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‘Ville Student-Teachers Get Creative Online

Millersville University students support host teachers with online learning.

Millersville University’s education students have faced particular challenges during this time of remote learning. Not only are students figuring out how to manage their own coursework remotely, those who are student-teaching in area school districts this semester have been confronted with the extra challenge of supporting their host teachers with online learning for their students.

Many student-teachers have jumped at the opportunity to create online resources and think creatively about how to impact their students outside of the classroom. Here are just a few of those incredible students:

Sara Kirchner

Sara Kirchner

Secondary Social Studies Education

Where are you student-teaching? 

Hempfield High School in a 10th grade World History classroom.

How did you feel about the transition to online learning?

The transition has been difficult. It takes a lot of work to move everything to an online platform, especially in the middle of the semester. I think the hardest part is not being able to interact with my students face-to-face. I’ve gotten to know each of them during the first few weeks of classes, and I really miss teaching them.

How are you supporting your host teacher? 

Thankfully, my cooperating teacher has been working to keep me involved in planning, communicating with students and families, and participating in faculty meetings. I have spent a lot of time messaging my students and posting class updates. Attendance is crucial, so I have also been working with parents and practicing record-keeping. 

Have you created any special projects?

Right now, I am working on a lesson that highlights Indian culture and sheds light on some problems that plague the country, such as pollution and overpopulation. I’ve also created discussion posts for students to participate in, reviewing previous material and encouraging socialization. These discussions focused on the different elements of culture, such as family, customs/traditions, and communication, and how the coronavirus outbreak has affected each. We try to create projects that will get students excited about material and engaged with each other.

What has this experience taught you about teaching in the future?

Mastering content is obviously a very important part of being an educator, but there’s many more things at play. Great teachers are flexible, creative, collaborative and selfless individuals. While it is incredibly disappointing that I am not able to interact with these teachers, as well as my students, in person, I am so grateful for the lessons they have taught me in this student-teaching process.

Brett Sonntag

Brett Sonntag

Middle Level Education major with a Science concentration

Where are you student-teaching? 

Landisville Intermediate Center (LIC) in Hempfield School District in a 5th grade classroom.

How did you feel about the transition to online learning?

Along with my students, I miss our traditional form of education. The online form of education requires me to think differently when designing enrichment and review, helping students, and maintaining a positive rapport with students. My lengthy experience with Apple technology was critical to my transition into the online environment.

How are you supporting your host teacher? 

I have assisted my host teacher, along with other members on the 5th grade team, by providing meaningful feedback to students, assisting students and staff members with technology complications, maintaining the positive relationship through online communication, tracking online participation in all subjects and creating enrichment and review activities for a wide range of learners.

Have you created any special projects?

I worked with three other student teachers in on the 5th grade team at LIC to create a cross-curricular online review and enrichment week about Earth Day. Along with creating online cross curricular materials, I am creating online enrichment and review for a student who engages in life skills science instruction. For her online enrichment and review, I am collaborating with her case manager and my host teacher to provide the best possible exercises that abide by her continuity of education plans. Here’s a link to Brett’s online resources. 

What has this experience taught you about teaching in the future?

First and foremost, educators must always remain flexible, calm and collected. Educators must project a positive energy that does not make the students concerned during these unprecedented times. Also, it is important to use technology frequently in the classroom. In traditional classroom environments, students can learn how to navigate and operate tools on their devices that can be used for asynchronous online work.

Danielle Greene

Danielle Greene

Bachelor of Science Education in Earth Sciences

Where are you student-teaching? 

Gerald G. Huesken Middle School in the Conestoga Valley School District.

How did you feel about the transition to online learning?

At first, I was nervous about the transition because this was an unprecedented situation, but Conestoga Valley School District quickly decided that they were going to do everything in their power to provide a path forward for their students’ education. I was excited for this new challenge and my mentor encouraged me to have an active role in the online enrichment page we were developing.

How are you supporting your host teacher? 

All of the 8th grade science teachers monitor the online science enrichment page, so every teacher is collaboratively responsible for the entire 8th grade. I have been assisting the team of teachers by creating review videos, answering student questions, providing feedback to student submissions, and being present during online Q&A conferences with the students.

