When Schools Closed, this Student Teacher got Busy

Story by Robin Chenoweth


In the final months of their graduating year, preservice teachers’ training culminates within their school placements. Students observe coordinating teachers for months. Lesson plans are set. The students are ready for the most exciting moment of their college careers — taking the helm in the classroom.

But in March, that’s precisely when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down school buildings … and student teachers’ expectations.

“All of these things that I had been planning to do to finish out my student teaching experience … they really did just get wiped out from underneath me,” said Katie Konrad, BS ’20, who was student teaching in a first-grade class in Beacon Elementary in Hilliard City Schools.

Undeterred, Konrad got busy. “We had to get creative and find new ways to help our teachers remotely.”

A literacy media class, EDUTL 5226: Composing Print and Digital Multimodal Texts, had prepared her cohort to incorporate digital tools for children to learn by. But until March, teaching remotely was not something she — or any classroom teacher — had expected to do.

So, Konrad dug in and picked up pointers from her mom, a sixth-grade teacher in Rocky River, Ohio, who is a certified Google educator.

“She was teaching me stuff and I would run it by my cooperating teacher, and say, ‘Hey, I think I’m going to try this out with this week’s math lesson.'”

Teacher Ellen Harpham, MA ’01, and others on her team encouraged Konrad to experiment. Hilliard is a one-to-one district, with each student assigned an iPad. “So, our opportunities with at-home learning were pretty endless,” Konrad said.

She created screencasts, digital recordings of her computer screen that incorporated video snapshots of her explaining math concepts. She used a virtual manipulative tool to demonstrate telling time and counting money.

“I have a clock tool where I can click on my mouse and move the big hand or the little hands, or there was a coin manipulative where I could drag and drop the different coins,” she said.

The results are impressive. Her lessons were given not just for Harpham’s class, but all the school’s first graders. She continued helping through May, even after her placement had ended.

Konrad is the type of student that cooperating teachers hope for, Harpham said. In the months before schools closed, Konrad helped students — 6- and 7-year-olds — learn to screenshot their work and upload it to Google Drive.

“This was a huge benefit once we began online teaching,” Harpham said. “Having this prior knowledge made things easier for the students and their parents.”

“We were all so lucky,” she said. “She taught me a lot. I would have to call her and be like, ‘Okay, how do I embed this thing?’ She was really tech savvy which really benefitted us all.”

Seeking solutions and being willing to learn on the fly propelled Konrad. “In a time where everyone’s just trying to stay afloat,” she said, “I was able to keep learning. I think that made all the difference.”

Konrad began her new job, teaching third grade at Stevenson Elementary School in Grandview, Ohio, in August.