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Austin Peay State University’s Eriksson College of Education to hold Virtual Student Teacher Banquet

Austin Peay State University - APSUClarksville, TN – Every semester, the tables inside the Morgan University Center are covered with white table cloths and candles for a special banquet honoring the Austin Peay State University (APSU) student teachers.

The 2020 Austin Peay State University Virtual Student Teaching Celebration. (APSU)
The 2020 Austin Peay State University Virtual Student Teaching Celebration. (APSU)

The students within APSU’s Eriksson College of Education spend 15 weeks in local schools, learning their profession first-hand from mentor teachers, and in the months after the celebration, many begin their careers as educators.

“The Student Teaching Banquet is one of the highlights of the semester,” Dr. Lisa Barron, APSU director of teacher education and partnerships, said. “We make it a really special evening. Hundreds of people gather to celebrate the accomplishments of our student teachers. It’s a nice evening to give closure to their careers at Austin Peay State University.”

Earlier this year, Barron reserved the ballroom, and while making final preparations for this spring’s celebration she received an email announcing that all on-campus events were being canceled because of the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic. She quickly contacted Dr. Prentice Chandler, dean of the Eriksson College of Education.

“It didn’t feel like the end of the semester without that closure for our student teachers,” she said. “Dr. Chandler and I talked about doing it virtually, so we hosted a zoom celebration.”

On April 29th, about 50 APSU students and faculty gathered online for the college’s first Virtual Student Teaching Celebration. Melissa Miller, a Franklin Special School District teacher and Tennessee’s 2018-19 Teacher of the Year, delivered a short keynote address, encouraging the students to persevere in one of the most challenging times for their profession.

Most of the students only made it six weeks into their 15 weeks of student teaching, but the Tennessee Department of Education is accepting this shortened time, allowing them to graduate and receive teaching licenses.

After Miller’s address, Barron asked the students to share something special about their teaching experience.

“We were crying because the impact they had on students in the short time they had in schools was just moving,” Barron said. “They also talked about the things they learned from their mentor teachers, and some shared funny stories. It was really great. I thought we’d take five or 10 minutes, but it kept going and going.”

The seniors now have a little closure for their college careers, and with classes resuming on-campus next fall, another group of education students is preparing to begin their student teaching. But Barron isn’t sure what will happen with next December’s celebration.

“Now it seems so weird to be in the ballroom,” she said.

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