Teacher-Candidate Pep Talk: Just Keep Swimming

By Lydia Gerzel-Short, Lisa Liberty, and Laura Hedin

During these unprecedented times, teacher candidates need to remember the thoughtful words of Dori in Finding Nemo and “just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming!” Teacher candidates who continue to practice teaching even in the absence of “real” students are developing as effective teachers. Effective teachers practice their craft (Sydnor, 2016) and reflect upon the instruction (Nagro & deBettencourt, 2019). Being reflective and incorporating reflection into teaching is how teachers and students learn best (Dewey, 1933).

If school environments change and teacher candidates miss practicing teaching during their field placement, or student teaching experience, this does not mean they should stop teaching! In fact, teacher candidates become better teachers when they see their practice and reflect upon their instruction (Nagro & deBettencourt, 2019; Sydnor, 2016). In this article, we present a five-step model for preparing practice video lessons that teacher candidates can use to maintain their teaching skills during school and clinical “downtime.”

1. Plan: “Do I need to do this?”

In short, yes. Planning, even for mini-lessons, is foundational in understanding student needs and the direction of your specific lesson. Teacher candidates will want to:

  • Consider planning several mini-lessons.
  • Focus mini-lessons into no more than 20-minute sessions.
  • Base mini-lessons on a single skill or concept (e.g., word blending, paraphrasing a quotation, expanded notation to ten-thousands place).
  • Center the plan for a specific grade level (e.g., second grade) by using the Common Core or state standards.

2. Practice: “I’m doing that over.”

Consistent practice permits teacher candidates to gain confidence and insight into personal teaching (Nagro & deBettencourt, 2019). It is important to review the mini-lesson that will be taught several times before recording the lesson. Engaged teacher candidates:

  • Practice in front of a mirror.
  • Identify changes that improve the mini-lesson.
  • Alter the presentation and practice until the mini-lesson is firm.

3. Record and watch: “Do I really sound and look like that?”

Video is an essential and powerful tool that teacher candidates can use to review their lessons (Baecher & Connor, 2016). Videoing lessons allows teacher candidates to develop fine-tuned self-observation skills. Recording mini-lessons requires teacher candidates to:

  • Prepare materials and the environment for the lesson.
  • Turn on the camera, smile, and record the lesson.
  • Stop the recording after the lesson has ended.
  • Wait a day and then watch the teaching demonstration.

4. Reflect: “Wow, what parts should I keep? What should I change?”

During reflection, teacher candidates examine their teaching and note any “on-action” or events missed during the actual lesson (Nagro & deBettencourt, 2019). Video technology is a way to repeatedly view, pause, and observe actions and thinking in real teaching time. Reflective teacher candidates complete a self-observation and ask themselves:

  • Did I state the lesson objective?
  • Did I model the skill?
  • Did I use a thoughtful “think-aloud”?
  • Did I consider guided practice?
  • Did I close the lesson?
  • Were my materials prepared and organized?

5. Share: “I am brave.”

Sharing video clips and having open-ended conversations about instruction with an instructor is a powerful closure to the iterative cycle of teaching (Syndor, 2016). Reflecting in the company of others creates an environment for the teacher candidate to engage in thoughtful conversations and reflect in order to improve instruction and add to the candidate’s professional development (Sydnor, 2016). During the share session:

  • Instructors can offer tips and resources, including techniques and materials.
  • Teacher candidates and instructors can listen to each other.
  • View and comment on the lesson.
  • Craft plans for changes to the next mini-lesson.

Learning to teach is a continuous process of planning, practicing, recording, reviewing, reflecting, and sharing. Implementing the five downtime steps ensures that teacher candidates become effective, thoughtful teachers, even during times when traditional teaching experiences are not possible. So be like Dori in Finding Nemo and just keep swimming!

Dr. Gerzel-Short is an Assistant Professor of Special Education at Northern Illinois University. Her research interests include teacher preparation, family engagement, and evidence-based practices for supporting diverse learners.

Dr. Liberty is an Assistant Professor of Special Education at Northern Illinois University. Her research interests include evidence-based practices, preservice teacher preparation, and co-teaching in inclusive settings.

