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In March of 2020, Virtual High School and Virtual Elementary School began working with coordinators for the teacher education program at Western University to create learning opportunities for teacher candidates. Our common goal was to provide ways for teacher candidates to gain experience teaching in an online environment. The project challenged us to quickly overcome barriers and establish meaningful teacher education opportunities during a pandemic. Together, VHS and the Althouse College of Education were able to establish a collaborative partnership, raising the bar in modern teacher education.

We would like to share the teacher candidates’ experiences as members of the first cohort to participate in this partnership.

 

                                                                   Mark Froncisz

My placement at Virtual High School was incredible. It is such a unique and innovative learning environment which will only become more popular in the future. It was an invaluable experience to be a part of a virtual school, especially during this pandemic, and I’m sure that what I learned here will serve me well as I begin my teaching career.

My associate teacher was so helpful and supportive and was quick to give valuable feedback and notes. She trusted me to take the reins on certain tasks early on, and I am grateful for her commitment to helping me succeed. I appreciated the opportunities to interact with students via email and marking feedback. Even in the brief time of my practicum, I was able to watch some students improve their skills and take my critiques to heart. I immensely enjoyed my experience with VHS and would recommend a placement or job opportunity with  VHS to any of my other fellow teacher candidates.

 

Zoë Heritage-Hay

I really appreciated my experience at VHS for the different perspectives on education that it provided me. It gave me the chance to experience what being an educator in an online learning environment may look like and allowed me to develop new communication skills that are necessary when you aren’t in the same room as all of your students. I found I was able to gain confidence in my ability to mark assignments and give extensive feedback as this was an area I had not had the opportunity to gain much experience in before. As someone who is considering going into course/program development after graduation, I really appreciated having the opportunity to work on the writing task as well, as it opened me up to other sectors of the educational profession.

 

Jaima Theethe

My experience at VHS will remain memorable as it was my very first virtual placement. I am able to fully appreciate the work that goes behind developing online courses and their content. It takes a team of very talented individuals to ensure that all curriculum expectations are met and that students gain the best experience from this institution. Thank you VHS for a wonderful learning experience!

 

 

Kathleen McLean

Emily Stutzman, my associate teacher, was very supportive and always there to answer questions and provide feedback. Our regular meetings were so helpful to my learning and growth as a teacher candidate. I learned to develop skills necessary for online teaching and practiced assessment and communication strategies in the online classroom. The writing task was useful to gain a better understanding of the course structure, expectations, and curriculum links. I enjoyed developing new ideas for content and activities and practiced creating my own assessments as well.

 

Samuel Henri-Daze

This was my first online experience working as an AT, and I found it very progressive. My greatest concern was communication with not only the students but also my associate teacher. However, to my surprise, with all the communication tools employed such as Slack, Zoom, email, and Microsoft Teams, everything ran smoothly. I genuinely felt as though I was a part of a community of teachers. Also, because everything was done online when communicating with the students, it was always done one-on-one through email allowing me to focus and assist the student’s specific needs. It was an excellent experience, and I am very receptive to doing more with VHS in the future.

 

 

Ailish Kennelly

I am a primary/junior teacher candidate, but I was placed in a grade 9 science class. This opportunity allowed me to learn new curriculum and teaching methods. I do not think I would have ever had this opportunity without my VHS placement. I also learned a lot about assessment during this placement. I was given the opportunity to mark students’ work and create drafts of final report comments. My associate teacher, Sarah Rossi, was very helpful and discussed effective methods for teaching online and provided guidance for myself and the other teacher candidate about what to do after we graduate.

 

Emma Bilger

I feel like I have developed skills that I can use in both a physical and an online classroom, and I feel more prepared than ever. My associate teacher was incredibly kind and supportive and helped me navigate through this new territory. I enjoyed the flexibility of VHS and how it was very student-centred. The smaller class sizes in the music sections allowed me to connect with a smaller group of students, and it gave me the opportunity to watch them improve upon their skills in a short period of time.

 

Shyen Top

Before I began my placement, I knew that I wanted a career in virtual education and was excited to gain experience in a virtual setting. I was able to learn a lot of new teaching techniques and strategies from my associate teacher. After having such a positive experience, I hope that I can work with VHS in the future. Thank you for such a valuable placement.

 

Christina Gregg

I was placed in the PPL1O course which had very interesting content and assignments. I really enjoyed working alongside Mark, my associate teacher, and Alex, the other teacher candidate. I learned so much from our discussions, helping me to critically think about the purpose of the assignments/rubrics I create, how to successfully give feedback, and brainstorming ways to build a stronger community in an online learning setting. Unfortunately, the course was quite slow when I joined so I was unable to support very many students during my time. However, I was able to write comments for a final report and build my own professional development through my writing tasks and reflecting on extra resources from Mark (i.e. books, articles, videos).

 

Matthew Makaran

This practicum has given me a unique opportunity to explore the world of online classrooms. For my chosen career pathway of instructional designer, this was also a test of the LMS Brightspace (D2L) and the capabilities and nuances that differentiate it from others. I have also been able to see the pathways, time allotted, content that makes a unit, and the chosen medium to display that information, all of which will be extremely useful going forward in a world of online learning.

 

Amberle Tannahill

My experience with VHS has been both challenging and rewarding. I have appreciated the opportunity to spend time strengthening my assessment and feedback skills. I have learned that the purpose of assessment goes beyond grading and that feedback can be both a tool for learning and developing relationships with students. I have gained skills in digital communications across a variety of mediums and have learned how to meet the different communication needs of students across Ontario and the globe.

 

Emma Schroeder

I was the student teacher for PPL10. This was a fun experience for me as my undergrad degree is in kinesiology. It was interesting going through the course content and updating the assessments/structure of unit 4 and 5 for my writing task. My associate teacher, Lindsey, was awesome! She had so much knowledge to share and was willing to answer any questions I had. She also provided me with constructive and positive feedback, which is very helpful for my growth as a teacher. Overall, I had a great experience and I hope I get to work with VHS again in the future!