UTEP Student Teachers Help with Switch to Online Education

Student teachers from The University of Texas at El Paso are among the educators who helped area school districts transition to online delivery formats, thanks in part to the preparation they received at UTEP.

Under the supervision of mentors, 121 student teachers worked from their remote home “offices” to assist their assigned campuses to prepare for the resumption of the spring 2020 semester. The help ranged from shared ideas of how to teach online to requests to search for the best student-centered education websites.

Additionally, some developed electronic worksheets to engage and educate their students.

Adan Contreras, a senior applied learning and development major, helped his team at Parkland Pre-Engineering Middle School in Northeast El Paso, where he teaches seventh-grade math. He surfed the web and found an interactive program that would serve students and teachers. He suggested it to his department chair, who approved it.

While there were some initial challenges, Contreras and other student teachers spoke of the energy and camaraderie involved in working as part of a team with a common goal of educating students. He said he often relies on the soft skills he learned at UTEP.

“We are taught to keep open minds, to be flexible and collaborate,” Contreras said recently after an online session with some of his students. “We know that as educators, nothing in the classroom will remain set. Change is constant. We learn from the bad as well as the good, and we will use what we learn to help our students.”

Janet Quiroz, a senior interdisciplinary studies major, teaches fourth-grade dual language students at Mesita Elementary School. When her campus leaders announced the shift to distance learning, she shared what she knew about technology integration and online resources.

To assist her mentor teacher, she posted science tasks and joined in virtual classes. She continues to search for student-friendly online activities.

“Seeing how we (teachers) can adapt to new circumstances from one day to another, it is very motivational and inspiring,” Quiroz said.

Rudy Lozano, a senior history major, helped his mentor teacher through the preparation of online lesson plans. He is a 10th-grade world geography teacher at Canutillo High School. Since the resumption of classes, he has participated in online class conferences and helped to grade online assignments.

The campus mentor teachers, who often are seasoned UTEP graduates, have praised their student teachers for their contributions and eagerness to assist.

Erika Mein, Ph.D., associate dean of undergraduate studies and educator preparation and associate professor of literacy/biliteracy education, said that the college was pleased with the initiative of its student teachers to stay involved and to familiarize themselves with new platforms such as Nearpod, Schoology and Google Classroom.

“This is a process of change, adaptation and learning to continue to meet the needs of our students and to continue to uphold the high standard of quality in the preparation of teachers for our region and beyond,” Mein said.

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