COVID-19 and distance learning affect student-teaching experience

Following the University of Iowa’s decision to move all remaining semester courses online, field experiences, such as student teaching, were also canceled.


Katie Goodale

The Lindquist Center is seen on July 30, 2019.

Caroline Price, News Reporter

University of Iowa students working toward an education degree are grappling with K-12 school closures ending early their time as student teachers.

Instead of the field experience, individuals in the UI Teacher Education Program are continuing their student teaching with an online class, so students can earn their degrees in the spring.

“All student field experiences in PK-12 school settings have been suspended for students in the University of Iowa’s Teacher Education Program for the Spring 2020 semester,” UI College of Education Clinical Professor Nancy Langguth said in an email to The Daily Iowan. “This includes the in-school hours for students who are enrolled in coursework that typically includes a measure of in-school placements as well as for student teachers.”

Langguth said in the email that the abrupt ending of student teaching will not block most student teachers from receiving their degrees on time, because student teaching can now be substituted with an online course.

“Fortunately, all of these in-school placements occur in association with a course, including student teaching, and those courses will continue with online-delivery of content adapted to current realities being faced in PK-20 education at present,” Langguth said.

UI student teacher in English education Clara Wertzberger said that she believes the Iowa Teacher Education Program has prepared student teachers well for their futures, and — despite an abrupt end to her semester — she will move on with abundant knowledge and confidence because of the support of the UI College of Education.

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“It definitely took me a few days to adjust and say goodbye only halfway through the experience,” Wertzberger said. “That said, I am glad that high schools and universities are taking these steps of closure and e-learning out of concern for community health and safety.”

She voiced concern, however, about how a lack of experience student teaching could cause potential problems for her and her peers when searching for jobs in the future.

“It is so odd to me to imagine myself in job interviews and having to explain that due to a pandemic, I did not get to put some of my lesson plans into action or see my senior students graduate in May,” Wertzberger said.

On March 15, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds recommended schools close for at least four weeks to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus. She issued an order Thursday requiring schools to close until April 30.

Despite the unexpected change of events, UI fourth-grade student teacher Katelyn Moore said she is staying positive.

“My student-teaching experience has been truly unforgettable,” Moore said. “I am so grateful for the eight weeks I had in the Iowa City Community School District.”

Although student teaching has come to a sudden end, Moore said she still feels self-assured when it comes to her future career.

“While I believe that completing the full 16 weeks of student teaching would have greatly benefited me, I do feel prepared to have my own classroom in the fall,” Moore said. “The College of Education has provided courses that are relevant and require critical thinking, as well as numerous opportunities to implement effective teaching strategies with students.”

Wertzberger reflected on the time she had with her students before the novel coronavirus prompted abrupt school closures.

“This change has made me more grateful for the time I did spend with my students, and has helped reinforce the idea that — as educators — we only get so much time with our students,” Wertzberger said. “I hope to head into a teaching job this fall with this in mind, in the hopes that it helps me appreciate every day that I have with my students.”