BIDDEFORD, Maine — The Biddeford school district has hired senior students majoring in education from the University of New England (UNE) and other colleges to help keep kids in the classroom four days a week.
"We would not be able to make this possible, with the safety measures we have in place, without student interns," Biddeford superintendent Jeremy Ray said.
Ray said his goal last summer was to find a way to get kids to learn in-person. He reached out to colleges like UNE and developed the idea to have full-time paid student interns.
"The things we wanted to ensure for our community and our staff is that class sizes we under 12 and that our kids were properly spaced and in order to do that we needed extra classrooms and more bodies," Ray said.
UNE jumped on board.
"The opportunity to combine student teaching with a full year of, you know, full-time teaching is really a unique opportunity," Audrey Bartholomew, chairwoman of UNE's Department of Education, said. "So we saw it as a win-win that students could take advantage of that and also provid[e] that service to Biddeford and Biddeford students."
Senior Bri Walker is one of five students from the university teaching in the district. She teaches 10 first grade students at Biddeford Primary School.
"I have never learned so much in such a short amount of time," Walker said.
Walker does have a mentor in the classroom next to her, to help whenever she needs it. She also said she is happy to be a part of keeping kids in the classroom.
"It just makes me feel like I'm doing the right thing. Being around peers and being able to do that together, it's made a world of a difference and I can see that," Walker said.
The Biddeford superintendent said this would not be possible without Gov. Janet Mills allowing flexibility for educator certification.
UNE students will be teaching in the district through the end of the school year.