When Amber Frederick, a senior family science and human development major, left Brookdale Elementary School the Friday afternoon before her spring break began, she had no idea that her first real student-teaching experience would be coming to a sudden end.
This was supposed to be Frederick’s first semester of her clinical experience; she was working in a fifth-grade classroom in Bloomfield, New Jersey, but due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, her firsthand experience of what it is like to be a teacher has been cut short.
Before the coronavirus, Frederick could be found taking teacher education courses in University Hall. Now, Frederick’s daily routine involves virtual class and keeping up with the students she had grown to love through Google Classroom instead of face-to-face interaction.
Frederick lost out on an important part of her life without warning.
“It is disappointing that I did not get to finish out my senior year,” Frederick said. “I feel like I am missing out on an exciting time and I miss student teaching.”
Frederick is just one of the thousands of seniors at Montclair State University whose daily routines and programs have come to an uncertain end because of the coronavirus.
On a normal spring afternoon, Kiara Ruiz, a senior athletic training major, could be found winding up for a pitch on the pitcher’s mound at the Montclair State Softball Stadium. Now, the senior must workout at home to stay active since her fourth softball season came to a sudden halt when the NCAA announced that collegiate sports must suspend their spring seasons.
Ruiz had been in Florida with the Montclair State softball team when the 20,000 plus students and faculty received an email from the university that all classes were being moved to online instruction, and spring break was being extended an extra week. Just three days prior to the email that marked the new virtual learning era, Ruiz pitched a no-hitter against Becker College.
Coming off the euphoria of such a profound athletic achievement, the senior had to face reality fast, as life would not go back to the way it was prior to spring break.
“I think I can speak for many when I say I never could have seen something like this happening,” Ruiz said. “It was definitely hard to handle when the news first came out that our season was over and that school was online. Now I am just trying to stay positive and look on the bright side of things.”
Although the senior feared she lost out on her final year to play softball, collegiate athletes have been allotted one extra year of eligibility to play, due to COVID-19’s abrupt cut to the spring season. The extended eligibility is currently for athletes on spring sports teams. Ruiz now has a chance to showcase her talent on the mound next spring, if she chooses to.
“I have put a lot of thought into coming back next year since I was given my eligibility back, however, I have not made a decision yet,” Ruiz said. “Although I don’t know what my next chapter is in softball, I know that softball will always be a part of my life.”
While Ruiz could be found at the softball stadium on a typical spring day, Madalyn Rupprecht, a senior double major in dance and journalism, could be found across campus in the dance studios of Life Hall.
It is in these studios where Rupprecht would be in her ballet slippers, light on her tiptoes and swaying and crossing the wood floor. She would also perform various warm-up routines with her classmates, specifically, in preparation for the now-canceled spring dance performances.
Now, Rupprecht performs those same routines alone in the basement of her home in Maryland, instead of the studios atop the mountain in Montclair, New Jersey, which she has grown to call home over the last four years.
“Just the fact that our dance classes aren’t able to be held as normal is devastating,” Rupprecht said. “We are now missing out on a lot of important training in the studio, and I miss that sense of community that comes with dancing with my friends who, after four years, I now call family.”
The coronavirus pandemic did not only take away the rest of Rupprecht’s final academic year at Montclair State, it also took away her motivation to perform, something she had been training years for.
“Some days I sit and work, but other days, I don’t have the motivation to do so,” Rupprecht said. “I have some other Zoom classes here and there. Without my same rigorous dance classes and rehearsals, I definitely struggle to stay inspired day-to-day.”
When the thousands of seniors at Montclair State left campus the first week of March, they expected to come back after a week off from classes, refreshed and ready to be back with their peers for the final few weeks of their undergraduate journeys.
Instead, seniors sat in their final classes, with people they may never be with again, without even realizing it. They did not get to say their proper goodbyes to the school they’ve come to love over four years with their peers.
“I understand it all, of course. This pandemic needs to be taken more seriously by some, but it is still devastating,” Rupprecht said. “The closure of school is a loss. It will always feel like a loss. This feeling is certainly elevated as a senior, as there is no going back once all of this is over.”
Contributions to this article made by Sam Impaglia and Thomas Neira.