By James Koppelman
Kaitlyn Roukey ‘20 , like all college students across the country, was robbed of her final weeks on campus this semester, but she had another big experience taken away as well. Her student teaching process has also taken unexpected twists and turns. “Unfortunately, reality caught up just around lunch time when all student-teachers received an email from the Education Department officially suspending the most essential and exciting experience we would have in our undergraduate careers.”
As elementary and high schools across Vermont and the rest of the country have been forced to switch to online platforms, student teachers who are still in the beginning stages of practicing education, have had to make big changes to their interactive learning with schoolchildren
For student teacher Hilary Kim, who has been teaching in the Parsippany, N.J. school system the disruption was discouraging. “I’ve been student teaching since late January and I was only a month and a half in when my student teaching was moved online. It was upsetting because I was not able to say a proper goodbye to my students.
“I did not realize how much more meaningful teaching is when I can interact with my students in the classroom rather than through a computer screen,” Kim said.
To adjust, Kim has learned how to use screencast to record her videos and upload them for students to watch, which means they are accessible to students any time. “ It made me consider flipped classrooms more, because most students seemed to understand the lessons from videos, and it would allow me to do more fun, engaging activities,” Kim said.
“Overall, the pandemic has changed the course of my student teaching pretty drastically, but I am proud of what I have accomplished and reflected in the span of only a few months,” Kim said.
Kristen Gorsak has been studying elementary education at Montclair State University in Montclair, N.J.. And, like Kim, Gorsak was just beginning to practice her studies in the classroom when the pandemic hit. “I had a total of seeing my elementary school students for four days before my school building shut down due to the pandemic. If the pandemic had not occurred, I would have had the opportunity to teach and co-teach with every grade level, including fourth and fifth grade band and would have been directing/conducting the kindergarten music show along with conducting a portion of the fifth grade band for their May Concert,” Gorsak said. The hardest part of the pandemic she said, is that she has been separated from the young students to whom she was just beginning to become attached.
St. Michael’s student teacher Makayla Foster ‘20 has also experienced the hardships of schools shutting down across Vermont. Foster’s student class has also switched to online platforms. “I’ve been lucky enough to continue with my class. The main goal is prioritizing health and wellness. It is important at all times, but especially during a pandemic to ensure that basic needs are met for students, their families, and our school community as a whole.” said Foster, who’s been teaching third and fourth grade in the Westford school district “So many selfless people have been working each week to provide meals to students, learning opportunities, and moments to connect,” Foster said, noting that she is grateful that she can still connect with her students virtually while social distancing.
“It goes without saying that emotions were high, and the feeling of leaving my students, colleagues, and newfound home away from SMC was crushing,” Roukey said. “For me, and several of my classmates, COVID-19 did not end our student-teaching experience; when all Vermont schools transitioned to remote learning, we charged our laptops and unmuted our microphones. This was an opportunity to not only continue the work we were doing in the classroom, but also help our students fathom a worldwide crisis.”