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Murray State Student Teacher Learns How To Manage A Classroom Through Digital Instruction

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Angela Orozco
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This story is the first in a series WKMS is publishing on school reopenings in west Kentucky amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kentucky students are headed back to school this month as the pandemic continues to ravage communities throughout the commonwealth. Teachers are shifting instructional methods to accommodate fully-online learning or socially distant classrooms. Teachers-in-training from colleges and universities are studying how to be classroom instructors during an abnormal time in education. 

Angela Orozco is a senior Elementary Education major at Murray State University. She’s a native of Glasgow in Barren County and moved to Murray to pursue her dream of teaching elementary students. Over the past four years her coursework has included 200 hours of classroom observation meant to show pre-service teachers a wide variety of classroom management and instructional strategies. That all changed when the coronavirus pandemic shut down schools in March. Orozco was enrolled in education classes with field placements that suddenly moved online.

“We didn’t get to complete our hours. And so when we were transitioning, we had to kind of go  more towards the route of completing some extra assignments to complete those hours rather than getting to complete that hands-on experience,” Orozco said. 

The online field observations were just a taste of what was to come for Orozco. This week, she begins her student teaching in one of the most unusual academic semesters ever held. She’ll start with fifth graders at Murray Middle School and then transition in October to a third grade class at Murray Elementary School. The Murray Independent School District is following Governor Andy Beshear’s recommendation to postpone in-person instruction until next month. Orozco said that means additional challenges but also opportunities for students to learn in new ways.

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Credit Murray Independent Schools
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“That does make it a little difficult ‘cause we love doing group work but I think that also it provides new challenges and opportunities for teachers to really engage your students still and have that experience where they can still kind of connect with their peers but still following the guidelines," Orozco said.

She said one silver lining of the pandemic is being forced to adapt to the new technology necessary for non-traditional instruction. 

“We’ve been able to use Google Classroom and Zoom to still get that interaction and I’m getting to work with technology more now.”

She said the demand for technology-based instruction is something that will help her next year when applying for jobs and when she has her own classroom. 

“I know a lot of times with regular teaching, it’s really difficult for us to incorporate technology just because sometimes there’s a lack of computers or sometimes it’s difficult to find ways to integrate technology but I think with this experience of student teaching during these times, it’s really going to teach me how I can really integrate that technology and still build that engagement and connection with my students,” Orozco explained.

Orozco said she counts on her colleagues and peers for support during what will be an unforgettable student teaching experience. She said her anxiety is shared by the other student teachers beginning their work this month. She praised leaders at Murray State and the Murray Independent School District for their flexibility and commitment to keeping students and staff safe. 

“They have done a phenomenal job working with us and dealing with all the changes and obstacles that have been placed. They really, I can tell, are really, really trying and I know that they’re working super, super hard for not only us but for their students and for parents comfortable about their students coming back.”

The Murray Independent School District begins online instruction August 24.

Dalton York is a Morning Edition host and reporter for WKYU in Bowling Green. He is a graduate of Murray State University, where he majored in History with a minor in Nonprofit Leadership Studies. While attending Murray State, he worked as a student reporter at WKMS. A native of Marshall County, he is a proud product of his tight-knit community.
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