary Education, Penn subbed long-term in MMSD and landed a permanent position in the fall of 2019 at Thoreau Elementary.

Becca Penn
Penn at the graduation ceremony from UW–Madison in 2018.

While she was undecided in her major for most of her undergraduate experience, Penn says she realized teaching was what she loved to do through her work at the Morgridge Center. As an OI, Penn gave tours of the Red Gym, worked with Badger Volunteers and engaged with a multitude of the Morgridge Center’s community-oriented programs.

 “I realized [teaching] was when I was the happiest, and I realized that’s what I should do,” Penn says. “I realized it was a good fit and I could incorporate the values the Morgridge Center taught me.”

Even after her time at the Morgridge Center, Penn carries the values and lessons she learned with her into the classroom every day. Penn says her methods of teaching are influenced by her experiences at the Morgridge Center, especially amid the pandemic.

Penn says her experience sustaining mutually beneficial partnerships at the Morgridge Center informs a lot of what she does as a teacher. The Morgridge Center showed her the importance of asking hard questions to obtain the most equitable outcomes — a value that has guided her amid virtual learning’s challenges.

“The Morgridge Center’s mindset is what influenced me the most,” Penn says. “I’m just always pushing myself to feel uncomfortable and ask why I’m feeling uncomfortable so I can grow.”

Despite the challenges that she has faced in her first two years as an educator, Penn’s favorite part of teaching is building relationships with students and families. 

Becca Penn
Penn with other Morgridge Center Operations Interns.

While she has loved building her own community with students, Penn says she will always cherish the community she found at the Morgridge Center.

“It influenced me a lot,” Penn says. “The Morgridge Center was my favorite part of being in college.”