The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services announced that student-teachers will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, alongside teachers and other school employees. According to the latest NCDHHS vaccination plan, frontline essential workers such as educators are included in the third group. The decision will have ramifications for Elon University seniors who are working as full-time student-teachers.
The student-teaching experience allows for education majors to train in a classroom environment by allowing them to take on the responsibilities of a teacher. Even though there is a licensed teacher in the room at all times to observe, the student-teacher will be given full responsibilities for around three weeks and will slowly hand back responsibilities to the teacher. There are around 33 to 36 seniors in the required program.
Despite the fact that the NCDHHS announced that vaccinations will be available for them, student-teachers will not be required to get the vaccination. Elon requires students to take weekly antigen tests, but they are recommending student-teachers to get the vaccine.
Dean of the School of Education Ann Bullock said permitting all educators to receive the COVID-19 vaccine early will allow for the school environment to be safer and more efficient.
“Schools have a lot of people in places that run very quickly and do things very quickly. There are a lot of children in schools and lots of adults in schools every day,” Bullock said.“By having preventative measures, such as a vaccine, you are providing schools an opportunity to feel like they can run a safer environment.”
This new announcement by NCDHHS will allow school systems to slowly work back to a normal teaching environment benefiting students, teachers and student-teachers.
Kristin Amrine, a senior and student-teacher, said that she hopes other people who are not in her position are able to access the same information and privileges.
“When I think about the vaccine, I worry about access, and for populations of people who might not have the same access to health care benefits and receiving the vaccine in the same way I do,” Amrine said. “I have such a great privilege to be in this position, and to have various different systems that give me access to something like this vaccine.”
Even though there are multiple grades participating in the student-teaching experience, seniors are the only participants that are allowed to receive the vaccine alongside licensed teachers, since they are the only ones in the program teaching full-time and report to their respective schools every day.
Bullock said with the announcement by the board, it will allow student-teachers to be more focused when teaching.
“[It will] help them feel like they can run a classroom without having to clean every time a child leaves from a desk,” Bullock said.
Amrine said that with the changes made in the school system to adjust for the pandemic, it will help prepare student teachers in the long run in terms of facing tough obstacles in their field.
“As student-teachers and practicing teaching, I think it’s really valuable to have done it during this time and gotten used to a phase of education that feels very difficult,” Amrine said. “Hopefully [that] can carry over some of those lessons in what could be the future of education as a whole.”
On March 1, K-5 students in the Alamance-Burlington School System will begin in-person learning and on March 8, grades 6-12 will begin in-person.
Amrine said teaching has allowed student-teachers the privilege of being able to watch their students grow and approach challenges head on.
“There are points where it breaks your heart and there are points where you come home, just out of exhaustion from a long day of working,” Amrine said. “But it’s so rewarding to be able to see the moments where it clicks in where they have this light bulb go off, and they feel like a brilliant human being. And they feel that they’re learning and they feel passionate and excited about the content that they’re absorbing. And so it makes it all worth it.”