December 9, 2020

Future teachers finding rewarding yet different experience amid pandemic

UW-Superior education majors Kayla Raboin, left, Kristiina Thums and Johnathan Erickson needed to adapt for their student-teaching experiences in the Northwestern School District during the COVID-19 pandemic.

UW-Superior education majors Kayla Raboin, left, Kristiina Thums and Johnathan Erickson needed to adapt for their student-teaching experiences in the Northwestern School District during the COVID-19 pandemic.

UW-Superior education majors adapt for student-teaching experience

 

Little that has taken place this school year resembles anything that has come before. With restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, traditional classroom time has shifted to social distancing, PPE and limited extracurricular activities – if learning wasn’t already transitioned completely online.

While coronavirus changes have been drastic for students, parents and educators, they’ve also brought about an unexpected challenge for UW-Superior education majors completing their student-teaching requirements.

UW-Superior students Johnathan Erickson, Kayla Raboin and Kristiina Thums have spent the fall student-teaching in the Northwestern School District and experienced the ever-changing academic landscape which began in the classroom before transitioning to remote learning.

“I was not anticipating I would be student teaching in the middle of a global pandemic,” said Thums, a senior majoring in instrumental music education. “Student teaching is such a pinnacle part of any education major’s journey and I have been looking forward to it for years. I thought that initially, it would be radically different and maybe even completely virtual. However, I was open to whatever circumstances were to come.”

Since its inception as a normal school in 1893, UW-Superior has been preparing future educators and today offers on-campus undergraduate and graduate degree programs and pathways to licensure. This reputation for excellence continues to inspire new generations of teachers.

“Overall, my experience in the education program at UWS has been amazing,” said Raboin, a senior elementary education major with an instruction minor. “The things that I have enjoyed the most are the experiences that I have had in the classroom. I have always been one to learn best from hands on experiences. No matter the level grade, whenever I am in the classroom, I am filled with absolute joy.”

UW-Superior’s Department of Education has an extensive support network, especially when it comes to the student-teaching experience, which assists in finding students to be placed in the best situation for success.

“I am really enjoying it,” said Thums, from Finland, Minnesota. “There have been many changes since starting my placement, but I have been open to all of it. I have had the opportunity to work with middle and high school bands and work with the faculty in the district.”

This fall, UW-Superior had 43 students throughout Wisconsin and Minnesota taking part in their student-teaching experiences. For the spring semester, that number expands to 70, which represents the largest increase for the university from one semester to another.

“Our education program has been around since the university’s beginnings and it’s had a reputation as being one of the best since day one,” said Ms. Amy Flaig, academic advisory and field experience coordinator at UW-Superior.”

The student-teaching experience is the final step for students toward becoming licensed, and one that also comes with many details for UW-Superior to follow with the partnering school.

“The quality of student teachers from UW-Superior has been a win-win for all involved," said Sara Croney, Northwestern School District superintendent.

This is especially crucial as students are taking their first steps off campus an into real-world experiences of classrooms, which has been made even more difficult during COVID-19.

UW-Superior students fulfilling student-teaching requirements within drastically changing times needed the ability to quickly adapt. At the Northwestern School District, the high and middle school began in a cohort format with two groups of students dividing the week. Several safety precautions such as masks, social distancing and ample supplies of hand sanitizer became classroom staples. For Erickson and Thums, teaching music students added an additional level of safety precautions with music rooms traded for space in gymnasiums and the use of special masks along with intense levels of sanitization of musical equipment.  

“At times it is challenging, especially in a music setting,” said Thums. “But adapting to the new safety measures also encourages us to discover and adapt teaching in ways that could benefit our teaching when we are not in a pandemic. I have had the opportunity to learn and work with different technologies and resources that will benefit me later in my career.”

While time in the classroom provides the strong foundation of learning for soon-to-be teachers, student teaching provides the necessary experience to gain confidence especially in increasingly stressful times of COVID-19.

“Going into student teaching, I naturally had a myriad of feelings,” said Erickson, an instrumental music education major and general music education minor from Superior. “On one side, I was elated to finally be entering into the profession that I had worked toward for so long. On the other side, I was anxious about all the changes that were – and still are – before me, as well as my ability to trust in my training and be the best teacher I can be.”

Within the Northwestern District, the school year progressed with more students being brought back into the classroom before a move in mid-November transitioned back to online. The experience provided UW-Superior student with perhaps more than they imagined, but a wealth of experience on careers in education during the pandemic.

“I know it's cliché, but it really is impossible to pick a favorite part of student teaching,” said Erickson, from Superior. “I've found it to be such an enriching experience, but if I had to choose one part of this experience to highlight it would have to be the students. They have been so kind and welcoming to me and they bring so much joy to the classroom, despite all the trying circumstances we find ourselves in.”

This strong relationship building and attention to detail ensures that UW-Superior student teachers have an enjoyable and rewarding experience.

“By far, my favorite part about student teaching has been being able to witness the students applying their knowledge to their own lives,” said Raboin. “It has been these moments that have provided the utmost joy. When I experience these moments, I am excited to know that I played a role in their education and even helped them learn. Having had these experiences in the classroom, I know that I am in the right career path. I truly love what I am doing when I am helping the students learn.”

UW-Superior education majors Kayla Raboin, left, Kristiina Thums and Johnathan Erickson needed to adapt for their student-teaching experiences in the Northwestern School District during the COVID-19 pandemic.

UW-Superior education majors Kayla Raboin, left, Kristiina Thums and Johnathan Erickson needed to adapt for their student-teaching experiences in the Northwestern School District during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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