The relationship between local school districts and Ohio University has allowed education majors to return to in-person internships while the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
Before becoming senior professional interns — formerly known as student teachers — in which students prepare lesson plans among other tasks in a professional classroom setting, OU students are required to complete classroom observation.
Last year, many students in the Patton College of Education were left to do their observation and student teaching virtually due to the pandemic, creating challenges for education majors.
This year, the majority of senior professional interns are back in person, while some remain online. Some students are currently working in their internships, whereas others will begin in Jan. 2022.
Emily Rupert, a senior studying integrated language arts, is currently working at Jackson Middle School in Jackson, Ohio, and expressed excitement about her in-person internship this semester.
“I'm really excited that it's in person because junior year my placement was online and it was super awkward,” Rupert said. “I was just sitting on an iPad in the back observing.”
Kathleen Haskell, the coordinator of professional internships in teaching, credits the relationship between the local district’s that students are placed in and the university for allowing students to go on back in person, despite the ongoing pandemic.
This semester, Rupert is currently helping students edit children’s stories and is grading papers. She said she will soon begin preparing lesson plans.
Local schools are also excited to have students back in the classrooms for internships this year.
“I’m glad we can have professional interns here,” Athens High School principal, Chad Springer, said. “It really is that partnership with OU that we like.”
Athens High School has a number of senior interns working within its school. The departments that students are placed in varies on where the applicants apply to do their internships, as well as their major.
“A lot of our juniors that are coming in and observing end up being our interns their senior year,” Springer said.
In addition to returning to in-person experiences, education students are required to complete at least 16 weeks of a professional internship, which is the pre-pandemic requirement, according to a previous Post report. In 2020, the required amount of time was cut down to almost half by the Ohio Department of Education, Haskell said.
“(We) totally went, ‘oh my goodness’ when they said ‘we're going to cut this in half, the minimum requirement,‘” Haskell said. “That was crazy. So, it's kind of nice that it's back to normal.”
In preparation for potential exposure to COVID-19, some students involved in the senior professional internship program had to show proof of vaccination to be eligible for placement in particular schools, Haskell said.
“I had to let these teacher candidates know that in some places the placement was contingent on them showing up with proof that they've been vaccinated,” Haskell said.
Haskell said students who are not vaccinated or cannot be vaccinated had to appeal for an exemption through their assigned school district, not OU.
Local school districts, such as Jackson Middle Schools, have mandated masks on their campus. However, many senior professional interns are grateful to interact with students again.
“It's uncomfortable to wear a mask all day, but I'd rather do that then be online and not get to know (students) and not be able to help them with their stuff directly,” Rupert said. “I got to talk to some of the students when I was doing my online placement, but there's sort of a wall between you when you're online and it's just not the same.”