by Sydney Beecher Contributing Writer
During the COVID-19 pandemic, students majoring in Elementary Education have been completing their practicums through placements in online programs and in-person placements.
All students majoring in Education must go through practicum, a combination of seminars and hands-on classroom experiences, in order to graduate within their program. The seminars are designed to teach students educational theories and practices that they can apply to their future classrooms. Students are also placed in a classroom in the Farmington region where they will spend up to 10 hours a week working with students and a mentor. The main goal of practicums are to bridge the gap between education courses and student teaching.
Because of the challenges COVID-19 presents to in-person learning, practicums have undergone a handful of changes in order to adjust to online learning. Ashley Clark, a junior majoring in Elementary Education and completing her practicum this fall, said one of the biggest changes that were made this year was the placement of students. “There wasn’t a lot of in-person placement,” she said. “Out of the 24 of us in my seminar, half of us were placed in Mallet [Elementary School] and the other half were placed in this new online academy.”
This online academy, which Clark was placed at, was introduced by the Mt. Blue Region for students whose parents did not want them attending in-person schooling.
Within the online academy, there are 12 advanced practicum students from UMF, teachers who will act as mentors, an administrator, and reading, writing, and math specialists from Mallet Elementary School. One of the biggest issues Clark worries about is the communication, as she believes she’ll have trouble effectively communicating through technology. “I asked to be placed in kindergarten,” Clark said, “so for me, it could mean that I join the classroom for morning meeting, I read a book out loud to them, or help students one-on-one if they’re having trouble.”
On the other hand, elementary education students who are completing their practicums in-person, such as senior Elise Guerrette, are attempting to adjust to the new reality of being in a classroom environment. “I had to wear a mask and face shield whenever I was closer than three feet to a student,” she said, “and it was hard to read facial expressions.” Guerrette, who was placed at Spruce Mountain Elementary School in Jay, also mentioned how bare the classroom was since most things had to be put away.
Despite all of the challenges and adjustment practicums face this semester, Guerrette feels that her unique practicum experience will benefit her in the long run. “My practicum experience will really help me in the future, especially since I am going to be teaching next year!” she said.
by April Mulherin, UMF Associate Director for Media Relations
This story was a press release by the UMF Media Relations Department.
(Left to right) Maggie Pomerleau, UMF senior majoring in secondary education, as she worked in the classroom with Denise Mochamer, her mentor teacher from Mt. Blue Middle School, prior to remote learning directive due to COVID-19.
Photo Credit: UMF Image
FARMINGTON, ME (April 28, 2020)—University of Maine at Farmington graduating senior Maggie Pomerleau, from Sidney, was excited about student teaching and her spring semester at UMF. Things changed when in March, University of Maine System campuses and K-12 schools throughout the state transitioned all in-class instruction to remote learning, due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
With a major in Secondary Education, and a concentration in English, she was in the midst of fulfilling her student teaching requirement with Mt. Blue Middle School eighth-grade teacher Denise Mochamer, UMF class of 1989, and the 80 middle school students from four classrooms in the cohort.
Pomerleau felt very fortunate to have Mochamer as her mentor teacher and loved the kids.
“I was pretty stressed at the start, as I’m sure we all were,” said Pomerleau. “My time at Farmington has really prepared me for the teaching profession, and I didn’t want to miss my student teaching experience.”
Mochamer’s response to the situation was calm and supportive, according to Pomerleau. “Once we all caught our breath it was, “okay, how do we make this work for our kids?”
“We had to think outside the box,” said Pomerleau. “We are so fortunate that students in the Mt. Blue School District have laptops they can use and take home.
Mochamer transitioned classroom activities to Google Classroom, and office hours were set up with an online tool, three times a week, for students who needed extra help or just wanted to reach out. Also, Pomerleau has a weekly virtual meeting with her mentor teacher. Communication is key as Google Hangouts and email provide useful tools for staying in touch with students.
They still had to figure out how to help the students without internet at home, according to Pomerleau. She helped Mochamer create work packets the students could pick up when they picked up their daily meals provided by the district’s food service.
UMF student Maggie Pomerleau on one of her many virtual meetings with mentor teacher Denise Mochamer as they create virtual student teaching experience.
Photo Credit: UMF Image
“I have truly enjoyed working with Maggie this spring,” said Mochamer. “It didn’t go as originally planned, but we certainly have been creative and worked through this new learning. I wouldn’t have wanted to go through it with anyone else but her.”
For the unit on argumentative writing, Pomerleau created a lesson plan and was busy grading 80 essays, while also working on her digital portfolio and teacher work sample for the end of her school year.
“It’s been hard not being at the middle school during my last semester at UMF. I see my students missing their friends, spring sports and the end of the year activities, and I am going through the same thing,” said Pomerleau.
“It’s been a challenging experience, but one that has helped prepare me for the crucial and evolving role teachers fill every day.”
In addition to her studies, Pomerleau has served as the student representative for the University of Maine System Board of Trustees, vice president for the UMF Class of 2020, a member of the UMF Student Senate and an Admissions Ambassador.