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Snow days create complications for UW-Eau Claire student teachers

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Emilee Wentland

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UW-Eau Claire student teachers weigh pros and cons of having at least nine snow days

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Snow days create complications for UW-Eau Claire student teachers

February’s record-breaking snowfall made for an excess of school cancellations in neighboring school districts.

February’s record-breaking snowfall made for an excess of school cancellations in neighboring school districts.

2019 Gabbie Henn

February’s record-breaking snowfall made for an excess of school cancellations in neighboring school districts.

2019 Gabbie Henn

2019 Gabbie Henn

February’s record-breaking snowfall made for an excess of school cancellations in neighboring school districts.

In wake of recent snow days and late starts in neighboring school districts, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire’s student teachers are missing out on classroom time and face-to-face interaction with their students.

In the school districts of Menomonie, Glenwood City, Bloomer and Eau Claire, there have been at least nine snow days each. While student teachers cannot miss more than five days of school for any reason without repeating their student teaching semester, snow days are an exception to that rule, said Sam Schwiebert, an English education student at UW-Eau Claire and student teacher in Glenwood City.

“The worst part of snow/cold days is the rescheduling,” Schwiebert said in an email. “A hallmark of an effective teacher is flexibility. However, there are some things we sadly can’t be too flexible with.”

Most local school districts have two or three snow days built into their academic years, but once they exceed that, it’s up to the district to figure out how they want to make up the time, Schwiebert said.

“Some school districts are totally forgiving the snow days and don’t have to make them up — the student teachers only have to stay until their school’s last day at the beginning of June,” Schwiebert said. “Some student teachers won’t graduate until the middle of June if their schools have decided to extend the year as a result. It all depends on the district.”

Students are required to follow their school district’s schedule, said Jennifer Sisum, teacher education program coordinator at UW-Eau Claire. If the districts have a school day, student teachers stay home just like students, she said. But if the district decides to add on extra days, student teachers must stay until the semester is over.

“We are teaching our students to be teachers, and part of being a teacher is showing up for work when you need to be there,” Sisum said in an email.

While there is no requirement for how many hours or days student teachers must complete, state law dictates that student teachers are supposed to complete a full semester of student teaching before they can get their licenses.

Unexpected experiences, such as snow days, are a learning experience for students, as teaching requires planning accordingly, Sisum said.

For instance, Sisum said students who are placed farther away from Eau Claire are encouraged to plan for bad weather by packing an overnight bag and potentially staying overnight with someone from their school if the weather is forecasted to be poor.

Jocie Zaja, a special education and elementary education student at UW-Eau Claire, is spending her semester teaching at the School District of Bloomer.

While Bloomer tacked on extra days to the end of its school year to make up for the snow days, Zaja said her second placement in Arcadia will determine how far into the summer she’ll be teaching. Depending on how Arcadia decides to make up its snow days, she’ll follow that schedule.

Zaja said she considers the excess snow days to be a learning experience. The snow days have impacted her students more than they’ve impacted her, she said.

“You really have to think about how even weekends impact kids’ routines,” she said. “So being bombarded with snow days here and there has really impacted the kids more than it’s really impacted me. In my experience, it’s definitely been more challenging to build relationships with the students and make those connections (with all the snow days).”

Ben Anderson, a secondary education student teaching at the School District of the Menomonie Area, said the snow days are good training for being a teacher in this region of the country.

“As student teachers, you’re looking to your CT (cooperating teacher) to learn how to adapt and how to work on the fly like that,” Anderson said. “There are positives that come out of it for student teaching aspect of it. It is just kind of a hindrance to learning. There’s pros and cons to it.”

He said, Menomonie added 10 minutes at the beginning and end of each school day to resolve the issue.  

Aside from student needs, Erin O’Brien, a student teacher in Eau Claire School District said one of the worst parts of snow days is the complications with completing the portfolio she needs to get her teaching license.

O’Brien, a secondary education student, said the need to adapt and consistently change plans shows how dedicated teachers are.

“Shoutout to teachers for being super flexible with all these snow days and days added onto the school year,” O’Brien said. “Teachers are heroes. It’s going to be OK. Students will learn no matter what.”

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Snow days create complications for UW-Eau Claire student teachers