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Hundreds of K-12 students across the country are taking advantage of tutoring services offered by teacher candidates from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, St. Norbert College and Ripon College.

More than 100 education students at the three institutions are set to provide grade appropriate online instruction. The initiative, started by St. Norbert associate professor Bola Delano-Oriaran, has been so popular there are plans to collaborate with other colleges and universities in the Midwest.

Marguerite Penick-Parks

UWO professor Marguerite Penick-Parks was invited to join the effort, which will place current teacher education candidates completing their clinical hours with families and K-12 students to support academic learning during the COVID-19 disruption.

Delano-Oriaran and Penick-Parks have collaborated previously on two books and one that is in progress.

They both have teacher candidates who need to complete their required clinical hours with the K-12 schools being closed. Mutual research they’ve done in community-engaged learning helped create the program―tied closely to the mission of UW Oshkosh and its goal of delivering education in innovative and inclusive environments.

Although there isn’t a state mandated number of clinical hours a teacher needs prior to graduation, UWO assistant professor Stephanie Bernander said these hours provide important classroom experience to train teachers in lesson design and monitoring student learning.

“By having our teacher candidates involved in tutoring we can still work with them by providing feedback on their lesson design and instructional techniques,” she said. “It will be a unique experience for them to assess student learning and building relationships with these students.”

Associate Dean Eric Brunsell said it is important for universities to give back and help children during these school closures.

“Our job is to prepare our students to be successful in the classroom. This tutoring experience is an innovative approach to give our students strong experiences when traditional approaches are unavailable,” Brunsell said.

Penick-Parks said the tutoring program is not intended for student teachers who are continuing to work with their assigned teachers. The program is for teacher candidates who are in methods classes that require clinical experiences in the schools.

“This is a way for them to complete the project and the semester,” Penick-Parks said.

As of Thursday, the program was capped at more than 500 students and families that have inquired about the service from Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Wisconsin―and beyond.

“This partnership was built off an existing partnership between UWO and SNC,” Bernander said, noting that Penick-Parks and Delano-Oriaran had been discussing ways to launch the initiative.

Bernander, who works with many clinical and student teaching candidates at the end of their program, said the tutoring experience was a way to continue developing the students’ teaching skills while “filling a great need for families.”

The universities are still fielding requests, but acceptance is based on a first-come, first-served basis. The teacher candidates and students will connect with a free online learning platform.

UW Oshkosh students will begin their tutoring experience when school resumes March 30. Online training will take place over two days before students are given the go-ahead to begin tutoring sessions.

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