Elementary education majors miss students, share worries over unmet graduation requirements

Wichita+State+University%27s+main+campus+is+known+for+its+multicolored+tulips%2C+which+bloom+every+spring.+The+university+announced+changes+for+the+spring+semester+on+Thursday.

FILE PHOTO/AUSTIN SHAW

Wichita State University's main campus is known for its multicolored tulips, which bloom every spring. The university announced changes for the spring semester on Thursday.

Wichita State senior Robin Zebedee had just started her pre-student teaching semester at Mueller Elementary School this spring, where she was expected to come into work every Wednesday. 

With Gov. Laura Kelly closing all K-12 schools early March to take precautions against the COVID-19, Zebedee is no longer able to return to Mueller.

“It just means that going into student teaching full-time, we are not going to have the experience we need to be able to be in the classroom and be able to teach lesson plans everyday,” Zebedee said.

She is planning to return to Mueller Elementary in the fall as a full-time student teacher.

Elementary education senior Yanet Mercardo, who was eight weeks into her full-time student teaching program at L’Ouverture Computer Technology Magnet Elementary School, shares similar disappointments. 

“I’m missing out on four weeks, and even in a [single] week, you learn so much about yourself and your classroom,” Mercardo said. “Each day you learn so much, and you take away four weeks, and that’s a lot.”

Although student teaching hours are required for their degrees, Zebedee’s and Mercardo said their professors have been helpful in guiding them through this confusing moment in their college careers. 

“One of my professors, Cathey Durano, had changed one of the requirements for one of our projects since we aren’t in school,” Zebedee said. “Now we have to find a way to help the kids that are being homeschooled right now, whether that’s spending time with them or calling their parents and helping their parents write a lesson plan.”

Other than WSU requirements, elementary education majors also have to meet a set of Kansas state requirements in order to receive their teaching license. 

“Some of us weren’t going to do those requirements [until after] spring break or towards the end of the semester,” Mercardo said. “We have a lot of students who are stuck having state requirements not met. I was working on stuff ahead of time, but I know a lot of my classmates didn’t.”

Mercardo also said the portfolio they need to turn in at the end of their senior year with all of their requirements are now going to be reviewed by WSU instead of by the state. 

“It’s gonna be up to WSU to see if [my] eight weeks are sufficient,” Mercardo said. “They are aware of what’s going on, so we each have to trust that what we have is sufficient.”

And even if WSU does say her eight weeks are sufficient, Mercardo still has no way of knowing when she will receive her teaching license. 

“I think this is gonna affect me getting a job, because I don’t know when I’m going to get my license,” Mercardo said. “I don’t know when this is all gonna be over so that I can get my teaching license so that I can actually teach.”

Mercardo probably shares the same sentiments as any other teaching major. She just misses her students and hopes to graduate herself.

“I miss my kids so much,” Mercardo said. “I told them, ‘Hey, I’ll see you after spring break,’ and now it’s like, ‘I’m never going to see you again.’”