Teaching intern demonstrates flexibility, creativity in transitioning to online classes
Student interning has been full of change for Skye Jones, who is receiving her Bachelor of Science in Geography with 7-12 Social Studies certification from University of Houston-Clear Lake this May. While interning at Dawson High School in Pearland Independent School district, she changed teacher mentors. And then, with the school’s closure due to the spread of COVID-19, she had to transition to online teaching.
“I started my internship with a mentor teacher in an Advanced Placement human geography class,” Jones said. “It was awesome, and I loved it because I am a geography major. But after six weeks, my mentor teacher said that I would get more benefit from interning in a regular class because school systems don’t hire first-year AP teachers, so I was switched to a regular and special education inclusion world geography class.”
She focused on helping her students get their scores up, including many special education students who were struggling. “I tried to interact with them instead of letting them just listen, and got them involved,” she said. “After the first unit, a lot of students who had never passed a test before, passed. The best part was seeing those light bulbs going off. I could really tell they were getting it and for the first time, they were proud of themselves.”
Soon thereafter, Jones had to take on another complete change — the transition to online instruction. “My mentor teacher is the head of the World Geography department, and I have more or less taken over his job,” she said. “Since we have been out of school, I have created newsletters for each unit. It’s a visual review, and it has the most important things that will be on the test, but it looks like a newspaper.”
She researched tools for online instruction, along with resources that would be helpful and take no longer than an hour. “I found out what we could use that would be efficient and also help special ed and English language learners that included videos, which can be repeated or slowed down,” she said.
She said she always tells her students about UHCL and that her professors were great. “I say my geography, (Associate Professor) Jeff Lash is wonderful,” she said. “He works with you and tries to show you how geography is in the real world. I became passionate about geography because he was so passionate about it.”
Lash said that when Jones was a new geography major, she’d come to him with questions about becoming a geography teacher. “We discussed the requirements, and I asked her why she wanted to become a teacher,” he said. “She gave me a surprised look, as if to say, ‘Why wouldn’t I want to become a teacher?’ She said that being a teacher is all she ever wanted to be.”
He said that since then, she had acquired all the skills and knowledge necessary to help high school students better understand our modern world. “Throughout her studies she displayed the tenacity and resilience that characterizes the best teachers,” he said. “She pushed through some tough times without losing sight of the goal – to become a geography teacher. I couldn’t be prouder of her.”
For anyone considering becoming a teacher, Jones said her best advice is to create an extensive portfolio of your work. “It can be warm ups you’ve done, good lesson plans, ways in which you create inquiry learning, high critical thinking skills,” she said. “I have saved all the newsletters I have created. And if you do project-based learning and students excel, then take pictures.”
She said she felt very well prepared by her professors and that she had two job interviews coming up. “I feel hopeful,” she said. “They say most teachers leave the profession within the first five years, but I feel that the College of Education program prepared me for real-world classroom experiences so I have a more realistic idea of what teaching is. My education professors also inspired me to advocate for students using new techniques and technology that I learned in the Teacher Education program.”
Learn more about UHCL’s Geography program online.