Encouraged by former teachers to chase her dreams, Bonnie Skye was committed to becoming an educator who meaningfully impacts her students—just like the ones she had throughout her schooling.
“Growing up, my teachers have always meant a lot to me and made really big impacts on my life in a positive way,” Skye said. “I wanted to do the same because I had that experience.”
Overcoming obstacles like navigating a learning disability, battling a melanoma diagnosis and unexpectedly moving out of state, Skye, a student in the University of South Florida (USF) College of Education, will graduate this weekend with a Bachelor of Science in English Education.
Skye, whose husband is active duty in the military, started her college journey at Oklahoma State University before transferring to USF when he was restationed at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa. Right before beginning her teaching internship—traditionally an in-person experience completed in one of USF’s partner school districts—Skye was told they would be relocating again to Bellevue, Neb.
To finish her degree, Skye was placed with a collaborating teacher at Pasco eSchool, a franchise of Florida Virtual School that provides virtual instruction to K-12 students in Pasco County Schools.
By completing her field experience from a distance, Skye explored what it takes to be a certified teacher through a unique and timely lens. She says teaching online gave her a new understanding of what it’s like to be an educator in today’s digital learning environment.
“It kind of rocked my world at first,” Skye said. “I think a lot of us have myths that online teaching is easier or you’re going to have all of this free time. I kind of had those misconceptions going into it, and it’s just the complete opposite.”
An example Skye shared about the difference between the brick-and-mortar classroom and teaching at Pasco eSchool is the online school’s operating hours. It’s open from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. to allow time for online instruction, grading and lesson planning and virtual conferences with families to share updates on student progress.
While she misses the face-to-face interaction with students, Skye said she’s developed a new appreciation for online teaching because of the strong emphasis placed on student learning outcomes.
“The tools that we have now online have just blown my mind,” Skye said. “I’m trying my best to stay within the online curriculum just because I love it that much. It’s very different but it’s very rewarding to see students work themselves through the modules, especially because online schooling is very student-centered.”
Skye says her USF professors have been a tremendous help while studying at the university, and that frequent check-ins with instructors and her internship supervisor helped her stay on track toward graduation.
When asked about Skye’s participation in the virtual field experience, Laura Sabella, PhD, director of field and clinical education at the College of Education, said this version of clinical education required some flexibility and creative problem-solving, but that it also offered a new learning experience for the students completing their final semester in USF’s secondary education program.
“When we have students who complete their clinical experiences in nontraditional settings, such as online teaching environments, it creates a richer conversation amongst students in our program who are learning from one another,” Sabella said. “As a result of her final internship experience, Bonnie was able to bring back her perspective to share with other pre-service teachers in Senior Seminar. It was a win-win all around.”
After graduation, Skye will be working in the childcare center at the military base where her family is stationed. She’s also working on the application to transfer her educator certification to Nebraska, so she can begin her teaching career in a high school English classroom. In the long-term, she said she plans to pursue graduate school, starting with a master’s degree, and aspires to one day become a college professor.
As she prepares for graduation, Skye says the advice she’d like to share with other education students at USF is despite the many obstacles you may face, it’s important to continue working towards the finish line.
“Education in itself is not going to be easy, but it will always be worth it,” Skye said. “Not only for yourself, but it’s a gift you can give to other generations as well. It’s something that continues on, and it never stops.”
USF's English Education program develops and supports secondary teachers of English Language Arts of all backgrounds and at all levels as they expand access to literacy, empower language users, encourage critical thinking, create and deepen professional communities, and continue to learn and share what they know.