Dr. Hedin is a Professor of Special Education at Northern Illinois University. Her research interests include teacher preparation and strategies for including students with mild disabilities in general education settings.


Baecher, L., & Connor, D. (2016). Video as a tool in teacher learning. The New Educator, 12(1), 1–4.

Dewey, J. (1933). How we think: A restatement of the relation of reflective thinking to the educative process. D.C. Heath.

Nagro, S. A., & deBettencourt, L. U. (2019). Reflection activities within clinical experiences: An important component of field-based teacher education. In Handbook of research on field-based teacher education (pp. 565–586). IGI Global.

Sydnor, J. (2016). Using video to enhance reflective practice: Student teachers’ dialogic examination of their own teaching. The New Educator, 12(1), 67–84.

Student Teaching During a Pandemic: 3 Lessons Learned

By Jayme Irene Hines and Kimberly J. Bohannon

Last spring, teacher candidates faced an unprecedented circumstance, many having less than a week to pivot from face-to-face to remote teaching. Candidates, cooperating teachers (CT), site supervisors, and college faculty needed to think differently about communication and supervision. Many state-level Departments of Education created specific guidelines for K–12 schools focused on remote learning (Reich et al., 2020). This information and new expectations rolled out quickly.

Candidates who were placed in the Early Childhood through Grade 6 setting in southwestern New Hampshire were allowed to continue their field placement and encouraged to support their CT with remote planning and teaching. The following discussion frames three themes identified through interviews with student teachers and feedback from cooperating professionals at this particular institution.

Lesson #1: Teacher candidates are persistent.

Teacher persistence is “a disposition manifested in the day-to-day actions of teaching” (Wheatly, 2002, p. 3). Candidates struggled to find a balance, and without traditional start and end times for the school day, realized they were working around the clock. This was not sustainable, but candidates continued to persevere. They wrote and presented lessons, created teaching videos, held virtual morning meetings, and connected with children and families over video chat, demonstrating persistence in ways they might not have been able to without this experience.

Lesson #2: Student teachers are a valuable part of the (virtual) teaching team.

Clinical practice offers candidates a “lens through which to understand the problems of practice that currently face the profession,” providing candidates and cooperating professionals opportunities to think creatively and engage in innovative practices (American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, 2018, p. 8). Candidates contributed to their students, grade-level teams, and schools as they piloted new technology and engagement strategies. They dove in alongside their CT to develop synchronous and asynchronous lessons, engage with technology in new ways, communicate with families, and provide social–emotional support to students.

Several candidates created classroom spaces in their homes. Meeting with students in whole groups, small groups, and individually, they continued to meet the needs of all learners. Candidates supported their teams outside of academic delivery, as well. The technological skills of many candidates were strong, with the CT turning to them for advice! Sustaining students’ social–emotional well-being was also a big part of their contribution; they led class meetings, held lunch groups, and checked in with students individually.

Lesson #3: Teacher–family relationships are vital.

The significance of family involvement in education has always been an important connection for candidates to make. Rhen et al. (2018) found that developing relationships with families or guardians is more significant in online learning. This semester, candidates were teaching alongside family members and were heavily reliant on their support. One candidate remarked that her biggest takeaway from remote learning was being able to interact in ways in which she would have not experienced in the typical setting. Some candidates even included family lesson plans, with activities to complete with family members. Others shared games and activities for families to reinforce skills previously learned in the school setting. Overall, candidates felt a great deal of positive support from families.

Concluding Thoughts

Candidates’ learning and engagement throughout remote teaching was certainly not the same as in a typical semester, but they carried on without hesitation. Candidates continued to develop their own knowledge, skills, and dispositions in ways we never would have imagined at the onset of the semester. With uncertain learning conditions for the near future, novice teachers will carry these experiences into their own classrooms, while leaving behind lessons for future candidates, faculty, and cooperating professionals.

Dr. Hines is an Assistant Professor of Education at Keene State College. She teaches coursework across Early Childhood and Elementary programs and supervises Early Childhood student teachers. Her research interests include social–emotional development of preschoolers, teacher preparation, and faculty–student relationships.

Dr. Bohannon is an Associate Professor at Keene State College. She is the Coordinator of the Elementary Education program and teaches and supervises Elementary methods courses and Student Teaching. Her research interests include P–12 partnerships and faculty–student relationships.


