Student Teaching in the Time of Coronavirus: Megan Caton

Posted on 5/4/2020 12:21:35 PM

Megan Caton’s final semester of college has been spent in the front seat, riding an emotional rollercoaster.

A senior expecting to graduate in May with a degree in early childhood special education, Megan wondered why this was all happening now, and she worried about how her future would look. The uncertainty was real. As a student teacher, her last semester doesn’t take place on campus. Normally, she would be face-to-face with the students and a cooperating teacher, in an elementary school. Instead, face-to-face would be non-existent.

Major

Early Childhood and Special Education

Hometown

Palmyra, Pennsylvania

“We’re not in classes. We don’t take finals,” she said. “Our student-teacher placement is the final thing we do to get our degree. We have lesson plans to complete for our cooperating teachers and we have assignments for our teacher preparation professors at IUP. When things shut down I just didn’t know how we were going to get anything done.”

Megan Caton waves to first-grade students in Dr. Sherman’s class before she starts to read Five Little Monkey’s.

As school districts across the state scrambled to continue educating hundreds of thousands of public school children, Indiana Area School District first grade teachers maintained their commitment to student teachers, and Megan was one of them.

“I’m so thankful they offered this opportunity,” she said. “I’ve been invited to faculty meetings and watched how they are planning virtual instruction as the weeks move forward. I’ve learned so much being exposed to the behind-the-scenes part. The teamwork I’ve seen has been impressive and is something I’ll carry with me into my career.”

Caton’s mother is an elementary teacher, and as Megan moved home to Palmyra to isolate with her family, she watched how much work was going into the effort to move K-12 instruction online. Before the stay-at-home order, Megan had planned to teach the organisms unit for science to the first-graders in her class. A self-described goal setter, Megan continued on that path, albeit online.

“I just wanted to help with their workload,” she said. “I watched my mom’s work moving curriculum online and sat in for a few in-services in her district and realized that I could use some of the technology solutions to continue to teach lessons for the students at Ben Franklin Elementary virtually.”

The first-grade student teachers at Indiana Area School District have aided instruction from afar. From managing virtual field trips, to creating the math question of the day, Caton’s cooperating teacher, Katie Sherman, said they have been a huge help.

“Ahead of time she came to the school and met me,” Sherman said. “I told her what she’d be teaching. She embraced the unit and came up with 10 slides of first-grade appropriate content with verbal directions and interactive lessons. It was easy to use and has helped us tremendously.”

Caton said that even though she’s not physically in the classroom with Sherman, the experiences during this semester have been integral in her growth. She already has landed a job, at Buffalo Trail Elementary in Loudoun County, Virginia, beginning in the fall.

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“Megan has been great,” Sherman said. “As we went into this, one of my fears was ‘how am I going to tell her what to do when I’m not quite sure what I’m doing?’ We figured it out. She’s got a job and I’m just so happy for her. This experience has been difficult, but she’s really taken it in stride.”