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News from UMass Lowell

Student Teachers Gain Experience During Pandemic; Researcher Aims to Make Home Care Safer

Student teaching Photo by Courtesy
Senior education major Abby O'Keefe reads a book to her second-grade class at a Lowell elementary school.


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Senior education major Abby O’Keefe grew up in Lowell and she was excited to do her student teaching in a second-grade class at Pawtucketville Elementary School. A week before school began on Sept. 17, she was assigned to work in person in a class with many students who need extra support, either because they have special needs or they are still learning English. Then, 72 hours before O’Keefe’s first day, Lowell announced that classes would start virtually. Two weeks later, her class switched to in-person. Three weeks after that, it went remote again. O’Keefe is among the 17 undergraduate education majors who are seniors this year. They are the first cohort of education undergraduates at UMass Lowell in decades and will be the first ever to earn dual certification in elementary education and teaching students with moderate disabilities. 

A year ago, when Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences researcher Margaret Quinn began work on a $2.48 million federal grant to make home health care safer for caregivers and patients alike, she had no idea she’d be doing it amid a pandemic. But as the spread of COVID-19 became a crisis, Quinn and the team for the Safe Home Care Project knew that they had to respond quickly. Both patients and aides – who may visit several homes a day to bathe, feed and provide other personal care for clients – were at high risk of infection. “Home health care is one of the top five fastest-growing industries in the United States,” Quinn says. “Yet it’s an almost invisible industry and workforce, because care takes place in the privacy of people’s homes.”