Student creates educational materials for Facebook page, Charter Schools Office launches educational website

Maggie Goebel, a Spanish elementary education major, creates educational material for parents on Facebook.
Maggie Goebel, a Spanish elementary education major, creates educational material for parents on Facebook.
Image Credit: Valerie Wojciechowski

Maggie Goebel is missing her fourth grade students at Buchanan Elementary in the Grand Rapids Public School District.

Goebel, a Spanish elementary education major, started student teaching at Buchanan in January, but hasn't seen her 21 students since March 18. And, now that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the cancellation of K-12 face-to-face instruction through the remainder of the school year, she may not get to see them again.

"This has been so hard. I miss really miss my students and I worry about them," said Goebel, a native of Ada.

Goebel had taken over teaching the class about five weeks before the governor first ended K-12 face-to-face instruction March 16. "My student teaching experience was amazing. I was very confident teaching," she said.

Goebel and several of her friends have found a way to continue their teaching skills. They created a Facebook page and are posting instructional content for parents who are arranging school lessons for their children. Goebel said they are offering lessons and activities for all grades; she is creating content for elementary students.

"We are posting daily lessons that include recordings, writing exercises, math and science lessons and doing read-alouds," she said. "Our goal is to make the material stress-free and community based. We are seeing that parents are feeling comfortable enough to leave comments, letting us know what they need."

Goebel said it is her dream to teach in the GRPS system. In the governor's April 2 announcement, Whitmer said student teachers will be able to get temporary certification.

Amy Schelling, director of teacher education in Grand Valley's College of Education, said teacher preparation faculty acted quickly and innovatively in March to develop alternative learning activities so teacher candidates could continue to gain, maintain and sharpen their teaching skills. 

"We are proud of how our teacher candidates have responded to the disruption to their field experience, and pleased with their eagerness to continue developing and sharpening their teaching skills in different ways," Schelling said.

Sherril Soman, dean of the College of Education, said GVSU received specific guidance from the Michigan Department of Education regarding how students could complete their field experiences and meet certification requirements.

"Our students are in good stead to finish their programs," said Soman. "Our teacher preparation programs are already structured to provide well over the minimum hours required by the state."

Soman said remote instruction with teacher candidates will continue to ensure they receive the instructional support they need to be successful in their career.  

Grand Valley's Charter Schools Office launched a website earlier this month with tools that help support K-12 students and their parents, and the CSO has transitioned all professional education programs to webinar formats. Topics include foundational workshops for teachers on how to teach in an online environment, as well as crisis communications and online reading instruction.

On March 27, the CSO announced the creation of a one-time Learning Continuation and Innovation Grant that all GVSU charter school boards will receive to help support their school's transition to online or remote education. The total amount to be awarded under the grant is approximately $560,000 and was made possible by repurposing funds planned for in-person activities that have been canceled. 

"Right now, the 3,500 educators in GVSU-chartered public schools are leading their communities in unprecedented ways," said Rob Kimball, associate vice president for Charter Schools. "Teachers, principals and support staff are working together to creatively ensure students keep moving forward. The Learning Continuity & Innovation Grant will help each of our schools sustain their innovative instruction. It also gives them the flexibility to explore even more opportunities to support their students learning in new ways."