Student teachers across the U.S. are adapting to the sudden changes in education caused by the COVID-19 pandemic including Black Hills State University senior Rachel Kremer of Billings, Mont., who is finishing her final weeks of student teaching at Sundance Elementary in Wyoming. Rachel will begin her master’s degree at the University of Arkansas next month where she received a full tuition scholarship because of her involvement at BHSU.
“I’m offering support to my third grade students in a far different way than I expected in my student teaching year,” says Rachel, elementary education major at BHSU.
Rachel joined Abbie Love’s third grade classroom in Sundance in September. Rachel completed her six-weeks in the classroom for her Teaching Methods course and then returned to the same classroom Jan. 6, planning to finish out the school year.
Her traditional student teaching experience changed abruptly in March when her school closed because of the pandemic.
“I’m glad I still get to connect with my students online. I’m teaching from an app on my phone now, creating educational videos on YouTube, and setting up Zoom meetings for families,” says Rachel. “A huge part of student teaching is learning how to be a better teacher, and also learning the ins and outs of every part of the classroom. My clinical educator plays a huge part in that, even online.”
As the semester wraps up at BHSU, Rachel will be on her way to the University of Arkansas where she accepted a graduate assistantship position in the Office of New Student and Family Programs. The graduate assistantship will provide Rachel a full tuition scholarship along with a monthly stipend while she earns her master’s degree in higher education with an emphasis in student affairs.
“Community was something I was looking for in a graduate school, because I had a great community of people who believed in me at BHSU,” says Rachel. “Because of each time I said yes and every opportunity I was given at BHSU, I now have this new opportunity in Arkansas.”
Rachel says working on campus all four years of her education helped her to make connections and friends. She moved in to the residence halls early her freshman year to begin work at Little Jackets Learning Center, the childcare center at BHSU, where she worked two years. She then earned an internship in the Student Engagement and Leadership Center at BHSU where she worked on the student activities app and with new student orientation.
Rachel created volunteer programs as President of the Campus Activities Board (CAB). She and the “Cabbies” collaborated with the senior living Hickory House for “A Wish to Remember” nights, where the students transformed the center’s dining area into Italy, Ireland, Mexico, and Japan allowing residents to “travel” places they had never been.
Inspired by a presentation by South Dakota Kids Belong at her church, Rachel spearheaded an effort to collect 100 suitcases for foster children. She and other BHSU students collected nearly 500 suitcases through the drive.
As Rachel now packs her bags for her job in Arkansas, she says she looks forward to sharing what she has learned at BHSU with her future students.
“I was surrounded by such amazing students, faculty, and staff at BHSU. I’m happy it’s so hard to say goodbye,” says Rachel. “Thank you for making the past four years the best I could have ever asked for.”