American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. (2018). A pivot toward clinical practice, its lexicon, and the renewal of educator preparation: A report of the AACTE Clinical Practice Commission. American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.

Reich, J., Buttimer, C. J., Fang, A., Hillaire, G., Hirsch, K., Larke, L., Littenberg-Tobias, J., Moussapour, R., Napier, A., Thompson, M., & Slama, R. (2020). Remote learning guidance from state education agencies during the COVID-19 pandemic: A first look. https://edarxiv.org/437e2

Rhen, N., Maor, D., & McConney, A. (2018). The specific skills required of teachers who deliver K–12 distance education courses by synchronous videoconference: Implications for training and professional development. Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 27(4), 417–429. https://doi.org/10.1080/1475939X.2018.1483265

Wheatly, K. (2002). Teacher persistence: A crucial disposition, with implication for teacher education. Essay in Education, 3, Article 1.

Interrupted Student-Teaching Experiences: 5 Tips to Get to the Finish Line

By Laura Sabella, Cynthia Castro-Minnehan, and Ruthmae Sears

Dr. Sabella is the Director of Field and Clinical Education at the University of South Florida. She oversees clinical experiences across programs and teaches the capstone Seminar course for secondary final interns. Her research interests include the transition from student to secondary content teacher, the role of the university supervisor, and partnerships in secondary schools.

Ms. Castro-Minnehan is a third-year doctoral student in the Mathematics Education program at the University of South Florida. Her research interests include collaborative learning during clinical experiences through co-teaching and co-planning.

Dr. Sears is an Associate Professor at the University of South Florida for mathematics education, and KDP advisor. Her research focuses on curriculum issues, reasoning and proof, clinical experiences in secondary mathematics, and the integration of technology in mathematics.

Student teaching is a critical time in teacher preparation. It provides crucial space for pre-service educators to bridge the research of coursework to actual practice in the classroom. It allows teacher candidates to operationalize the true experience of teaching through classroom management, facilitating student learning, and supporting student assessment.

As a result of COVID-19, there was major disruption in this sacrosanct space. Many candidates were anxious that hard-won relationships would be shattered, or that parts of their new teaching profession would no longer remain. Many feared they might not meet credentialing expectations.

However, we canproactively ensure they get to the finish line. We offer practical strategies to help you move student-teaching experiences forward. We must acknowledge that there will continue to be districts that implement teaching online, face-to-face, or hybrid, with potential disruptions or reversals to any teaching model. These recommendations uphold the goal of supporting candidates’ completion, regardless of the setting.

1. Plan ahead.

Assume we will have future disruptions to instruction. Plan ahead by ensuring candidates record themselves teaching while they have access to physical classrooms. These videos can be unpacked later for additional data and feedback or to provide reflection for improvement.

Plan for a shift to online instruction. Identify resources that will smooth that transition such as online platforms, online teaching sources, access codes and passwords, and training with software and programs schools are using. Consider what services are available free to candidates. In this way, you can plan for continuity in instruction.

2. Continue contact where possible.

Provide opportunities for student teachers to maintain meaningful interactions outside the physical classroom. Encourage continuity with their students through online teaching, virtual story times, grading, tutoring sessions, office hours, and so on. To keep the sense of community, candidates can participate in PLCs and faculty meetings online. Additionally, they can continue to engage with their teachers using co-planning and co-teaching online.

3. Review state and district policies.

Reviewing state and district policies is critical. Many candidates may fear they won’t meet state or district requirements for clinical work. Check to see if states allow unconventional field experiences, alternative assessments, and substitute placements, and whether they can reduce the number of hours required.

4. Acknowledge and affirm.

Teacher candidates need to have their worries acknowledged when faced with frustrating disruptions to clinical experiences. Recognizing the concerns they have and the difficulties they are facing is crucial to their success. Affirm that you will navigate the disruption and new space together. Support affirmation theory and consider the affective domains where you can best support candidates during difficult times.

5. Embrace possibilities.

Finally, look on the bright side and embrace new opportunities as we engage in this space. Despite the challenges, recognize that there’s always something to celebrate. Take advantage of new tools and experiences. Welcome possibilities of unpacking and expanding new skills teaching online. Appreciate many candidates may shine with new alternatives.

