Baylor’s teacher-education graduates of 2020 experienced a career launch like no other class. Their classroom internships were cut short by the global COVID pandemic, and then they entered their first year of independent teaching still in the midst of a pandemic that lasted the entire school year. It’s a good thing that the Baylor School of Education teacher-education program is designed to prepare graduates thoroughly through rigorous coursework as well as intense faculty-guided field experiences. Baylor’s preparation is so rigorous, in fact, that 2020 teacher education majors had completed their state-required classroom experiences and already taken their certification exams when the pandemic hit.
But were they really ready? Could anything have prepared them for a first year of teaching in a pandemic? Read the reflections of four of our 2020 graduates after their first year in the classroom and find out. Spoiler alert — our graduates are amazing! Congratulations (and thank you) to them and to all teachers who are leading during these challenging times.
Augie Strauch, BSEd ’20, Secondary Social Studies
Vandergriff High School, Leander ISD
Eleventh Grade U.S. History
“I knew engagement and relationships were going to be the biggest hurdles this year, and I really felt like my time at Baylor helped prepare me to make the adjustments necessary to have a great year. . . . To keep students’ attention, I knew they needed to be a part of the lesson, not just an observer. . . . I ended up finding a collection of tools that allowed me to embed questions into my presentations that would prompt questions to the entire class while I was teaching.”
Sahira Kodra, BSEd ’20, Elementary Education
Akin Elementary, Leander ISD
“All my Baylor classes and time in the classroom prepared me for teaching, but I think nothing prepared me for teaching virtually all of my first year. Baylor also instilled a love of learning in me that I was able to pass down to my students. . . . My favorite memory was when my students and I participated in an escape room I created — thanks to Dr. Neil Shanks. We had done an in-person escape room in his methods class, I reached out and asked him a few questions. I then created a math escape room that allowed my students to go through it in teams while being virtual.”
Cami Cox, BSEd ’20, Elementary Education
Cypress Elementary, Leander ISD
“Going from virtual to in-person to being quarantined to the constant revolving door of students, change was the name of the game! I grew so much this year, and I will carry the lessons I learned throughout my teaching career. . . . All the different experiences I had through Baylor definitely prepared me. . . . One of my students told me, ‘Ms. Cox, I know you’re a new teacher, but I like that you change stuff up. It makes it fun!’ I’m really glad she thought so because this year was full of change!”
Emily Holland, BSEd ’20, All-Level Special Education
Robinson Elementary School, Robinson ISD
Functional Academics (first – third graders)
“One thing that I was not prepared for was teaching students with disabilities through a computer screen. It is already challenging enough to differentiate instruction for your kiddos in person let alone online with that barrier between you. . . . Most of my students ended up in my classroom, but I did have two that chose to stay home for the entire school year. I could handle the challenging behaviors, disengaged learners, or the unpredictability of each day. But that added layer of asynchronous/synchronous instruction is the main reason that I finished each day completely drained. However, this year gave educators the opportunity to learn and try so many amazing online resources that I hope we will all continue to use in the future.”
For more than 100 years, Baylor educators have carried the mission and practices of the School of Education to classrooms and beyond as teachers, leaders in K12 and higher education, psychologists, academics/scholars and more. With more than 50 full-time faculty members, the school’s growing research portfolio complements its long-standing commitment to excellence in teaching and student mentoring. Baylor’s undergraduate program in teacher education has earned national distinction for innovative partnerships with local schools that provide future teachers deep clinical preparation, while graduate programs culminating in both the Ed.D. and Ph.D. prepare outstanding leaders, teachers and clinicians through an intentional blend of theory and practice. Visit www.baylor.edu/SOE to learn more.
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.