When schools in New York went virtual as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, teachers-in-training had to switch gears as well. Officials at Pace University’s School of Education at the Pleasantville campus in Westchester County had to adapt just as students did. WAMC’s Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Allison Dunne has a story about a new program that fills a need for both students in the Ossining School District and teachers-in-training at Pace.
Director of School Partnerships at Pace University’s School of Education Jennifer Argenta talks about the genesis of a virtual tutoring program.
“The superintendent of the Ossining schools, Ray Sanchez, contacted the School of Education once schools shut down to see how he could further support his students and the community at large,” says Argenta. “And, at that point in time, the School of Education was also being very affected with regards to our clinical experiences for our teacher candidates. So teacher candidates who were just student teaching were obviously no longer in school settings and had to migrate to online assistance with their cooperating teachers.”
The brainstorming began and a program outline emerged. Argenta says they developed the program at the end of March and it took shape in mid-April, ensuring that it met state standards for student teaching candidate requirements.
“And everything shifted mid-semester, and so this program really started to just fill a niche as far as what we could provide to not only support the teachers and communities that we have partners with, but also, it also helped to enhance the clinical experience of our teacher candidates who are able to really work one-on-one with students and with their classroom teachers to really provide more of a supplemental role in the classroom as it went virtually,” Argenta says.
Argenta says it was clear there was a need in the community.
“When the Ossining District put out the virtual, the flyer to parents saying if you would like to have additional support through a Pace University student, they received over 160 responses within a 24-hour period of time,” Argenta says.
“We were late to the game but we got a good four weeks in with students before our semester ended mid-May here at Pace, but what we did find is that a lot of the students who signed up to assist with the tutoring did continue through the academic year for the District,” says Argenta. “So they will be continuing through June, most of them will be continuing to work with students through June even though the semester is officially over here at Pace.”
Victoria Bennis is a graduate student at Pace who volunteered to work with students in the Ossining School District. She has been tutoring three students, two in third grade and one in fourth.
“For me, it’s been a really great opportunity and experience to be able to just support students in the community during this time,” Bennis says. “Obviously, it’s not the ideal situation for students to all of a sudden switch into something they’ve never done before with this completely online learning, but having the online tutoring with the Pace students, I think has definitely helped to support students in that transition.
Bennis says she has learned to adapt and become more flexible in a teaching environment.
“We’re going to continue to use technology in the classroom no matter what because of all this stuff happening, so being able to access web sites for online learning and figure out how to communicate effectively through different online applications with students and things like that are definitely incredibly helpful to teachers-in-training right now because it seems like that’ll probably be part of our future,” says Bennis.
“And that was sort of part of the design. As we were sort of building this plan in the air, so to speak, we did think about, yes, this is speaking to a very particular point in history and time when students do need this support, and parents and teachers do need this support right now, but, moving post-pandemic, the applications for this are, are really abound,” says Argenta. “We can really continue this program, and we are continuing through this summer and look forward to continuing into the fall as well.”
The virtual tutoring platform gives the Ossining district’s students an opportunity to receive academic support from nearly 30 teachers-in-training. Victoria Bennis:
“I have one student that I am working with currently that I hope to continue working with over the summer whose mom is in the healthcare industry, and she essentially is a single mother and, since she works in the healthcare industry, her daughter has to attend the daycare at the hospital that she works at. And I just, I’ve been tutoring her while she’s in the daycare at the hospital. And you could tell she’s just really excited when we get to face time and, like everyone else right now, people and kids just want to have contact with other people and feel comfortable talking to someone during this time where they, people really want connection,” Bennis says. “So she’s super happy every time I pop up, we pop up on our Google meets and she’s in her daycare, and I think it’s just a really good part of her day, and I really want to continue to help support her and people. I’m sure there’s a ton of other students or kids who are in similar situations that are part of the tutoring program that are getting this kind of support during this time.”
Bennis is set to graduate in December.