As we go forward, clinical experiences will continue to expand so our candidates become quality educators. We will support them regardless of the setting, with the goal that all opportunities can successfully promote student learning.

4 Things Student Teaching in a Pandemic Taught Me

Jennifer Minton is a Virginia Teacher of Promise 2020 who completed a post baccalaureate program in education at Old Dominion University. She holds a B.A. in History from DePauw University and an M.A. in History from the National University of Ireland.

Like so many other things, student teaching had to adapt during the pandemic response. In Virginia, our governor was one of the first to close schools for the remainder of the school year. That was in March. I was only halfway through my student teaching program – a program I spent years building to and preparing for, the most important part of my teacher training experience. I had finally gotten in a rhythm, I knew my kids, and we had great things planned. Then it all changed.

Although the Virginia Department of Education made accommodations for student teachers last semester, my main concern is: Did I learn everything I could from this student teaching experience?

After reflection, here are four things I learned:

  1. Keep building your network. From the first day in your education program to your retirement, keep building your network. Maintain contact with your professors and other students from your program. Keep in contact with the school that you student taught in, as well as teachers with whom you worked closely. Networking will not only help you become more acquainted with the district, but it will allow you to reach out for help and advice in situations you did not experience during student teaching.
  • Attend professional learning and development opportunities. Find opportunities for professional learning and development. Contact your university program for help. KDP also offers webinars on a variety of subjects. Attending the webinars and asking questions allows you to connect and network with more experienced teachers and educational advocates.
  • Find a buddy. When I started student teaching, I was lucky to have another student teacher in my advisory group. We both had similar struggles at the beginning of our student teaching experience. By sharing our experiences with one another, we were able to come up with solutions to problems we were having in our classrooms. This is an important part of growing as an educator – you cannot do it alone!
  • Be flexible and stay positive. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is to stay positive in rough times. Students as well as other teachers and administrators can pick up on your positive attitude through virtual interviews, and it will reflect how you will be in your classroom your first year when things really get tough.

Although this is not how I planned on completing my education program, with virtual interviews instead of in person and not being in the classroom with my students, it has taught me to be flexible and persevere for the better times to come. 

Professional Development Resources

KDP Webinarshttps://www.kdp.org/events/webinars.php

National Education Association Professional Development Opportunities – nea.org/home/30998.htm

The College Boardhttps://professionals.collegeboard.org/

Communication Is the Key to Student Teaching


As a senior education major, you are thrilled to begin your student teaching experience.

You also may be concerned about the relationship with your cooperating teacher. Are you a guest in the classroom or a co-teacher? Did the teacher volunteer to work with you, or were you just assigned to him or her as another duty this year? How worried is the cooperating teacher about supervising you and raising the test scores of all students during the same semester?

It is critically important to start student teaching “on the right foot.”

You need to clarify answers to so many questions with clear communication before, and during, the student teaching semester.

What To Do Before the Student Teaching Experience

  1. Find out where you are to be, and when. Start dates are important. Are you to meet with the teacher before the first day of the student teaching assignment? Are you to coordinate that meeting with both the teacher and the college supervisor?
  2. What are the hours involved in student teaching? Does your college require the same hours of the teacher, or can you leave when the students leave on days that you need to be back on campus?
  3. How do you communicate with the cooperating teacher (sometimes called the mentor teacher)? Today’s teachers are overwhelmed and may not want to be available 24/7 for your text messages and emails. Make sure that you know how the teacher wishes to be contacted. If it’s only during the school day, plan ahead for your work.

What To Do the First Few Days

Some student teachers report that they don’t know what to do, or that their teacher has them sit off to the side. Here are starting points for the first few days:

  1. Make a copy of the bell schedule for yourself.
  2. Make a copy of all seating charts for yourself.
  3. Read the school’s management plan and faculty handbook.
  4. Discuss the management plan and discipline with your teacher.
  5. Find out where things are—the computers, copier, and supplies.
  6. Get to know the building—restrooms, emergency exits, cafeteria, and other teachers’ rooms.

Planning Your Work

Your cooperating teacher may not know the expectations of the college’s student teaching program. At your initial meeting, share copies of specific assignments that you must complete, and communicate the hours you need to teach.

