Students in the Patton College of Education have had to overcome unforeseen challenges in completing their student teaching due to COVID-19.
Education majors are normally placed in a southeastern Ohio school district for a 16-week professional internship. However, schools have been more cautious about letting interns into their facilities in order to keep students and staff safe.
Kathleen Haskell, coordinator of professional internships in teaching, said she has experienced adjustments in placing students in student teaching positions. Haskell said she places around 200 candidates a year.
Haskell said that local districts that have taken multiple Ohio University student teachers in the past have chosen to not take any this year. Students living out of state due to COVID-19 had to complete an out-of-area petition to be able to do their student teaching elsewhere, Haskell said.
“Since the pandemic, we have approved probably 10 out-of-area internships that, prior to the pandemic, we would not have because we just literally could not find them a place,” Haskell said.
Haskell said some school districts that have enough vaccinations for staff will offer them to prospective student teachers, a hopeful sign for the gradual return of in-person internships.
The setbacks from the pandemic, though, have not stopped student teachers from making the best of their virtual internships.
Allie Davis, a junior studying early childhood education, is currently completing a virtual internship at The Plains Elementary School.
Despite teaching virtually, Davis is able to build relationships with her third grade students through activities like “morning meetings,” or through math and reading lessons in smaller breakout rooms. Davis said that while she wishes these relationships could be deeper, she still enjoys bonding with the students.
“They still tell me about their lives everyday and they’re very open, even on the computer,” Davis said.
In this virtual classroom, Davis faced obstacles such as getting students to pay attention when they are distracted and showing them how to use reaction commands on their computers. She said she hopes to return to a traditional classroom setting for better interaction, but mostly for the students’ sake.
“I think that the students are going to be getting a better education in person than they would if they were sitting at home on a computer,” Davis said. “That’s why I really want them to go back. It’s for them, not for me, because I’ll get over it, but they really need to go to school.”
Mya Contillo, a teacher who graduated from OU in December 2020 with a major in integrated language arts, completed a virtual internship before landing her current job teaching virtually at Belpre Elementary School.
Contillo started her professional internship teaching in person in spring 2020, but after the pandemic hit, she continued teaching online.
Learning how to teach online was a learning curve for Contillo, who said she had difficulties in creating online curriculums, teaching at a slower pace and forming relationships with students.
“And I was also just disappointed that I didn’t get to go into the classroom, of course” she said. “You learn so much just being in the field.”
Ultimately, Contillo said she finds gratification in what she is able to do for her students during the pandemic.
“You know, as crazy and difficult as it’s been for not only teachers, you have to realize, like, it’s 10 times harder for the students to just adapt to this learning environment,” she said. “I think that, as a teacher, it’s just made me really grateful that I do what I do, because I feel like I’m bringing a sense of normalcy to the students’ everyday lives.”