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Student teachers have exceeded expectations amid sudden changes in the educational environment due to COVID-19, according to James Preston, assistant to the dean of the College of Education at SRU.

Preston, who oversees the coordination of student teachers, said they all have worked with their teachers collaboratively to devise a plan for sudden changes occurring because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Jamie Coniglio, a secondary English education major, taught at Laurel High School in New Castle during her first eight-week student teaching placement. She’s currently student teaching at PA Cyber, her second placement of the semester, and she said the adjustment has been challenging.

“It’s very different,” Coniglio said. “I’m not able to give them physical assignments, so all of their assignments are in digital documents. It’s also not face-to-face. They can see me, but I can’t see them, so it’s kind of like I’m talking to myself.”

Fellow secondary English education major Jianna Palladini said she was supposed to teach in Spain, but her placement there was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. She added, however, that adjusting to her online student teaching placement hasn’t been as difficult as she expected.

“We’re just kind of rolling with the punches,” Palladini said. “I’m still learning my student’s names, and I’m trying to figure out a way to give students what they need without being able to see them. And we know that everyone’s at-home situation is different.”

Though their experiences adjusting to their new placements have been different, both Coniglio and Palladini were both uncertain when changes first took place.

“It’s been pretty overwhelming,” Coniglio said. “A lot of us, if not all of us, were really concerned about graduating and earning our teaching certificates. Even Dr. Preston was uncertain at first.”

According to Preston, though, student teacher evaluations won’t change very much. He said they will still be evaluated based on their planning and preparation, classroom management, instruction and professionalism. He added that, as always, they will be evaluated based on the Department of Education’s standards as well.

“Eight weeks into their placements, most of them had already met the minimum standards,” Preston said. “We already knew they would pass and whether we could certify them.”

Despite their initial concerns, Palladini and Coniglio have been reassured by the College of Education and university administration.

“SRU has done so much to ease my mind,” Palladini said. “I’m really thankful for the university and everything they’re doing for students. They’ve done a lot to make this whole situation a bit more easy going for all of us.”

Preston said although some teachers were very prepared and had readily developed systems in place, some are just starting to figure out how to handle the situation at hand. He said he feels that all teachers have an advantage with SRU’s student teachers who have exceeded expectations thus far.

“I’ve heard about our student teachers offering to help their teachers, students and each other however they can,” Preston said. “They’re taking the opportunity to really step up.”

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Allison is a senior converged journalism major entering her first year on The Rocket staff as News Editor. She previously wrote for College Dress Relief’s student-run blog and for CDR’s column in the Campus Life section. She spends her free time binge-watching New Girl and Friends. After college, she hopes to someday become an editorial writer for a fashion publication or work for a publishing house.


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