Alumna strives to make a difference in classroom during pandemic

Katie Moats
March 29, 2021

When Stephanie Metzger -- 2016, Spanish, world languages education -- spent two years developing a curriculum for her school district’s first middle school-level bilingual Spanish program, she didn’t expect the program to debut during a pandemic.

Despite having to make several adjustments along the way, Metzger is taking everything in stride and focuses on providing as much support as possible to her students and their families. She’s also choosing to focus on the positives of being in a mostly remote learning environment instead of dwelling on the negatives.

Metzger, currently a Spanish Language Arts teacher for Alexandria (Virginia) City Public Schools, has also tried to keep her students engaged as best she can during the pandemic. While her school district has been entirely remote most of the school year, they are beginning to shift to a hybrid learning environment. Metzger said she isn’t quite sure what to expect when she enters her building again.

"It’ll be interesting,” she admitted. “My class is normally 32 kids, and right now with the desk separation, it’s four. While I’ll love to see those four kids, it’s just difficult because I’ll have to teach on my computer and on the board at the same time. I know teachers around America are doing it -- I’m sure it works, but I’m just curious as to how being in two places at once is going to work.”

Metzger said one upside of teaching remotely has been having some extra time to explore new, creative ideas to keep her students interested. She joined a lot of virtual support groups where teachers share their own remote learning ideas, which she said led her to consider teaching strategies she had not considered before.

“It’s given me a lot of ideas [after] being thrown into something where I had no idea what to do [online],” Metzger said. “I feel a lot more comfortable with it now, but it definitely made me consider teaching practices I had never tried before.”

For example, Metzger began using a teaching practice called “dictalo,” a process where students turn on their cameras, show her their books, and write down what she is saying to practice their speaking and spelling.

“I got the strategy from a Mexican teacher on Facebook who told me they do this in South America all the time,” Metzger said. “It worked great -- my kids love it and it’s helped a ton with their spelling and grammar.”

Beyond the classroom, Metzger is focused on helping families in need -- especially those for whom the children’s familial responsibilities are a higher priority than attending virtual classes. When her classes initially went remote, Metzger quickly realized that most of her students didn’t have notebooks. Since she wasn’t physically with them, she couldn’t just hand them school supplies like she normally would at school; so, she asked her church for help. Those efforts allowed every single student in her class to have the school supplies -- and in some instances, food and other supplies -- they would have not had otherwise.

Even though Metzger graduated from Penn State five years ago, she believes the lessons she learned as a Penn State student and a Paterno Fellow in the College of the Liberal Arts have helped her become the teacher she is today. She especially recalls the six months she spent studying abroad in the Dominican Republic, where she took classes at a university seminary school and worked on her Spanish. She enjoyed her experience and all the people she met so much that she has visited the Dominican Republic two times since leaving.

Metzger was also able to complete an internship with a secondary school in Costa Rica, where she worked with two missionaries and helped teach English and computers after a devastating earthquake.

“I think that sparked my interest in really wanting to invest in the community and being a teacher,” she explained. “The most important thing you can offer is your time, which is very seldom what people want to offer, and getting to know people -- that’s where you really make change and have an impact.”

  • Metzger (Classroom 1)

    After teaching remotely for most of the school year, Stephanie Metzger ('16, Spanish, world languages education), is prepared to welcome some students back to her classroom in the Alexandria (Virginia) City Public Schools.

    IMAGE: Stephanie Metzger
  • Metzger (Classroom 2)

    After teaching remotely for most of the school year, Stephanie Metzger ('16, Spanish, world languages education), is prepared to welcome some students back to her classroom in the Alexandria (Virginia) City Public Schools.

    IMAGE: Stephanie Metzger
(1 of 2)

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated March 29, 2021