Elementary education student adapts amidst COVID-19 closures

Michelle Gould

After several years in the workforce, Michelle Gould was looking for a change. Her years in business and human resources had built a life for her and her daughter, yet she wanted more, something that would help her make an impact in her community of Mineral Point, Wisconsin and in the lives of people around her.

“I came to a point in my life where I needed to make changes. I decided I needed to go back to school and find a way to make a difference in the world. My daughter was the one who suggested that I should become a teacher,” Gould said.

For Gould, UW-Platteville provided the perfect opportunity for her new start. As an alumna, she knew of the School of Education’s strong reputation in the region. She also liked that the curriculum focuses on rural education.

But as she entered her final semester this spring, Gould was presented with a new challenge when schools were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She was forced to cut short her time teaching second grade at St. Joseph’s, a private school in Dodgeville, Wisconsin, instead assisting with some of their video-conferencing sessions. While not what she expected, Gould and other educators have worked hard to learn from the situation.

“I am wondering how this will affect students in the fall – since students have spent the last third of the year learning online, how can I support them when they are back in the classroom? Also, how can I plan for lessons that can translate into online lessons, in case this happens again? It gives me a lot to think about starting as a new teacher,” said Gould.

While her student teaching experience changed, Gould has been able to apply some of her face-to-face skills to helping her daughter navigate online learning.

“As I help my daughter, I put my teacher hat on vs. my parent hat. I tell her to be sure she is writing in complete sentences and answering questions in full. I open her math book and walk through with examples in a way she understands,” Gould said. “While other parents may be frustrated about helping their student at home, I am enjoying the experience.”

Gould has also paid close attention to the response of local communities, with everything from her fellow UW-Platteville students offering tutoring services to teachers, writing encouraging messages in chalk on students’ sidewalks and putting signs in students’ yards for their birthdays. For Gould, the COVID-19 crisis has only strengthened her determination to secure a job in a small town where she can build relationships and celebrate the sense of pride that makes rural communities so special.

“All of my teaching experience has been in rural schools. I love the smaller schools and the support that comes from these schools,” Gould said. “This situation has been difficult for everyone, the best thing we can do is work together and do our best.”