Future Educators face new challenges in student teaching

Student teachers are developing new skills to become successful educators.

Toby Mohr

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Education has always been a popular area of study at UW-Eau Claire and students pursuing a degree in education face a unique set of requirements and obstacles before entering the field. 

Perhaps the biggest challenge for education students is completing their student teaching requirements. Students are paired with a cooperating teacher to gain extensive experience in the classroom and prepare for teaching classes of their own.

According to Dr. Carol Koroghlanian, the Teacher Education Program Office Coordinator, students are placed at schools within a 70 mile radius of UW-Eau Claire and need to submit confirmation of their intent to student teach a year prior to placement. 

Difficulties with the student teaching process are common as students handle new responsibilities. 

“A student teacher is assuming the responsibilities of the full time teacher,” Koroghlanian said.

Additional challenges can also include transportation and housing issues.

“The Spring semester is a unique situation where the university semester ends before the local school districts and students can lose housing in that time,” Koroghlanian said.

Dr. Kyle Whipple works with students in the semester before student teaching to help prepare them for the experience. 

“Student teaching is the most difficult part of teaching,” Whipple said, “Students are not paid to student teach, but it is a full time job.” 

Whipple’s classes include a “mini student teaching experience with a five week field experience.” Field experience acts to ease the transition into the student teaching semester.

While student teaching has always included difficulties, the pandemic has created a new slate of challenges for future educators. They now need to be prepared for different safety policies, in person, virtual, and hybrid learning models, mask mandates, quarantine and isolation requirements, all while trying to make meaningful connections with their students and effectively teach the course curriculum. 

Erika VanDerVoort, a fifth-year secondary math education and psychology student, is preparing to start student teaching in the fall and had to adjust to the changes brought about by the pandemic and finding new ways to connect with students. 

“There has been a larger push to utilize technology like Zoom,” VanDerVoort said, “but it is difficult to get students’ attention when talking to a blank screen.”

Despite the difficult process and the new challenges of the pandemic, the education department remains optimistic. 

“Teaching is a phenomenal profession, our students get jobs. We are in a teacher shortage and if you get a license to teach you are definitely going to get a job,” Whipple said.

Koroghlanian reaffirmed the importance of teaching and the role student teachers provide in the field.

“Right now a lot of teachers are exhausted from the pandemic. I’m not sure the general public realizes that,” Koroghlanian said.

According to Koroghlanian, UW-Eau Claire students provide a vital role for their cooperative teachers. 

“They are learning from their cooperative teachers but they are also helping them and their students,” she said.

Future educators face different challenges than ever before, but their skills are needed more than ever to meet the new demands in education. 

Mohr can be reached at [email protected]