School children in China won’t return to their classrooms until mid-March because of the novel coronavirus outbreak.
But students at Quality Schools International (QSI) of Zhuhai are still busy learning in their homes, and David Kalberg is still able to fulfill his student teaching requirements for his teaching degree from Fort Hays State University.
Kalberg, who will earn his bachelor’s degree in elementary education online in May, moved with his wife, Kimberley, from their home in Idaho to China a few months ago when she took a job as a third-grade teacher at QSI of Zhuhai. He continued taking classes online and was pleasantly surprised when he learned he could student teach in China as well.
Even when the coronavirus disease outbreak was declared a public health emergency – thus closing schools all across China on Feb. 3 – Kalberg’s student teaching wasn’t interrupted.
QSI is a group of non-profit international schools offering education in the English language in 37 different countries. So, in preparing for any type of unusual circumstances, its teachers already have been trained online, and students are enrolled in an online system.
Incorporating the skills he learned while taking classes online at FHSU, Kalberg converted the classroom curriculum for his QSI fifth-graders to an online format.
“This is definitely not what I’d ever been trained for before,” said Kalberg, a retired diesel mechanic who followed his wife into teaching as a second career. “The technology classes at Fort Hays State set me up for all this. I am very fortunate.”
He credits Scott Gregory, the field experience director for FHSU’s student teachers, for the seamless process.
One day, while Gregory was conducting a Zoom meeting online with some of the 100-plus student teachers he has this semester, Kalberg spoke of his situation in China.
While student teachers at many universities are supervised by on-campus professors, often limiting the distance for student teaching destinations, Fort Hays State is unique in the fact that it has a separate director for its student teaching programs. Coupled with its large online presence, FHSU can meet the needs of students anywhere, whether in a physical classroom setting in another state or online from China.
Kalberg is proof of that.
“Learning has just changed a lot,” Gregory said, “and the online unit is a huge component. Because of that, we can be very, very flexible, which makes us very marketable.”
Kalberg’s days start a little earlier these days than when he taught in the classroom. About 6 a.m., he begins correcting homework that his students have sent him online. Soon afterward, he begins the conversations that he has with his students every day, both individually and as a group, using online conferencing call techniques.
“I can’t emphasize enough how beneficial the FHSU online program has been for me personally,” Kalberg said. “I couldn’t be happier with the entire program.”
Kalberg is planning to fly to Hays to walk across the stage at graduation in May. It will be his first trip ever to Fort Hays State, but he is anxious to meet Gregory and professors he had in his four years at FHSU – and to check out the campus version of his soon-to-be alma mater.
“And,” he said with a laugh, “I need to get some more FHSU black and gold items.”