Purdue FCS education major takes the lead in fostering well-rounded life and career skills

Written By: Rebecca Hoffa, rhoffa@purdue.edu

Purdue FCS Education students pose with a sign that says "113th AAFCS Annual Conference"

Purdue family and consumer sciences education students pose for a photo at the national AAFCS Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida.(Photo provided)

Using the simplest ingredients, Morgan Gibson, a senior studying family and consumer sciences in the Purdue University College of Health and Human Sciences, knows how to teach a class of high school students how to make a nutritious meal. Serving in his student teaching role at Jefferson High School in Lafayette, Gibson is providing his students with valuable skills that will serve them their entire lives while also developing his skills as a family and consumer sciences (FCS) educator.

“I love the connections that I’m making — not only the teachers but the students — being able to meet and learn about so many people from such different backgrounds,” Gibson said.

Janine Duncan headshot

Janine Duncan(Photo provided)

Janine Duncan, clinical associate professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Science and the FCS education program coordinator with a joint appointment in the College of Education’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction, worked in teacher education for more than 17 years. In her role, she aims to bring a future-forward perspective to the coursework offered at Purdue while building the foundation to help future educators deliver the life skills middle and high school students need now and in the future.

“Family and consumer sciences education is the discipline that helps children develop the competencies to manage life, family and work while also helping them develop the career-readiness skills they need to enter the particular fields they plan to pursue,” Duncan said.

In the program, which is the only FCS education bachelor’s program in Indiana, Duncan sees her students grow from their first observation hours in middle and high school classrooms as a first-year student to their capstone student teaching experiences as seniors. Throughout the process, Duncan encourages students to be heavily involved beyond their classroom and student teaching experiences, from presenting at national conferences to offering their leadership in Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA), the field’s career and technical student organization.

“My interest is always to get students to see that they have a voice to add to the profession,” Duncan said.

Prepared to teach

Morgan Gibson headshot

Morgan Gibson(Photo provided)

Gibson enjoyed his own FCS classes in high school, so when he was faced with the decision of what he wanted to teach, family and consumer sciences was an easy choice.

For him, one of the benefits of Purdue’s family and consumer sciences education major is the abundant opportunities to get hands-on experience in the classroom from the get-go.

“I think Purdue does such a good job of getting you in the classroom early,” Gibson said. “My freshman year, I was terrified to be in the classroom because it’s just you and all these kids who you don’t know. Purdue getting you in so early gets you in that educator headspace. They teach you how to think like a teacher and how to be in front of the students. It takes a couple years — it might take until you’re in the classroom full-time — but the minute you step in for that first full week, you’re like ‘I know what I’m doing.’”

Gibson said his goal is to instill important life skills in his students so they can become successful adults, whether that’s learning how to write a check or how to cook for themselves.

“Giving kids these skills that help in everyday life is so important to what we do, and without us, not everyone would have the chance to learn those,” Gibson said. “Even if they don’t remember me, they don’t remember sitting in my class, but they remember how to put a button on, and so they don’t have to waste the $30 to go buy a new shirt, they know how to fix it. If they don’t have a lot of food in the pantry and they have stuff they learned how to make at school — just being able to do that and support themselves.”

A lasting influence

Keaton May headshot

Keaton May(Photo provided)

A 2021 alumna of Purdue’s FCS education program, Keaton May now teaches at William Henry Harrison High School in West Lafayette. May attributes her excellent mentors in the FCS education program and her student teaching experience with shaping her into a successful teacher. May took advantage of many of the opportunities the major offered her, whether it was teaching lessons during her early classroom observations or being a judge at the FCCLA State Leadership Conference.

“I look back on that, and that was such a valuable experience,” May said. “They kind of get you out of your comfort zone. They’re your support, but they also push you to have as many experiences as possible. It made you realize early on if you really wanted to do this or not.”

As a second-year teacher, May noted she’s still developing her curriculum to foster more interdisciplinary collaboration across subjects, but she’s proud of the relationships she’s built with students and the enthusiasm for FCS she’s seen in her students.  

“I feel like daily, I have kids who say, ‘I’m so glad I’m learning this’ or ‘I’ll actually use this,’ that kind of thing, and so that’s the goal,” May said. “Anything to be a successful parent, to be a successful spouse, to be a successful employee — we are the foundation for those skills. You build all your other skills with math, science, social studies outside of this room, but no matter what, you need our (FCS) skills, and we can help those other subjects be successful and (help) those employers have successful employees.”