Student teaching comes to a halt for Southeast students
For 142 seniors at Southeast, COVID-19 didn’t just end their final semester and senior year at the university, it also ended their time as student teachers at local schools in the Cape Girardeau area.
Student teaching is the senior capstone for education majors. The students are placed with a teacher from an area school in their certification area, and they spend the semester working in that classroom.
Not only is student teaching an invaluable experience for prospective teachers, but its completion is required by the state of Missouri to become a certified teacher.
Students are required to spend 60 days in a public school classroom, as well as passing state exams. Student teachers also have a final evaluation with a state-approved rubric which the university supervisor and teacher in the classroom use to score them.
With all public and charter schools in Missouri shut down for the rest of the academic year, it’s no longer possible for students to complete those requirements. Shelley Oldham, director of field experiences for education preparedness at Southeast, said this was concerning for many students.
“The commissioner’s office and department of elementary and secondary education could not modify or be more flexible without the approval of lawmakers,” Oldham said. “There was concern with how much flexibility would be given to these student teachers who found themselves in an impossible situation.”
However, Oldham said Missouri legislators quickly gave the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education the flexibility to allow the student teachers to attain certification.
Instead of having to reach a minimum score on the final evaluation, students will still be given a score but it won’t have an effect on their certification. As long as the university gives them full credit for their class, students will receive their certification.
Oldham said that students fall into three different groups. The first group are those teaching at schools that went online, the second group are students teaching at a school that didn’t have the ability to go online and the third group is students who have already accepted jobs for next year.
The first group has continued teaching in the online setting. The second group is now writing lesson plans and preparing lessons as if they were going to be teaching and the third group is working with the schools they will be at next year to prepare for that transition.
Noah Raines, student history teacher at Jackson High School, falls into the group that is teaching students online.
Jackson is not doing virtual meetings, and instead, they are posting things on Canvas. Raines doesn’t get to see his students because of this, but he is still working to help them.
Raines said one of his biggest fears is what the job market will look like after the pandemic clears.
“I don’t think the fact I got done early is a big detriment,” Gaines said. “The thing I’m more concerned about is, ‘Are schools going to be focused on filling their positions?’”
Allison Elfrink is teaching Kindergarten through second-grade special education in the Cape Girardeau school district. Despite the challenges, she said there are positives to come out of this.
“I had some unique experiences that no one before me had and maybe no one after me will have,” Elfrink said. “I learned some greater power of flexibility — I definitely learned how much the teaching community cares about their students, and I learned how important technology and being well-versed in it is.”
Elfrink said seeing how other teachers have acted through this pandemic confirmed teaching is the profession for her.
“I miss my kids, I worry about my kids — I would go back in a heartbeat if I could,” Elfrink said. “[The pandemic] affirmed for me teaching is what I want to do with my life.”