Learning To Teach in an Upside-Down World


Lizzy Hawkes

Mariah Griffin (left) and Jennifer McAtee (right) are ready to start the class.

In the shadow of Kennedy High School’s Jennifer McAtee stands Mariah Griffin, a student of the University of Iowa studying to become a geometry teacher. Although her student teaching has been abnormal due to COVID-19 and the derecho, Griffin continues to look on the bright side.

“Student teaching during the pandemic is teaching me skills I may not have learned otherwise,” Griffin said. “For example, I am learning how important it is to be flexible because it is likely that everything could change very quickly.”

Griffin has enjoyed bonding with students in the classroom, but online students present a challenge for her. She can’t gauge a student’s understanding by looking at a letter in a colored circle. Griffin struggles to juggle the online and in-person students at the same time.

Last January, Jennifer McAtee signed up to supervise a student teacher. With the hardships faced throughout 2020, she was worried her student teacher wouldn’t get the full experience. Still, McAtee kept to her decision. She accepted the challenge and mentored Griffin through teaching strategies, new and old.

“I am teaching her flexibility and being willing to change based on lesson outcomes,” McAtee said. “We talk a lot about each lesson and [about]understanding what you are teaching and working through all your examples prior to class makes for a smoother day.”

Griffin will continue to work alongside McAtee until her student teaching period ends in mid May. 

“I love how passionate she is about her students and her commitment to making math fun,” Griffin said. 

After a chaotic 2020 experience, Griffin was able to show others that she was not going to back down and surrender. She continued to pursue her dream of becoming a math teacher and began her student teaching late January.

“I chose to teach math because I really love the subject. I also believe that math can give students the ability to follow their dreams, no matter what that might be,” Griffin said.