  1. Get a calendar and look at your assignments side by side with the schedule of the cooperating teacher. Make sure you both write the specific due dates.
  2. Share the guidelines with the cooperating teacher about how he or she will approve your teaching hours.
  3. Be the go-between person to coordinate the required observations from your college supervisor.
  4. Show your cooperating teacher a copy of the evaluation that he or she will complete about your work. Discuss how you can demonstrate some of the requirements of the evaluation, such as use of technology or differentiation of instruction.
  5. If your college or state requires EdTPA, (the Teacher Performance Assessment) or other video assessment, get the necessary permissions for use of video early in the semester.

What Your Cooperating Teacher Expects

While many cooperating teachers are delighted to share their knowledge and consider working with a student teacher to be a recognition of their expertise, others are very worried when they are assigned a student teacher. To assuage their fears, be the best co-teacher you can be.

  1. Always be on time. Communicating that you will be late is not an excuse, so don’t text and say you are running behind that day. Your teacher/mentor expects you to be there on time.
  2. Your teacher expects you to be there all the time you are assigned to the room. Teachers rely on student teachers for help with everything from attendance to teaching lessons. Don’t let them down.
  3. Be prepared. With 28 third graders sitting in front of you, you can’t just “wing it.”
  4. Look professional. You can’t dress the way you would for a class on campus. Look like the teacher! No casual clothes, and you must get up early enough to have a good hair day.
  5. The teacher wants help. He or she appreciates help to provide more small-group remediation and to provide more individualized attention to students. Having a second adult in the room can be a real asset. Being a remarkable helper ensures that you will learn more at the same time.
  6. Your teacher expects you to be immersed in the classroom experience—no texting or reading Facebook during class time. Be 100% present.

The Magic Words

Student teachers continue to evaluate their field experiences as the best part of their teacher education programs. A good student teaching experience prepares you well for your first year of teaching—and beyond.

Remember the magic words, “How can I help you today?” These words are the best communication tool for a productive learning experience in student teaching.

mary clement berry collegeDr. Clement is a Professor of Teacher Education at Berry College in north Georgia, where she continues to supervise student teachers annually. She earned her doctorate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is the author of 13 books in her research area: the hiring and induction of new teachers.

Additional Online Resources

5 Tips for Introducing Your Style in a Mentor Teacher’s Context

After weeks of observing, co-teaching, and getting a feel for the school, my mentor teacher finally hands over the reins of the classroom and says, “Now it’s your turn. What would you like to do?”

It can be tricky to introduce your own teaching style and values into your mentor teacher’s classroom context, especially if your styles are different. Overcome the challenge of establishing your approach while maintaining respect for your mentor teacher with these tips.

  • Be open and honest.

Keep your mentor teacher in the loop with your lesson planning, especially if it deviates from what your mentor teacher normally does. Don’t be secretive or try to surprise them with what you are going to do. If you tell them what you are thinking and planning, they can offer their perspective, suggestions, and additional ideas.

  • Ask for permission.

To respect your mentor teacher and their space, there are certain ideas that you should run past your teacher before implementing. For example, ask them for permission before rearranging the desks in their room or assigning students homework. It is better to ask for your teacher’s permission and support than for their forgiveness.

  • Support your decisions with research.

If your mentor teacher disagrees with your instructional choices, find research to share with them to explain your decisions. You also might provide your mentor teacher with successful examples of other teachers implementing your idea. If your instructional plan is backed by research, you’ll more easily convince your mentor teacher to let you try it in their classroom.

  • Don’t be afraid to say no.

There are times when your mentor teacher will share ideas for your lesson that you do not want to use. For example, my mentor teacher showed me several short stories I could use in a lesson I taught on discrimination, but I chose a different story that I thought the students would like better. It is okay to say no to your mentor teacher’s ideas; just be respectful and polite.

  • Put students’ needs first.

The goal of your instruction should be to do what is best for your students’ learning. Sometimes you will need to be honest with yourself and consider if you want to use a strategy because it sounds fun or because it will help students better understand the material. If you believe you are teaching the content in a way that genuinely puts the students’ needs first, then stand by your choices.

