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Student teachers succeed despite irregular year

Student teacher Ms. Laymance feels confident about teaching in the future. Courtesy photo

While COVID-19 has presented multiple challenges and unexpected obstacles for student teachers during this unusual school year, they are leaving feeling more assured and confident about their future career.

Mikayla Laymance, Science Teacher Jennifer Weir’s first semester student teacher for chemistry, described what she learned from her experience last semester.

“I learned the importance of being flexible,” she said. “Each student is unique and deserves the opportunity to pilot their academic success, thus I hope to offer flexibility in what and how they learn.” 

Multiple students commented similar thoughts on what they admire most about Ms. Laymance during her time teaching.

“She was very sweet and understanding with us,” said Junior Jolie Hurd. “I appreciate that if we didn’t understand the subject she would go back and take her time with us.”

“She was very kind and understanding through this time,” said fellow Junior Ana Hamilton. “She had a lot of flexibility with late assignments which made learning easier.”

“I admire her work ethic and how organized she was,” said Isabella Gonzales, another junior. “Coming in never really teaching before can be hard, especially on Zoom. She kept everything very organized which made it easy to learn … Personally I had a great experience with Ms. Laymance. Not only was she super kind, but she was very understanding, cared about us, was super creative and overall was a really great student teacher. I think her future is very bright.”

Ms. Laymance emphasized this difficulty she faced when teaching over Zoom as Gonzales noted.

“It was challenging to adapt to an online learning model when all of my schooling prepared me to teach in the classroom. This was especially difficult as a Chemistry teacher, as conducting labs at home was often not possible. To overcome this challenge, I sought the wisdom of my mentors and constantly researched new methods to make online science instruction engaging.”

Kristen Strohm, Mrs. Weir’s two-month student teacher for biology during the second semester, elaborated on the biggest challenge she faced during her experience at Bear River.

“I think my personal biggest challenge has been figuring out how to estimate how long things are going to take and specifically what kind of support students need,” she said. “I’ve come in with a lot of background in ecology and it’s easy for me to forget what it’s like to be starting out in high school.” 

She continued to provide an example of how she adapted her teaching style during her time on campus to better support students.

“I found that one of the things that seems to have made the biggest difference has been giving folks more examples,” she said. “Especially if we’re doing something, a lot of times, folks understand the concepts that we’re learning, [but] it’s something else to apply that understanding to doing something.” 

Junior Caitlin Parker commented on why she enjoyed her time with Mrs. Strohm in her third period biology class. 

“I think the thing I admired most about her … is just how passionate they are about the subject they’re teaching,” she said. “Strohm was an actual biologist before she decided on going into teaching, so her passion and understanding of her field really showed. Oftentimes she would go off topic and tell us things that we wouldn’t usually know which was really fun sometimes.”

This year has proven to be challenging towards both students and teachers; however, some students, including Hamilton, are inclined to argue that the student teachers are more prepared for their future careers as a result of the difficulties they faced.

“I believe their student teaching experiences this year better prepared them for their future teaching career because they were faced with many challenges, especially during COVID-19, and continued to do their best jobs,” said Hamilton. 

However, Parker had a different opinion than Hamilton.

“I feel like Ms. Strohm’s experience was hampered simply because while most of us were in the classroom for her stint here, not everyone was, and there were all the other COVID-19 procedures too,” she said. “I feel like while it may not have been detrimental to her experience and she was lucky to come later so she could be with most of us in the classroom, it would have been more beneficial for her and fun for us if this had been post-COVID as ultimately that’s how she’ll be teaching in the future.”

Despite the difficult school year, both student teachers strongly conveyed their love for their job, becoming more sure of their career paths.

“My experience has not made me second guess my career choice,” said Ms. Laymance. “Rather, it has confirmed my desire to be a teacher. While being a student teacher during COVID-19 was challenging, I learned so much about what it means to be a teacher. The connections I made with some of my students has led me to believe that I can truly make a difference as an educator.”

“I have actually been really, really loving it. It feels really right,” said Mrs. Strohm. “I’ve just been really excited to get to meet so many bright, awesome young people … To be able to watch people grow and be a part of that has been huge for me … [To see] they’re [students] actually learning and figuring it out for themselves makes me really happy, …  and also to be able to enjoy all of you awesome people. I’ve been loving it.”

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Student teachers succeed despite irregular year