Cutting summer break short to get an early start on an internship isn’t something
that’s typical for college students.
But for several Elementary Education majors at the University of South Florida (USF), joining teachers in the university’s partner school districts to help with pre-planning activities felt like something they needed to do.
Randi Latzke, EdD, an instructor in USF’s Elementary Education Program who also serves as internship coordinator, says the pre-planning period gives student interns a chance to step into the role of a teacher before the first day of school.
“Taking part in pre-planning is beneficial for our students because they often don’t get to experience that part of getting ready for the school year in their field experiences until they’re in their own classrooms,” Dr. Latzke said. “So, this allows them to see how all of that comes together.”
For Maritza Rios, a USF senior in the Elementary Education Program, teaching virtually throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has left her in anticipation for her in-person internship at Sessums Elementary in Riverview, Fla.
Joining her collaborating teacher in the classroom weeks before internship officially kicks off has given her a leg-up on what she’ll see in practice, she says.
“Pre-planning is preparing me,” Rios said. “With my final internship coming up, I wanted to familiarize myself not only with my (collaborating teacher), but with the classroom. Things will change (throughout the year), but I’ll be able to adapt to those changes.”
Abagail Meler, a senior who will also intern at Sessums Elementary, said helping her collaborating teacher prepare for the school year gave her a full look at the responsibilities educators take on.
“This was an opportunity to see what pre-planning is like before I become a teacher and I’m on my own,” Meler said. “I’m realizing now that there’s so much that goes into setting up a classroom.”
Beyond transforming an empty classroom into an engaging learning environment for children,
pre-planning is an opportunity for teachers to gather supplies, review new educational
resources, and attend professional development and staff meetings while also planning
out lessons for the first two weeks of school.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, gearing up to teach K-12 learners this year will be different for every educator.
“We’re transitioning from a year where there was a huge amount of online instruction happening and everyone is now returning to the brick-and-mortar school,” Dr. Latzke said. “There is a lot of processes being put in place and information that (student interns) need to have so that they can be successful.”
Despite the challenges that may come, the USF interns are eager to meet their new students, develop their own lesson plans and lead instruction.
For Alyse Dixon, a senior in the Elementary Education Program, growing her skills
as an educator is what she aims to accomplish during her full-time internship.
“I’m really looking forward to getting the chance to teach and interact with kids,” Dixon said. “I want to start lesson planning with the team (at Sessums) and with my (collaborating teacher), Ms. Gallivan. I want to get to know my students individually. But, most of all, I want to practice for the future.”
USF’s Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education prepares aspiring educators to teach in elementary school settings by encouraging action research and reflective practice to develop teacher leaders.