Have you created any special projects?

As of now, I have created two review videos using a website called Screencast-o-matic. With this tool, I was able to provide my students with an online lecture to review the parts of an experiment, as well as the phases of the Moon. As we delve further into new lesson plans for the weather unit, I will be creating even more resources for the students.

What has this experience taught you about teaching in the future?

This experience has taught me just how important it is to be flexible as a teacher. You need to expect the unexpected and be prepared for things to not go the way you planned. Even though I miss being in the classroom, I have enjoyed my time as an online student-teacher, and this experience has shown me that online teaching is something I will likely pursue as part of my future teaching career.

Hannah Newman

Hannah Newman

Early Childhood Education and I have a minor in Integrative STEM Education Methods

Where are you student-teaching? 

J. E. Fritz Elementary School in the Conestoga Valley School District in a 4th grade classroom.

How did you feel about the transition to online learning?

I initially felt heartbroken. I knew I was going to miss my students and that they would miss school being a safe place to learn. Not all students have resources at home to continue their learning. However, now that we are about to begin week four of online learning, I am feeling much better. My class has daily morning meetings via Zoom, as well as small group lessons. These Zoom calls allow me to check in and interact with these students and I am so thankful that I’ve seen almost every single student join in on our calls.

How are you supporting your host teacher?

To support my host teacher, I am participating in our daily “office hours.” From 10:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. we sit on Google Classroom giving students feedback, answering questions, and conducting small groups. I also prepare activities and lessons for the students, participate in morning meetings, and brainstorm solutions and future plans.

Have you created any special projects?

I created a design challenge where students would use a Google Slides file to serve as a design portfolio. The challenge was to design and create a science themed board game to play at home. The Google Slides took students through the engineer design process as they brainstormed, planned, created and tested a game.

My co-operating teacher and I stress the importance of social-emotional learning as well, and especially in a time like this, we want students to be equipped with the tools they need to feel safe and understand their feelings. I created a self-care bingo for students to play at home, where each box has a different task that falls under self-care. I also created a YouTube channel for read alouds and STEM education, and you should see how excited students get when they see that I’m reading the story in a lesson!

What has this experience taught you about teaching in the future?

Now more than ever, it is clear that flexibility is a huge part of teaching. It’s important to try new things and take risks when it comes to delivering content. Students need lessons that are engaging and thought-provoking. In addition, I’ve learned the importance of simply listening to students. During our morning meetings and small groups, I can tell how excited students are just to be able to talk to their teachers about how they are and what they’ve been up to. As teachers, we need to make sure we set aside time to get to know our students and show them that we are happy to have them in our class.

Andrew Tepper-Lardon

Andrew Tepper-Lardon

Social Studies Secondary Education with a Dual Certification in Special Education

Where are you student-teaching? 

Landisville Middle School at Hempfield School District

How did you feel about the transition to online learning?

I was very curious and interested in what the online learning was going to look like. I was up for the new challenge and ready to tackle it. As for the students, I was nervous for them as many need supports to reach the material and I was hoping we could support them enough while online.

How are you supporting your host teacher?

During this time I have been supporting my mentor teacher in any way she needs. I have been helping to navigate the online tools available. I have joined in on faculty meetings, department meetings, team meetings, class meetings and individual help meetings. I also have been helping create organization materials to inform the students of our new way of learning.

Have you created any special projects?

I have worked on an online “blackboard” through Google Slides that listed the students daily assignments in each class. I have collected materials for the Learning Support Schoology page to give the students help in math, reading, writing, organization and online learning. I helped create a school-wide schedule for class Google Meet sessions. I have also created social skills lessons and activities for the students to complete that focus on coping strategies during this time.

What has this experience taught you about teaching in the future?

This experience has been extremely valuable as it has forced me to think of new ways of getting information across to students. Instead of just having to think of teaching in a general classroom setting, now I have been thinking of how to transfer lessons and classroom management online.

Mara Tate

Mara Tate

Middle-Level Education major with a Mathematics concentration 

Where are you student-teaching?

Landisville Intermediate Center (LIC) at Hempfield School District in a 6th grade classroom

How did you feel about the transition to online learning?

