Student Spotlight: Kaitlyn Painter ’21 Navigates the Challenges of Virtual Student Teaching

Female pictured in front of brick building

Inspired by teachers who made a difference in her life, Kaitlyn Painter’s ambition was to become a teacher. She loves working with children of all ages—especially the younger ones—and chose to focus on Pre-K through sixth grade in Bridgewater College’s Teacher Education Program.

Painter ’21 was fortunate to have teachers who cared for her and made her feel valued as a person.

“I was really shy when I was growing up, and over the years that has completely changed. I owe this change to several teachers who taught me to have confidence, to be myself and to know that I am capable of anything I set my mind to,” Painter said.

During the summer before her senior year of high school, Painter visited Bridgewater College and did a one-on-one tour with an admissions counselor, including visiting the Teacher Education Department.

“I had heard amazing things about Bridgewater’s education program, but after connecting with several of the professors in the education department I knew it would be a perfect fit for me,” Painter said.

Before COVID-19, Painter spent many hours completing practical experiences in the classroom. But the pandemic forced Painter’s 2020 fall semester practicum and 2021 spring semester of student teaching to look entirely different from what she was accustomed.

Painter completed a 100 percent virtual practicum during the fall 2020 semester with the same group of students with which she is doing her student teaching during the 2021 spring semester. By having the same students all year, Painter has been able to get to know each student and follow their progress. 

Through the use of modern technology such as Zoom and Seesaw, Painter meets with all 27 second-graders for two hours in the morning—teaching math, spelling, grammar and social studies or science. During the two-hour afternoon session, she meets with students in small groups and one-on-one for reading.

“Forming relationships is super important to me,” Painter said. “It has been challenging to connect with my students at times, but I still have made it a point to get to know each student individually.”

Painter likes to begin the day by letting the students share with each other as they are logging on and waiting for the class to begin.

“So many of my students just want to talk and be listened to,” Painter said.

Painter has found that student teaching online comes with some challenges, one of the biggest being that students have many distractions at home.

“A lot of my students don’t have their own space at home where they can complete their schoolwork without distractions,” Painter said. “Another struggle is their parents and siblings will talk to them while they are on our class Zoom meeting. This is a distraction that would not be applicable for in-person instruction.”

Another challenge for Painter is devising ways to do hands-on learning experiences using items that students typically have around their house. For one lesson, Painter created a scavenger hunt for which she had her students take pictures of antonyms.

“I got pictures of cats and dogs, things that were soft and hard and dry and wet,” Painter said. “This activity was so fun since the students got to be creative and pick the antonyms they wanted to take pictures of. This activity also allowed me to assess their understanding of the content.”

To keep students focused, Painter also uses short videos that complement her lessons.

“Short videos lead to engaging discussions about what we are learning,” Painter said. “I try to guide discussions but allow them to problem-solve and critically think on their own.”

Painter loves the connections that she is able to make with each student.

“Being able to form relationships and watch the students grow academically and personally is so rewarding,” Painter said.

Painter said that the professors in Bridgewater College’s Teacher Education Program have been supportive and ready to help whenever needed. She made a technology connection with Dr. Jennie Carr, Associate Professor of Education, during her Curriculum and Instruction: Elementary Classroom course. During the course, Painter was exposed to a variety of digital learning tools—Seesaw, Flipgrid, Jamboard and Padlet—which she has incorporated into her practicums and student teaching.

“All of the professors in the TEP want to see the teacher candidates succeed,” Painter said. “I feel so comfortable using technology now and definitely plan to use it in the future. I feel so prepared to be a first-year teacher this fall because of the experiences I have been offered in my own coursework and through the practicum experiences I’ve had.”

Following graduation on May 1, Painter is looking forward to getting a full-time teaching position. With a desire to stay close to home, she has applied to Rockingham and Page County public schools.