Student Teachers Overcome Pandemic to Succeed in Virtual Education

December 14, 2020

photo of Stephen Weatherburn

Stephen Weatherburn

Las Vegas, N.M – Student teachers from New Mexico Highlands University didn’t let the pandemic and the need for virtual education stop them during the fall semester, 2020, completing their training with excellence as demonstrated by improved K-12 student test scores and receiving teaching job offers.

“Our student teachers stepped up and entered their final semester not quite knowing what to expect, but ready for the challenge,” said Stephen Weatherburn, director of the School of Education Field Experience Office at Highlands. “They did not simply survive their student teaching semester, or just succeed with it, but they excelled.”

Thirty-five School of Education student teachers started the fall semester and 34 completed their training online with schools throughout New Mexico. One will complete her student teaching spring semester 2021.

“In fall 2020, these Highlands student teachers exemplified flexibility, resilience and a growth mindset. They brought high quality education to students across New Mexico, from Las Cruces and Ruidoso to Los Lunas, Albuquerque and Rio Rancho, to Las Vegas, Santa Fe, Pojoaque and Española and from Chama to Farmington,” Weatherburn said.

Weatherburn said the student teachers’ success was evidenced with their young students gaining in standardized MAPS and I-Station testing as well as with attendance and participation.

“It’s interesting to note that none of the Highlands student teachers were trained to work with K-12 students in virtual education environments. Yet they worked closely with their students and families to achieve remarkable quality. They went in with open minds and open hearts and participated with the school districts’ professional development, focused on their students, and did what was needed to empower student learning.

“The student teachers created a professional practice rooted in their educational philosophies and driven be a desire to ensure their students got the best possible learning opportunities despite the difficulties of working in virtual environments,” Weatherburn said.

Weatherburn said most of the Highlands student teachers have already accepted offers for full-time teaching positions this spring semester as licensed teachers.

“Many accepted positions in the schools in which they completed their student teaching. They will start Jan. 4 and 5, 2021,” Weatherburn said.

Weatherburn said one reason he thinks the student teachers succeeded is that for several years the School of Education (SOE) has put great emphasis on professional attributes as well as formal teaching pedagogy – method and practice skills.

“I suspect it is these soft skills such as reflective and ethical practice and a dedication to social justice and collaboration that paid off this fall. Plus, of course, the student teachers’ commitment to their schools and their students drove them to excel despite any obstacles,” Weatherburn said.

Weatherburn said the student teachers’ success is also testimony to Highlands University and the School of Education professors as well as teachers and administrators in partner schools.

“What our student teachers learned in SOE courses they were able to transfer to different environments. Their success is also an indication of how much our student teachers value education, love their students, and work hard for New Mexico students to grow academically, socially and linguistically, developing their content knowledge, skills and strategies,” Weatherburn said.

Weatherburn said Korrie Lopez is just one of the outstanding student teachers from the fall semester.

“I am thankful for all of my struggles this last semester because I am able to see my student’s situations from a different perspective,” Lopez said. “I am able to see attending school from a different perspective than just ​as an educator. I am able to put myself in their shoes and understand a little bit of how they are feeling. I am a better teacher because of this.”