This announcement was crushing and something that took time for me to get my head around. We began the process by first providing our students with online review and enrichment through Schoology. I was already comfortable using Schoology as a support for our face-to-face instruction so the switch was not bad. We also used Flipgrid and resources from Google Drive to engage and empower the students during this experience. I’ve quickly learned that technology and these online platforms will never replace teachers. The rapport and relationships carefully crafted during the school year has provided a solid foundation for us to connect with the students virtually.

How are you supporting your host teacher?

I have been supporting my host teacher in all aspects of instruction and communication. We are in regular contact with each other trying to create meaningful learning for our students. We offer both online and offline activities for the students to complete.  It has challenged me to think about what items students might have at home to use as manipulatives and activities to incorporate to get them up and moving. Another way I have been able to support my host teacher is in communication with students and their families. During our time away from the classroom I have reached out to students through Schoology to check-in and to keep developing our relationships, and we also hosted live Google Meet sessions with the students.

Have you created any special projects?

I have hosted weekly Quizizz games for my math students. I have also created a few various enrichment activities for all the 6th-grade math students as well, including an activity based on how the government produces coins. I also worked collaboratively with the sixth-grade team at LIC on a cross-curricular project where students had to plan an educational field trip anywhere in the world for their classmates. They had to use science for the weather report of the trip, geography for the location, reading for all their research, and math for the budget of the trip. They had to use their information to inform and persuade their classmates and teachers why their trip should be selected as our next field trip.

Another project, which will be released this week is a lesson about soils. In the fall, my students learned about my Future Farmers of America involvement in a Career Development Event named Land Use and Management, what I like to call “Dirt Judging.” We were working on career activities through a resource called Xello, and I shared some information with the students. This captivated my students and they have been waiting for a lesson on “dirt judging.” I figured now would be a good time to share this with them since they could go out to try to determine what type of soil they have at their house, and it would be a fun break from their required activities for the planned instruction period.

What has this experience taught you about teaching in the future?

This experience has taught me the importance of patience, teamwork, using technology to empower students, and accepting what is out of your control. Our world has become such a tech-focused place that it is something educators need to embrace, but only if it’s used correctly to engage and empower the students.  I was hesitant about incorporating various types of technology in my lessons in the fall. However, once I learned that you integrate technology for what the pedagogy requires and not for the cool features on the technology resources, I felt more at ease. Blended, hybrid, and online models of instruction are options for successful learning environments, but technology is inferior to face-to-face instruction and relationships.

Emily Lagaza

Emily Lagaza

Post-baccalaureate student pursing Secondary English certificate

Where are you student-teaching?

Conestoga Valley High School in a 9th grade English classroom.

How did you feel about the transition to online learning?

Like many of us, I did not expect to be apart from my students for such a long period of time, so the transition was more emotional than anything as I have had to accept I will likely not see them again for some time. I worried mostly for their emotional and physical well-being, first and foremost. With the knowledge that they were juggling home and school during such an intense situation, I also wanted to ensure students did not feel overwhelmed and understood that this was a learning process for all of us.

How are you supporting your host teacher?

I have been teaching honors and traditional English 9 classes alongside my mentor. I plan lessons, provide feedback, create instructional videos and communicate with students daily. My host teacher has been absolutely fantastic from the start of my time at CVHS. Her constant support, open communication and clear expectations have allowed me to grow into the student teacher I am now.

Have you created any special projects?

My ninth graders are reading “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, and I put a strong emphasis on the context that is essential to understanding the novel. I decided to utilize my students’ strengths – independent research and reflection – to create an introductory activity that would provide both context and interest. I dressed up as Harper Lee, wig and all, and taped a “Biscuits and Coffee with Southern Authors” segment where I was interviewed to provide information about Lee and instruct the students to complete a webquest. I provided sources and questions, and the students were able to learn about background information this way. Then, they created digital journals to reflect on prompts I gave them.  I also asked them to sign up for a pen-pal, so that they can converse with a partner acting as Scout, Jem and Dill to immerse themselves in the content.

