Different Educational Experience May Await Student-Teachers

LOWER POTTSGROVE PA – Some educational experiences to be offered this fall by the Pottsgrove School District to three West Chester University student-teachers possibly will be unlike what their predecessors have known, members of the district Board of School Directors observed during its Tuesday (July 14, 2020) meeting.

The assignment of student-teachers Sydney Place, Lauren Eckardt, and Avamarie Gonvalves all were approved as part of the board agenda. Directors authorized:

  • Lower Pottsgrove Elementary fifth-grade learning support teacher Vanessa Barniak to work with Place from Aug. 26 to Oct. 16, and with Eckardt from Oct. 19 to Dec. 10;
  • Lower Pottsgrove Elementary third-grade teacher Rebecca Puglia to work with Eckardt from Aug. 26 to Oct. 16, and with Place from Oct. 19 to Dec. 10; and
  • Ringing Rocks Elementary first-grade teacher Lauren Delp to work with Gonvalves from Aug. 26 to Dec. 10.

The university on July 10 became the region’s first higher-education institution to announce it would move students and faculty to all-online instruction this fall. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, university President Christopher Fiorentino wrote, West Chester “cannot ignore the potential danger of bringing thousands back to campus. Accordingly, our plans for the fall semester must adjust to this new reality.”

Whatever face-to-face interaction the three student-teachers might have anticipated with university personnel may be modified in the wake of Fiorentino’s decision.

Directors noted if Pottsgrove itself moves to a part-live, part-online hybrid method to teach students as the pandemic persists, or to an all-online virtual one, some classroom experiences student-teachers hoped for might be altered or eliminated. What then?, the administration was asked.

“We just do the best we can,” Assistant Superintendent Dr. Robert Harney replied.

Place, Eckardt, and Gonvalves aren’t the only student-teachers who may be affected. During earlier meetings the board authorized student-teacher placements for James Harrop of Gwynedd Mercy University with Pottsgrove High School teachers Maggie Scott and Tom Bannister, from Aug. 25 to Dec. 11; and Jacob Witty of Temple University with high school teacher Brett Mazzerle, from Aug. 25 to Dec. 4.

Working with student-teachers during the pandemic is the subject of an April 8 (2020) opinion piece written by University of Southern California associate professor John Pascarella and published in Education Week magazine. Its title: “What Happens to Student-Teachers Now? A Guide for Teachers.”

Photo within the public domain by Paul Mann via Usaf, modified by The Post