SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – As schools across KELOLAND moved to distance learning due to COVID-19, teachers adjusted to make sure their students are still getting the proper tools and resources to learn. But what about those who are learning to become teachers? For college students getting an education degree, part of that involves student teaching in the classroom.
With their semester wrapped up, some future teachers have learned what it’s like to be in the education field during a pandemic.
Brittany Swenson and Courtney O’Connell are students at Dakota State University. They are each getting a degree in elementary and special education.
“I started my student teaching in the fall, in August, so in a 4th-grade classroom at Journey Elementary, and then since I am double majoring with special education, I transferred over to a special education elementary classroom at Liberty Elementary,” student teacher, Brittany Swenson said.
But during the middle of their student teaching, they found themselves learning what it is like to teach during a pandemic.
“In March I transferred to middle school special education classroom, and I was only there for about a week until this started, so I only got to know the kids for about a week before we all went out of school,” Swenson said.
“With special education, you get to see two different classrooms, so I was in the middle of switching to a different school, and I went to Howard and I was only there for a couple of days and then this whole pandemic happened, so I didn’t really get to see a lot of the kids and meet the new staff there,” student teacher, Courtney O’Connell said.
Swenson started finding ways to modify homework for her students by creating comprehension and sentence worksheets.
“All of our kids in the classroom, there are only five of them and all of them except for one are nonverbal,” Swenson said. “As a team, we collectively figured it out and what we could send home, what might be too difficult for kids, because every kid is at a different level and grade, so we had to modify the assignments for each child, too.”
She has also been recording herself reading from books and uploading the videos to YouTube for the students to watch.
“In each video I would record two chapters, because there was ten chapters in each book, so I would do two chapters a day for them, I did two chapters in each video, so if I did chapters one and two, after the first chapter I would tell them to pause the video and do comprehension questions with their student, and then go onto chapter two,” Swenson said.
O’Connell’s been helping her cooperating teacher with lesson planning and technology resources.
“Going to DSU I’ve gained a lot of technology resources from my professors which has been really helpful so I can offer that to my cooperating teacher and help her with Zoom and video conference tools,” O’Connell said.
Along with student teaching, she’s also been helping family members with distance learning tools, including her dad, who is a teacher in Chester, and even her cousins.
“My aunt actually works from home so she needed someone to help her kids with homework so I said what better time for me to help them out, and see what they are using and I’ve gained a lot of resources from helping my cousins,” O’Connell said.
Even though this isn’t how these two thought they would spend their time student teaching, both say it’s a good learning experience.
“This is definitely a good resource for the future, if it ever does, hopefully, it doesn’t happen again, so I am very grateful for this experience,” Swenson said.
“It’s tough because you can’t see the students and you can’t form relationships that way, but you have Zoom and technology to keep you updated with the students, so that’s really helpful, I am just hopeful that we can start in the fall,” O’Connell said.
No matter what happens, these future teachers know they are ready for just about any situation.
Both students finished the spring 2020 semester last week. O’Connell says she will continue student teaching in Howard during her fall semester and then graduate in December. Swenson graduates this summer and has a job lined up in Chamberlain as a special education teacher.