Lastly, I have decided to enact “Mindful Mondays.” I feel it’s important to make in-class literature as relevant as possible, so each Monday we are going to explore an aspect of the novel we can learn from and relate to in this challenging time. This week, the focus is hope as it functions in the novel and how we maintain hope today, in our own lives. The students are creating symbols of hope in the form of artwork, poetry, songs, journal reflections, playlists or tip lists. I chose the TED Talk “The Extraordinary Power of Ordinary People” by Sherwin Nuland, and shared paintings I created as symbols of hope for myself for students to reference.

What has this experience taught you about teaching in the future?

I have been thinking about the quote “Necessity is the mother of invention” quite a bit lately. Personally, I felt nervous about the transition to virtual learning, but it has actually made me grow as an educator.

Teaching in general has taught me how to remain flexible and maintain focus on the most important thing of all – my students’ well-being – even during difficult times. It’s true that this experience has taught me how to use more digital tools and create engaging lessons online; but it has also taught me to accept challenging circumstances and create something positive out of them. I am more comfortable than ever being outside of my comfort zone, in teaching and in life.

Cory Edwards

Cory Edwards and fiance

Post-baccalaureate student in Earth & Space Sciences

Where are you student-teaching?

Conestoga Valley High School in their Principles of Science classroom

How did you feel about the transition to online learning?

I personally was excited to be able to assist my mentor teacher as we worked to transition our instruction to an online format.  This transition began with a few Zoom meetings with all of the Principles of Science teachers to discuss what our classes should look like for our students and what material was most important for us to cover. It was nice to see how we were able to bounce ideas off of one another as we began to build our online classroom for our students.

I was and still am worried that my students may not be receiving the amount of support that they need to be successful. This is a very difficult circumstance for these students and with it all being so new it is important to keep this in mind during our instruction. We are now into our second week of online learning and we have gotten some great feedback from our students and were able to adjust things to meet these suggestions when appropriate, such as the creation of online quizzes, voice over powerpoint presentations and online vocabulary flashcard decks.

How are you supporting your host teacher?

There are a few ways that I am able to support my host teacher:

  • Create an online environment that is consistent and easy to navigate for our students.
  • Collaborating with him to draft communication to our students with any adjustments or updates for our classes.
  • Since we split up Earth Science into four units, I was tasked with creating meaningful interactive instruction and learning activities for our students to complete each week within the Geologic Time unit.
  • Creating and distributing learning badges as students reach those expectations as a way to acknowledge their commitment and hard work.
  • Monitoring our Schoology class pages on a daily basis to offer substantial feedback. Always being sure to acknowledge areas where they met the learning objective and areas where they could improve, when necessary.
  • Attending a weekly zoom meeting with students to review how the week went and respond to any questions the students may have.
  • Meeting up on Zoom 1-2 times a week with my mentor teacher to bounce ideas off of and continue to create the best possible environment for our students.

Have you created any special projects?

Although the details are not finalized, I am thinking I will create a research project on the Plate Tectonic Theory, where the students will be urged to work with a classmate via online formats and it will be posted on Schoology for other students to view and comment on. Allowing the project to take the place of formal instruction and finish with a discussion at the end of the week.

I did create an assignment for the students to complete within the frame of my unit. After viewing the instruction for the topic of rocks and minerals, the students were asked to complete a rock sort on a word document. This is an assignment that is typically conducted within the classroom and using actual rock samples, but I modified it to include clear images of rock samples and they were asked to sort the rocks by certain vocabulary terms we had just learned. I was able to review their submissions to see how they retained these new terms and if they were able to navigate these terms with actual rock samples. Finally, I provided substantial feedback for each student that was personalized, meaningful and helped to enhance their learning.

What has this experience taught you about teaching in the future?

One of the biggest things that this experience has taught me, is that no matter the circumstances or obstacles that are presented, learning will find a way.  It may not be easy and you may not get it right the first time, but as long as you have a passion for teaching you will find a way to create an impactful and meaningful experience for your students.

The biggest thing it has taught me is the true value of in-person time.  The professional relationship built with my mentor teacher and students meant so much more to me than I thought possible.  Being able to discuss our topics in person and feed off each other’s ideas to allow us to grow together as we learned is so much more impactful than I had previously thought.

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