Finding the balance between introducing your teaching style and respecting the authority of your mentor teacher is challenging for all student teachers, but this is the time to establish your identity as a teacher and test some of your own ideas in the classroom. You only get one student teaching experience, so be confident in your values, take risks in your lesson planning, and try something different.


Ms. Upah is a student teacher in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She is currently in a seventh-grade classroom where she enjoys interacting with her unpredictable yet inspiring students. She is passionate about language arts, reading, and educational technology … and blogging. Find her latest posts at https://www.lightbulbmomentsblog.com/ or on Twitter @upahk.

A Source of Inspiration and Leadership – National Student Teacher of the Year

McKennaDunnOn behalf of Kappa Delta Pi (KDP) and the Association for Teacher Educators (ATE), I am honored to introduce McKenna Dunn, our 2016 KDP/ATE National Student Teacher/Intern of the Year.

McKenna graduated summa cum laude in 2016 from St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas. She majored in Spanish Language Arts and Reading, and she minored in Teacher Education. McKenna was valedictorian of the 2016 class and was a member of the Alpha Gamma Phi Chapter of Kappa Delta Pi, International Honor Society in Education. She currently lives in New Zealand, where she volunteers at local schools.

McKenna has been described by her professor and honors thesis advisor, Dr. Katie Peterson, as “a source of inspiration and leadership” for her classmates. Peterson continues, “McKenna also demonstrated a remarkable ability to innovate teaching practices so that she met the needs of individual learners. The passion and care that she uses to deliver curriculum makes her students feel comfortable to take risks creating environments where students are able to explore concepts and ideas in developmentally appropriate ways.”

Selected from a competitive applicant pool, the award selection committee praised McKenna’s student engagement, energy, and composure and said her project epitomized what they are looking for in an exceptional student teacher.

In sharing the news of this achievement, McKenna wrote:

“Being chosen as the national student teacher of the year is an extremely humbling honor. To know that a group of such experienced and talented educators chose me validates that I have definitely made the right decision to pursue teaching as my career path.”

KDP and ATE congratulate McKenna and wish her well as she begins her first year as a practicing educator. She will be honored at an upcoming ATE conference with a $1500 award and the opportunity to address the conference attendees.

If you or someone you know will be student teaching or interning this academic year, I encourage you to learn more about the KDP/ATE National Student Teacher/Intern of the Year Award. Applications are due by June 15, 2017.

The author of this blog, Susan Perry, is the Director of Advancement for Kappa Delta Pi.

Why I Decided to Become a Teacher

Heggan 2“The word of an admired teacher carries more weight than anyone can imagine.” My sister Tracy (who is a Physical Education teacher at Eugene A. Tighe Middle School in Margate, New Jersey) said those words to me prior to my acceptance into the MST Program at Rowan University in 2014, and they have stuck with me ever since. Although I knew prior to 2014 that I wanted to change careers and become a teacher, those words cemented the feeling I already had in my heart:

I wanted to make a difference in the lives my students.

From 2005 to 2012, I worked at Adams, Rehmann and Heggan, a leader in the fields of surveying, engineering, GPS, and GIS services. Although I enjoyed my time there and loved working in the family business, it was time for a change. That change came for me when I accepted a job at the Hammonton Middle School as a paraprofessional aide for an autistic boy. Being back in the school setting was very surreal, but I felt like I was in the right place. I will forever be grateful for the then-Principal, Gene Miller, for giving me a chance. If he had given the job to someone else, I do not think I would be in the position I am today. I worked in the Middle School for a year and a half and absolutely loved my time there. The administration and staff there are exceptional and I believe they are one of the top middle schools in the area.

While working full-time, I was also taking classes at Atlantic Cape Community College and Camden County College. These classes were required for acceptance into the MST Program at Rowan University. I knew that if I could get through working full time, taking classes at night, and having a 2-year-old child at home, I could get through anything life would throw at me.

In 2014, I was accepted into the MST program where I was part of a cohort in which everyone was assiduous (means diligent) in accomplishing their goals of becoming successful teachers. From action research to edTPA to classes to no income to student teaching, every single person in that program deserves the award of student teacher of the year.

