Ohio University

Patton College alumnae use tech to connect with students during COVID-19 pandemic

Published: April 1, 2020 Author: Tony Meale

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, schools in Ohio and beyond have shut their doors. That, however, does not mean that teachers have stopped teaching or impacting their students.

Madison Elementary, a Columbus-area school that employs five Patton College of Education alumnae, is a prime example of this.

“Our teachers are doing a lot of creative things with the students through Google Classroom [and] are really thinking outside of the box during this time,” said Patton College alumna and Madison Elementary Principal Tricia Faulkner, who received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Elementary Education and School Administration in 1995 and 2002, respectively. “They are creating videos and uploading them [online]. Some videos include read-alouds, PE activities, small-group instruction, and virtual field trips. Many of our teachers are continuing to build upon and maintain the relationships that they have worked so hard to build this school year.”

On Thursday, March 12, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced that all K-12 schools would close for at least three weeks, beginning March 16. Ohio became the first state in the country to close K-12 schools to stem the spread of the virus. As the pandemic has evolved, DeWine has since closed schools through May 1.

“The whole staff at Madison has stood together during this time, as we always do,” said Assistant Principal and School Improvement Coordinator Rian Burnett, who received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Early Childhood Education and Educational Administration and Leadership in 2006 and 2018, respectively. “We are using Google Hangouts and meetings to connect with our students and each other. All of our classrooms are set up with Google Classroom, and some teachers are even having hangouts to have lunch with students. Teachers, staff, and administrators at Madison are responding with love, class, and—most of all—missing our students.”

Madison Elementary’s response to the pandemic is commendable yet unsurprising. The Patton College prides itself on producing top-notch teachers and administrators who are prepared to work in any school—and through any hardship—in Ohio and beyond. Sharing an alma mater has only deepened bonds that often exist between and among faculty and staff.

“It is awesome to work with so many fellow Bobcats,” said Faulkner. “It is fun to talk about each others’ experiences and compare what campus was like in the 1990s versus now.”

Other Patton College alumnae on staff at Madison Elementary include: Leslie O’Bryan, who graduated with a degree in Psychology and Children’s Studies in 1990; Tori Peterson, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Middle Childhood Education in 2010; and Erin LaCasse, who graduated with a bachelor's degree in Mild-to-Moderate Special Education in 2016.

“I love having fellow alums as coworkers,” said Peterson, who teaches fourth-grade math and science. “We always represent OHIO with so much pride. I have a pennant in my room and my degree displayed for students to feel the presence of getting a college degree and the pride that is felt from it.” 

All of the alumnae believe The Patton College prepared them for their roles at Madison, which is located in Groveport, Ohio.

“The Patton College prepared me by giving me a wide range of student-teaching experiences, by getting me into classes that fit my major really early, and by having professors that are real and intentional with you when discussing what teaching is really like,” said LaCasse, an Intervention Specialist. “The Patton College [is] still a great resource for me, as there are Facebook pages dedicated to OU Intervention Specialists where we can share ideas.”

LaCasse, who teaches math and English Language Arts to kindergarteners and first-, second-, and fourth-graders, is the most recent graduate in the group. She feels right at home at Madison.

“Working with so many alums made me feel comfortable right off the bat,” she said. “When I first started this job, I was very nervous, but when I found out I was among many other OHIO [alumnae], I immediately knew I had something big in common with a lot of people I would work closely with every day. There is a huge sense of community knowing that we share the common bond of being a Bobcat.”

LaCasse and other Madison teachers have leaned on Burnett for advice and support. Burnett praised Patton College faculty Drs. Leonard Allen and Charles Lowery, who were instrumental in her transition from teaching to administration.

I received a great education in the teacher preparation program, as well as the principal preparation program,” said Burnett, who provides teachers with instructional support and professional development in all subject areas. I love working with my fellow Bobcat alums. We have a lot of Bobcat pride in our building and talk to our students about going to college in Athens.”

If the students have any questions about OHIO, the teachers can surely answer them. They all regularly return to Athens to visit their favorite hangouts, including the College Green and Bagel Street Deli.

For some, it has even become a family affair. Faulkners children have attended sports camps at OHIO, and Peterson often brings her two-and-a-half-year-old son when she returns to campus. He made his first trip to Athens at three months old.

When we come back, I go to all of my favorite food places,” said Peterson, whose top spots include Courtside Pizza, Casa Nueva, and Jackie Os. We try a new place once a year.”

LaCasse, who makes it to Athens at least once a year, is also a frequent visitor.

“I've made it down for homecomings to see friends who are still living there and just to visit [a] very special place in my heart,” she said. “College Green will always be meaningful to me. Some of my fondest memories at OHIO are just simple ones: walking around campus with friends, staying up late studying and doing homework with classmates, and the first time it's actually warm during spring semester and everyone is outside, listening to music and smiling.”

Hopefully, these alumnae will have the opportunity to visit campus again soon when the restaurants are open and the College Green is once again full of happy and healthy people!