Edie Taylor's picture

Teacher Appreciation Day


Most people, even those in the online education community, are surprised when they hear that I’m an online special education teacher at Michigan Great Lakes Virtual Academy (MGLVA). They question the efficacy of teaching special education students online, many of whom function several years below their chronological grade level. My message on this Teacher Appreciation Day is the online environment is the best environment for special education students!

In a brick and mortar setting, special education goes something like this – students are taken in and out of their main classrooms causing them to miss lessons. This forces special education teachers to become glorified tutors, trying to get their students up to speed on the curriculum rather than the basic functions they are supposed to be learning. This lack of time for basic skill lessons makes it even more challenging for these students to cope in their regular classrooms, causing an unfortunate downward spiral. At MGLVA, there aren’t these challenges, as we schedule basic skills sessions that don’t conflict with lessons.

Additionally, many of my special education students come from brick and mortar schools where they encountered severe bullying. Bullying crushes a special education student’s confidence in the classroom and makes them not want to go to school. In virtual schooling, special education students are able to interface seamlessly with their nondisabled peers. Many of my special education students are so low functioning – I teach 5-8th graders that function at a cognitive level of a student in Kindergarten-5th grade – that it can be difficult to be in a classroom setting. Online they feel comfortable.

All year students on my special education caseload have been working on building reading, writing, and math skills, but recently I shifted the focus to making inferences using reading, charts, graphs, and other resources. I was so amazed by their ability to reason at such a high level, especially when their academic skills are at such a low level.  The students are really engaged in the work, which is amazing to see.

Jennifer Schultze's picture

Live online assembly gives WYVA students the opportunity to meet the Governor of Wyoming

governor mead

Each year since Wyoming Governor Matt Mead’s entered office he has taken time from his busy schedule to meet with Wyoming Virtual Academy (WYVA) families in a virtual assembly.  Governor Mead has been very supportive of our online school.   At this year’s assembly, Governor Mead discussed how we have one of the biggest state land masses in Wyoming, and our families are often very far from schools based on their family occupations.  This is important because online education gives students the opportunity to have high quality education even in the most remote parts of our state. 

WYVA students got the unique opportunity to show the Governor the diverse areas of where we live across the state.  He loved watching the students interact with the virtual whiteboard!

Ashley Collier's picture

K12: Honoring and Serving Military Children

April is the Month of the Military Child and an important time to recognize and support children of those serving in the United States military. When military families move, their entire lives can be disrupted. For many children, their primary concern is how to transition their lives with minimal impact to their education.

In a recent publication, K12 outlines the unique educational challenges facing students in military families, including:

  • inconsistency in curriculum as students move from one state to another
  • feelings of isolation, loneliness, or alienation as the “new student” in the group
  • varying state-specific regulations and requirements

Erin White, a wife of an U.S. Air Force officer and mother of two students enrolled in K12’s International Academy, credits online schooling with bringing consistency to their busy and mobile lifestyle.

“My husband is retired U.S. Air Force and at one point our family moved three times over one year which would have been three separate schools in one school year for our children. That would have been extremely difficult for my children had we not schooled online.”

Lauren Weber's picture

Insight School of Kansas Students Dance the Night Away at Prom

For a high school student, Spring semester is full of a lot of great and exciting events and prom can definitely be at the top of that list. People often ask me how online school is different from traditional brick-and-mortar schools. I could give you a list of how they are similar and how they are different, but one topic is consistent across both types of schools: the students.  Just like in brick-and-mortar schools, our online students cannot wait for prom.

Prom at Insight School of Kansas (ISKS) is a big deal. Every year, it is an event that both students and teachers look forward to. A lot of thought, time, and energy is put into planning, prepping, decorating, and attending prom.

Our Student Council representatives and sponsors work hard to help create a prom theme that our students vote on each year. This year’s theme was Behind the Mask and featured décor and an ambiance similar to that of a Masquerade Ball.  Nate Freitag, ISKS social studies teacher and Student Council co-sponsor, had nothing but praise for our Student Council and the effort they put in to create a memorable prom.

