How Professor Peg Fisher helps girls pursue STEM

Peggy Fisher zyBooks zyCommunityAnyone fortunate enough to connect with Peg Fisher will immediately notice her passion for education. So it may be surprising to hear that this advocate originally pursued a different path. It was after a few years into her role as a programmer for a major insurance company that Peg realized, “I could make a bigger difference by teaching.”

Flash forward to the present: Peg lectures at Penn State University’s College of Information Sciences and Technology. Her journey here wasn’t a straight shot. Peg’s dedication to innovative student learning led her down a winding career path that ranged from working at a rural high school to LinkedIn.

We connected with Peg Fisher to learn more about her career journey, her approach to teaching, and how she helps girls pursue and persist in STEM education.

zyBooks: What’s your background?

Peg Fisher: After a few years working [in programming] for a large insurance company, I quickly realized that I could make a bigger difference by teaching, and I started getting my Master’s in Math Education from Arcadia University in Pennsylvania. The next segment of my journey led me to teach Math and Computer Science at a rural high school in Pennsylvania. I absolutely loved teaching and I even started a few clubs during my time there. The clubs included a video game club, a robotics club, and, one year, we had a team go to the Pennsylvania High School Computer fair where they took first place. I was so proud of my students!

Peg on innovative learning solutions:

As a teacher and a parent, I am always looking for ways to reach all my students. So, the next logical step was to start creating videos for my students to watch when introducing a tricky concept. This turned out to be very popular, and eventually, this led to my position at Linkedin Learning. There I was able to bring my two passions of teaching and video learning to a much wider audience.

In addition to video learning, I was also intrigued by the up-and-coming industry of interactive textbooks. I knew that zyBooks had the right idea and was listening to the instructors and constantly improving their products. I use zyBooks for both my programming courses and my discrete mathematics course.

How do you prepare your students for a future career in computer science?

I share my philosophy on life and my career, which is basically to always put yourself out there, even when it is uncomfortable. Each semester when we are first starting out, I emphasize that everyone in my classroom can succeed. They just need a little faith in themselves, to attend all classes, ask for help when needed, and complete all assignments. The last part is made easier since I have adopted zyBooks. They get hands-on practice all the time and instant feedback on their progress.

Can you share more about how you help girls and underrepresented groups get into STEM/STEAM?

I have strived to be a role model, encouraging my female and diverse students to have an open mind about the topics they will learn. I find that many girls love the problem-solving aspect of programming, but they need an open environment to learn, ask questions, and, at times, fail.

Over the years, I have also held workshops for girls. This helps provide the safe place necessary for young adults to step out of their comfort zone, ask questions, and even admit they like math and programming.

Peg’s Top 4 Tips for zyBooks Instructors

  • Provide an incentive for completing the participation and challenge activities, whether it is part of their overall grade or extra points.
  • For programming classes, take advantage of the ability to add your own zyLabs.
  • Try all the activities, so you can see where students might struggle.
  • Make sure that students know they can ask questions. For my Discrete Math class, I often release the solutions before a quiz so students can test their understanding.

Connect with Peg

You can connect with Peg and meet other like-minded instructors by joining the zyCommunity, an online discussion space exclusively for zyBooks instructors.