From that science and paraprofessional aide background, I knew then that I wanted to become a middle school science teacher. I wanted to teach my students about the wonders of the world and our universe. Carl Sagan once said that “We are all made of star stuff,” and if you ask any of my students, they could all tell you what that means. I felt back in 2013 and feel currently in 2015 that I am required as a teacher to inspire my students to use science to become whatever they want to be in this world. This has been my running goal since before leaving Adams, Rehmann and Heggan. If I could, as a teacher, motivate my students into falling in love with science and our universe (because I believe that venturing into space is our destiny), then my job as a teacher will be complete. Becoming a teacher was one of the only ways I could accomplish those goals.

Everyone is filled with experiences and those experiences are what make us who we are today. What led you to this profession? Share your experiences!

Rick Heggan is a 6th and 8th Grade Science Teacher in Medford Lakes, New Jersey and was named the 2015 KDP/ATE Student Teacher of the Year.

If you need a job for next fall, you need to attend the Job Search Summit (starting TOMORROW, Thursday, March 3, 2016) to learn about résumés, cover letters, finding a job, and interviewing.

A Job—The Ultimate Goal


Students had to successfully construct a roller coaster, test the marble to have 10 consecutive successful runs without falling off of the track, and either land that marble in a cup at the end or knock it over. It was a great STEM lab.

“Beginning student teaching is going to be a scary experience.”

…at least that’s what I told my fellow cohort members/friends at Rowan University back at the start of Clinical Internship I in 2014. We are all trying to reach the same goal and once that is realized, it helps put things into perspective. It’s always great to remember that you have fellow students, teachers, professors, and family to help you through anything that life throws at you. Relying on their inputs really helped me get through the biggest transition period in my life.

The hardest part of student teaching for me was showing the students I had confidence in what I was teaching. From day one, students read your vibes and if you are not fully committed, they will know! On the other hand, if you are passionate and enthusiastic in what you are teaching, the students will, in a sense, fall in love with your teaching style. I was not really an expert when teaching language arts, but as long as I was confident in what I was teaching and was prepared, I knew I was going to be successful. Being passionate and motivating students is an eye opening experience and like my sister Tracy (a teacher) told me once, “The word of an admired teacher carries more weight than anyone realizes.”

In Rowan University’s Master of Science Teaching program, we student taught for two semesters. Organization with college classes, lesson plans, and hands-on experiments were all very time consuming. Some days I did not leave the school until 7 pm because I was trying to prepare for the next day. The more I felt I was organizedIMG_0134, the easier it was to teach the following day. Do not wait to start becoming organized until you take over the entire classroom; start on Day One. Trust me, it will make your life a lot easier!

Even though student teaching brings a vast number of surprises throughout the course of the one- or two-semester-long internship, one surprise was the way other teachers treated me. I was accepted into the building by the staff at Folsom Elementary and never looked back. As long as you carry yourself professionally, you will be respected. Everyone that has become a teacher has gone through student teaching, and they know how hard it is, so always say hello to everyone in the halls and offer assistance to anyone that may need it. If you can get along with everyone at the school you are student teaching in, then you can go anywhere and be a successful teacher. This is just a stepping stone and you never know when you may be offered a job! That is the ultimate goal.

Lastly, there isIMG_0103 one thing that I wish I known before going into student teaching and that was to take it one day at a time. From completing my action research, to edTPA, to trying to make 6 different lesson plans per day (I was in elementary education), it really got overwhelming at times. Some days I would feel that there was too much to do and that I did not have enough time to complete all the jobs I needed to complete. Looking back, I wish I could say to myself to take it one day at a time and everything will work itself out. As long as you stay organized, act professionally, and show enjoyment in what you are doing, you will be just fine. Good luck!

Rick HegganHeggan 2 is a recent graduate from Rowan University’s Master of Science, Teaching program where his concentration was in Elementary Education. He also received his middle school endorsement in Science during this time. Currently, Rick is teaching 6th and 8th grade Science at the Neeta School in Medford Lakes, New Jersey. Prior to this, Rick worked at the Hammonton Middle School as a paraprofessional aide for almost two (2) years. His professional experience includes working at Adams, Rehmann and Heggan (surveying and engineering corporation) for eight (8) years. He recently was awarded KDP/ATE Student Teacher of the Year for 2015.