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Elementary education students learn to teach online

Limited fact-to-face interaction challenges elementary education majors and K-8 students
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Limited fact-to-face interaction challenges elementary education majors and K-8 students

The pandemic forced limited face-to-face interaction between Humboldt State University’s Liberal Studies Elementary Education majors and currently enrolled K-8 students in Humboldt County.

According to John Lee, a School of Education professor, community building amongst the LSEE students is easier in face-to-face classes. In an effort to build community in his classes, Lee used extended breakout group activities, games for students, breathing exercises, brain and music breaks and regular check-ins.

“Feeling a part of a community or social integration is essential for learning,” Lee said. “It puts students at ease so they can focus on learning.”

Fourth-year, undergraduate students and those in the teaching credential program started out the year teaching over Zoom. As more local schools opened up, HSU students were able to conduct limited face-to-face instruction with their elementary students using a hybrid instruction model.

Stella Mantova, a LSEE major, teaches in a second grade classroom at Alice Birney School in Eureka. Because Eureka started the school year online, Mantova, her students and the other teachers experienced a huge learning curve.

“Teaching over 20, seven-year-olds at once isn’t an easy task,” Mantova said. “But when you add in the fact that some of them are still learning to unmute their microphones, things become a lot more complicated.”

Of all the challenges Mantova has faced since the pandemic began, connecting with her students has been the most challenging.

“Online teaching seems like we don’t have as much time to get to know each other because we need to use the majority of our time to teach the standards,” Mantova said.

Mother of three and LSEE major, Maxine Welch, missed interacting with her teachers and peers. Instead of being in a classroom, Welch watched pre-recorded lectures.

“I would have liked to be able to be more interactive as an LSEE student, because I know a lot of my classes revolve around interaction,” Welch said. “Interaction with other teachers to learn their teaching techniques as well as interactions with students to learn how to adapt to the teaching needs.”

Along with the effects the pandemic has had on LSEE students, the Children’s Center on campus had to adapt. Following local and state guidelines, the Center is currently operating at half-capacity. They’ve had to make several adjustments to ensure the children, parents and staff stay safe.

Stephen St. Onge, director of the Children’s Center, is most concerned about the lack of social interaction between the children, classmates and teachers.

“The team at the Center has had to revamp the way children and families are greeted, the number of students allowed in any classroom at a given time, and have had to modify their learning modalities and curriculum,” St. Onge said.

Betsy Wilson, program director for the Children’s Center, added that the biggest challenges were keeping everyone healthy and making sure the Center stays staffed.

“The hardest part about being an elementary education major right now is that everything always seems to be changing,” Mantova said. “Just when I think I’ve established a routine and I know what to expect from teaching and from my HSU experience, some new guideline shifts and I have to plan my life all over again.”

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