“Our Student Council was excited to take the lead planning Prom this year.  They really took a sense of ownership and enjoyed receiving feedback from fellow students, teachers, and administrators.  Planning prom is a great experience for them and they honed many skills: organization, communication, preparation, and how to handle constructive criticism.”

Thanks to the planning of our Student Council, the week of prom always starts off with a spirit week! Both students and staff really get a kick out of participating in this. An example of some of our spirit days are: favorite villain or superhero day, wacky hair day, favorite fictional character day, game day, and of course it always culminates in a school spirit day where students wear their Wolf Pack swag. Having students and staff participate during these days really helps to build a strong school culture. We want our students to feel pride for their school and a sense of community, which spirit week definitely supports.

Dione Ansah's picture

New Carter and King Exhibition: Lessons in Leadership for GCA Students

On Monday, April 18, as a Georgia Cyber Academy (GCA) Learning Coach, I had the immense privilege of escorting dozens of GCA students to the ribbon-cutting for the opening of “Georgia's Global Peacemakers: The Carter and King Legacy Exhibition” at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site. The new exhibition showcases the peacemaking accomplishments of both legendary leaders and tells the story of the creation of the National Historic Site.


GCA students participating in the retelling of U.S. National Park history.

Martin Luther King III, Martin Luther King Jr.’s eldest son, delivered remarks, as did Jason Carter, former State Senator and grandson of President Jimmy Carter. President Carter delivered his remarks on videotape, educating the students about his role in preserving land for our National Parks. He also spoke of the close bonds that have been forged through the years between the Carter and King families.

Jo Marie Bolick's picture

Testing Virtual Students

Wide open prairies might come to your mind when you picture the state of Kansas. Let me tell you, just like our state’s landscape, we at Insight School of Kansas are covering a wide open range when we administer state assessments and we have a lot of ground to cover!

In Kansas, students from grades 3 through 11 are tested on subjects including Math, Language Arts, History and Science.  We split the testing into three separate days and we test students at eight different testing sites. Most families live very close to a testing location. However, students located in remote parts of the state may have a little bit further to drive.

State assessments are a great undertaking. Our operations team works diligently with our administration to make sure all runs smoothly. Teachers, counselors, and advisors all pitch in to make sure all locations are well-supported. Our Kansas team ROCKS state assessments. From the early planning stages to implementation, we all work hard to ensure testing runs smoothly.

Below, I’ll provide a play-by-play of my third and final day proctoring middle school state assessments. By this point, I’ve spent two days with these students, so there is a friendly tone and everyone knows what is to be expected.

7:10 a.m.: My coffee is made and I’m out the door on the way to the location I’ve been assigned. I’ll be proctoring at the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth, Kansas

8:10 a.m.: I arrive and quickly meet up with our school counselor who will be proctoring with me today. We carry our items to our location. We’ve four heavy boxes of laptops as well as another box of materials we need for the day.

Wendy Oleksinski's picture

Learning to Ride a Bike and Divide

Do you remember who taught you how to ride a bike? Did that person simply place you on the seat of the bike and tell you to soar downhill? Probably not. Very likely, you began your training by learning to balance on two wheels or maybe you starting with training wheels. Perhaps you progressed to pedaling in the grassy part of your yard or the park. Some people, although very few, might have been naturals and hopped on their bikes to ride straight away. Undoubtedly, there were a few skinned knees along the way.

As with any skill, there are steps to follow toward mastery – a vertical transgression of moving from the basics to more intense skills or from training wheels to wheelies.  In mathematics, these basic skills are often overlooked or not focused on enough in the early years of a child’s education. Consequently, it is not surprising that many older students may struggle with multistep mathematical problems.

To address this unbalance, Lane Holmes, a mathematical instructional coach at Georgia Cyber Academy, suggested that a group of online teachers watch a video clip from the “Questioning My Metacognition” YouTube channel. The clip focuses on the progression of division from 3rd-6th grade and on the skills mastery needed to solve division problems effectively.  

Upon viewing the video clip, many teachers had legitimate questions, such as, “Is it reasonable for fifth graders who have most likely never received the necessary conceptual understanding to be able to “catch up” to where they should be?”  

