In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Dunleavy mandated that Alaska’s K12 schools closed to in-person instruction; later, these school closures were extended until the end of the 2019-2020 academic year. Across the state, educators worked not only to ensure they met their responsibilities for instruction, but also other key school functions including parent resources, meal services, and social-emotional learning. Concurrently, senior college students in teacher licensure programs at the University of Alaska (UA) were in classrooms fulfilling their clinical experience (student teaching) requirements. During the school closures, students were still “placed” in schools, but the nature of their internship experience changed fundamentally as classes were moved to distance delivery.

On March 20, Alaska’s Education Commissioner announced that the state of Alaska would grant emergency certification to teachers who were unable to complete the required number of clinical placement hours due to COVID-19 school closures. Many of these new graduates will qualify for licensure, but how will the pandemic affect them as they become teachers? A new paper by ISER researchers Dayna DeFeo and Trang Tran explores how teacher candidates perceive their readiness for teaching in the fall, and their career intentions. By comparing survey responses collected from spring 2020 graduates against graduates of spring 2019 (the students who had a “typical” student teaching experience), they find that the 2020 graduating class feels ready for the classroom. However, these new teachers – and those hired from teacher education programs outside of Alaska – will need supports as they transition to teaching.