Student Teaching Experience During the COVID Crisis


Santy student teaching elementary school students; Photo by: Jessica Weber

On March 9, all Moravian College student teachers were to begin their second field placement at their next assigned school. However, the Friday before it began I remember lying on my living room couch and receiving a text message from Mrs. Mead (the first grade teacher of Lower Nazareth Elementary School that I was to be placed with). 

“Governor just closed all schools for two weeks,” the message read. “I’ll forward you any emails the district sends out. Ugh!!! *distressed face emoji*” This text message filled me with so many questions. How long will the schools be closed? Am I going to be able to graduate with my certification this semester? 

Now what?

These questions were answered in the coming weeks by Pennsylvania’s Department of Education (PDE) and Moravian College’s adept education department. Essentially, PDE changed the student teaching law (for this semester) that required a total of 12 weeks of student teaching experience (Moravian College student teachers were required 14 weeks) to that now being waived completely. 

In lieu of the 12-week student teaching requirement, student teachers must now be approved by their supervisors and/or educational boards at their respective colleges/universities in order to become certified. The supervisors of the education department at Moravian College are largely basing this approval on a student teacher’s performance in their first student teaching placement. 

Each student teacher must also submit the official Pennsylvania Department of Education 430 document (PDE 430). 

This document is split into four main categories: 1) Planning and Preparation, 2) Classroom Environment, 3) Instructional Delivery, and 4) Professionalism. Each student teacher must complete the document by listing specific examples they implemented as evidence for meeting the performance standards from each category. The document is then signed by the supervisor of each student teacher and the student teacher. It is then submitted to the PDE for approval.

Moravian College student teachers this semester were fortunate to finish their first seven-week field placement. I spent my first field placement in a fourth grade classroom at Asa Packer Elementary School, where I was challenged to create new, engaging lessons every day and bring smiles to as many faces as I could. 

The last day of my experience at Asa Packer was bittersweet; a few tears were shed and, of course, we played an intense basketball game (boys versus girls) featuring the principal of Asa Packer Elementary, Mr. Horvath.

Although it is not a requirement at this time for student teachers to do so, I have challenged myself to stay connected with my fourth grade class by joining their weekly check-in sessions via Zoom and sharing two videos of myself doing all sorts of things, from breathing/mindfulness exercises to basketball skills and drills.

This is my effort to put their young minds at ease, even if for a short time, during this uncertain time. 

I keep in touch with my former cooperating teacher, Mrs. Weber, to show my support because distance learning is a huge adjustment for most, if not all, classroom teachers. The saying, “It takes a village” is certainly true when it comes to the success of students within our education system, especially at a time such as this.

The changes that COVID-19 has brought to our society has taught me a lot about being grateful for every experience I share with others. Everything from student teaching in my fourth grade classroom to playing on the women’s basketball team were experiences I will cherish forever. 

My heart is with the teachers and athletes whose classroom time and seasons were taken from them.

As our society returns to a “new” normal way of living, I hope it involves finding moments spent together with family, friends, coworkers, students, and teammates to be a little more special.