In other words, can we, as teachers, move backwards to reteach skills that might have been previously skipped for students?

Gina Warren's picture

Capitol Day at LAVCA

I am so very proud of my school!  I have been teaching for about 17 years and am not sure if I have ever felt such pride for any other school I have worked in, despite them all being wonderful places, than I feel right now for Louisiana Virtual Charter Academy (LAVCA).  

LAVCA is something very special and dear to me and that feeling is contagious!  I have been with the school since we launched five years ago and have seen what amazing things can happen by allowing educators to have input on what we do every day—teach!  We have a hashtag at our school that many use and we take it quite seriously— #LAVCApride. We are full of pride for the best virtual school in Louisiana and the most dedicated staff I have ever worked alongside!

This past Wednesday our school’s teachers and students, in conjunction with Public School Options (PSO) Louisiana chapter members, met at our state capitol in Baton Rouge. We made sure our voices were heard concerning the importance of school choice and specifically the importance and relevance of LAVCA.  This event is not a new one, but has taken on more significance this year as we strive to educate our lawmakers on the impact our school has on the children we serve and their families.  This is so important, because three bills have been introduced in the state legislature that could possibly end or restructure the program that we have worked so hard to create for our families. 

Jeff Kwitowski's picture

State Testing & Online Schools: What You Probably Never Knew

It’s spring—the season of warm days, blooming flowers, budding trees…and state tests.

In many states, however, this testing season has felt more like a cold and damp winter.  Delays, cancellations, and other well-documented testing mishaps have soured the mood of parents and educators, and provided much fodder for critics of state tests.

Alaska cancelled its tests outright after its testing platform collapsed.  Kansas, which used the same assessment provider as Alaska, had multiple testing delays after experiencing similar technical issues.  Problems in Texas, Nevada, and New York have also been reported.  The Indiana legislature recently scrapped its controversial ISTEP tests after several snafus.  Last year, testing problems plagued officials in Minnesota, Georgia, Florida, and other states.

Perhaps the most well-known testing flop in 2016 occurred in Tennessee.  The state’s not-so-aptly named TNReady test turned out not to be ready at all after a series of technical failures caused the state to order schools to abruptly stop the computer-based version and switch to the paper-based version, resulting in widespread cancellations and delays, not to mention a complete loss of faith in TNReady’s results.  Parents, teachers, and district officials are urging the Education Commissioner and the Governor to cancel part two of the TNReady exams and start fresh next year, or at least exclude this year’s tests from being used for teacher, district, and school accountability.

In most instances when testing problems occur, state department of education officials simply instruct all schools and districts to stop testing and shift to a normal instructional day.  After the TNReady testing platform imploded in Tennessee, the Commissioner of Education emailed district directors with the following instruction:

“At this time, we are advising that schools experiencing problems with the test discontinue testing, and return to their normal classes. Please do not begin any new additional testing you had planned for today until the department provides further information.”

“Return to their normal classes.”  That makes sense.  After all, the normal daily routine for traditional schools is basically the same:  students get on buses, go to their assigned schools, and report to their classrooms, whether for instruction or state testing. 

Not so for online public schools.  There is absolutely nothing normal or routine when online schools students take state tests.  In fact, I bet most people have no idea what online schools must do to fulfil the state-mandated testing requirements.

Jeff Kwitowski's picture

Why Online Charter Schools Matter – Reason # 219,737

Excerpt from The Advocate (Louisiana):

A couple of years ago, Macie Zoble and her son were in crisis.

The Lafayette woman had done everything in her power to keep Riley, then a kindergartner, stable enough to simply finish a traditional school day.

To combat his severe type of bipolar disorder — which mimicked attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and set teachers on edge — the round-cheeked child had been fed high doses of psychotropic drugs, only for Zoble to learn later that he metabolized them too rapidly for them to matter.

He’d been assigned a special learning plan — aimed at keeping students with such difficulties in the classroom — but with an administrator-mandated 10:30 a.m. pickup time, it barely kept him in school at all.

When nothing worked, she pulled him out of school. She quit her job.

Enter Louisiana Virtual Charter Academy.

“It changed our lives. Completely,” Zoble said, tears running down her face.