An Interview with Christina Romero-Ivanova: The Big Transition

Jul 13, 2020 by

Christina Romero-Ivanova

Michael F. Shaughnessy –

1) First of all, can you tell our readers a bit about yourself and your education and experience?

I am an assistant professor of education at Indiana University Kokomo and an alumnus of Eastern New Mexico University. I received Associates of General Studies and Liberal Arts from Clovis Community College in 1997 and 2000; Bachelor of Arts from ENMU in 2000; Masters of Science in Education from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis in 2009; and my PhD in Literacy, Culture, and Language Education from Indiana University in 2018. I am a literacy researcher and my work centers on narratives, especially women’s storytelling and digital storytelling.

2) Now, what exactly do you teach and what courses were you teaching before the Corona Virus hit?

I teach reading methods for elementary teacher candidates, Using Computers in Education, English Language Arts methods for Jr/Middle/HS teacher candidates, and other pre-teacher education courses.

3) What was your immediate emotional reaction to having to put all of your classes online?

I was disappointed because I would not be able to see my students in person for the remainder of the semester. As far as teaching online, I already zoom teach with my Tomorrow’s Teachers (dual credit/students who want to be teachers) high school students every other week in the fall and spring semesters, so I was comfortable with teaching online.

4) What was the overall reaction of your students?

As you can imagine, initially, students were anxious, scared, and frustrated. However, because I had already zoom taught my high school students every other week for two semesters, the teaching and learning continued naturally. For my campus adult students, the main thing was to just make sure my students were up on Canvas notifications to understand what days we would zoom. From there, it was relatively seamless. 

5) Somewhat difficult question- how did you cope?

My coping really had a lot to do with seeing my students weekly during class on zoom sessions and being able to FaceTime and text with them. Also, I continued virtual coffees with them :) And, my work has been even busier with writing manuscripts in the spring and now summer, for publication. I also am a member of several campus committees and have been working on conference presentations for the summer and fall.

6) For your students- their lives were disrupted, marriages put on hold, relationships thrown into turmoil, jobs lost.  How much of this did you have to cope with?

Actually, for my students – or at least what they revealed – lives were mainly disrupted in the ways of having to stay at home and not socialize with friends. This is what I mainly heard about in zoom sessions and that my students felt lonelier.

7) Let’s face it- certain classes really need to be face to face- methods and materials and student teaching for example.  Did you rely on technology or simply make adjustments to requirements?

My spring courses involved one Tomorrow’s Teachers course that requires field experiences for my high school students. I had to lower the number of field experiences drastically because K-12 went completely online and students were not permitted do be part of e-learning in fields.

For my Freshman Learning Community (FLC) Using Computers in Education course, our field was teaching digital storytelling in an after-school Gear Up program weekly, so we only got in a few visits before Covid hit. Also, this course was connected to my research study about using Chromebooks and Digital Storytelling, so that study has been put on hold until spring 2021.

My campus non-FLC Using Computers in Education course had a field of teaching digital storytelling in a local domestic violence shelter. So, we only got a few visits in there as well. I also have a research study tied to that teaching experience and it has been put on hold until spring 2021 as well. I will say that I heavily relied on zoom and zoom breakout rooms, as well as Google Docs and Flipgrid. These helped me to keep the engagement going and really brought my students together.

8) Looking down the road to the fall- what seems to be on the horizon?

My university is on a flex schedule and we will be doing social distancing like everyone else. The flex schedule means that we will be doing 13 weeks of initial instruction in the fall with the 3 remaining weeks after Thanksgiving break solely online instruction.

In the spring, we will be doing solely online instruction for the first 3 weeks of the semester and will not have a spring break. Right now, myself and my colleagues are waiting to hear K-12 schools’ decisions on returning to school in the fall so that we can plan our field experiences for face to face, e-learning, or if we will need to instead utilize videos in lieu of field experience learning.

9) Social injustice, societal upheaval-and quarantine and face masks- in general- how are students faring overall, and how are faculty coping also?

Students, or at least my students have said that they are doing okay. I believe that they have gotten into a routine of online learning so it will be much easier come fall, if we need to transition to online learning again because of high Covid numbers. Faculty are overwhelmed I believe. I think I have been.

I’ve had more zoom meetings in the spring and now summer than I’ve ever had. I’m also a faculty ambassador so I’m mentoring incoming freshmen this summer through zoom. Grant-writing, writing for publishing, committees, planning syllabi, and so much more still take place. We faculty are tired but also want to do the very best we can for our students to be ready for fall.

10) What have I neglected to ask?

I can’t think of anything. Thank you for this opportunity to speak about this experience.

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