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Leveraging Teacher Candidates as Assets During the Pandemic: A Win-Win for All

Supporting Inclusive SchoolsLast month, AACTE partnered with CCSSO, the Center on Great Teachers and Leaders at the American Institutes for Research, and the CEEDAR Center to discuss how teacher candidates can be leveraged as assets for PK-12 districts navigating online learning and uncertainty during the pandemic. During the webisode hosted by CCSSO, Loretta Mason-Williams from Binghamton University, Jacqueline Rodriguez from AACTE, and Christian Rodgers from AASA set the stage for how the needs of teacher candidates, schools, and families are changing in 2020. With this shift in needs comes opportunities for both schools and teacher candidates.

This webisode also featured faculty and staff from AACTE member institution, Boston University, and Boston public schools, along with Lindsey Decker, a current teacher candidate. Decker shared her experiences supporting her mentor teacher in an online environment and noted “teachers are looking for additional adults to be in the classrooms.” In the virtual environment, Decker said she works with learners in small breakout groups and “one-on-one to lessen the gap that we’re seeing from the pandemic.”

Beyond supporting her mentor teacher, Decker finds that the virtual environment is challenging her in new ways. As an early childhood teacher, she must tap into her creativity to adjust her instruction from the hands-on learning that takes place in the classroom setting to two-dimensional virtual learning. Decker’s wholistic approach to learning has demonstrated the gaps in equity of materials available in students’ homes. She has learned to take this into consideration and plan for the coordination and drop off of materials in advance of her lessons. The challenges Decker is facing in the virtual environment continue to grow her expertise and further prepare her for a career in early childhood education.

For additional recommendations on how teacher candidates can be used as resources during online learning, review the Addressing Shortages of Educators in an Uncertain COVID-19 Landscape: Viewing Teacher Candidates as Assets. You can also listen in to the full webisode recording.

This webisode builds upon AACTE’s initial call to action in March of 2020 for state and local education agencies to identify opportunities for special education teacher candidates to continue to contribute to the education advancement of students with disabilities. While the timing of the end of the pandemic is uncertain, the need for special educators with a diverse set of experiences and exposure to online instruction continues to grow. Positioning teacher candidates in ways that they can support the virtual learning environment is a win-win for both the PK-12 teachers and the candidates, but more importantly, it’s a win for the students who are facing learning loss as a result of the pandemic.

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Caitlin Wilson

Director, Program Improvement and Practice, AACTE