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Why Graduation Was Unique For One GCA Student

Andre Arnold and his sister Mahogany Arnold at his graduation

Written by Jenna Needham

Educational obstacles can make the traditional school setting a hard place to be for some students. A lot of the time, there are alternative school options that can be a better fit for them. One student in particular is Andre Arnold, a young man who lives with both autism, which makes him non-verbal, and type-one diabetes. Andre did not let these obstacles hinder his success as he recently graduated from Georgia Cyber Academy (GCA).

His parents needed an alternative to traditional school. Andre had a few extra needs that were not being met which made it hard for him to receive the education that every student deserves.

"He had a hard time in the brick-and-mortar school. There were things his teachers expected from him that he just couldn’t do, like speaking. They didn’t understand his disability. With GCA, there was more time to meet his needs and he could go at his own pace,” said his mother, Ebony Arnold.

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What Has Colorado Preparatory Academy Students in Stitches

CPA's 2016 Quilt of Valor

Written by Jenna Needham

Jennifer Amy is a middle school teacher at Colorado Preparatory Academy (CPA), a K12 school, who has gotten K12 students from across the nation to help complete making their fourth annual “Quilt of Valor” to donate to the Quilts of Valor Foundation. The Foundation enlists volunteers to make comforting quilts for veterans.

Jennifer was introduced to the Foundation in 2012, when a national quilt club she participates in had a guest speaker who showed students how a long-arm quilting machine works. Following the demonstration, Jennifer’s students requested to join the philanthropic effort.

 “Students take great pride in being a part of the Quilt of Valor project,” said Jennifer. “Some of the students have a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle in the military, so for them it really is meaningful. Others have huge hearts and enjoy giving to others!”

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What I Felt At The ISKS Graduation

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How OHVA Helps “Drive” One Student’s Success in Disc Golf

 OHVA Student Lacey Brugler competes in 2014 Disc Golf World Championships

While other students go on vacation or relax with friends this weekend, Lacey Brugler, a 9th grader at Ohio Virtual Academy, will be showing off her impressive disc golf skills at the 10th annual Disc Girls Gone Wild competition June 4th-5th

With 47 career wins and 5 years of competition experience, Brugler typically competes in the intermediate and advanced disc golf categories. Although this requires her to compete against girls much older than she, Brugler’s diligence and fierce training has made her unstoppable. In fact, she is one of the youngest disc golf champions with paying sponsors, and recently placed in second at the 2015 World Champion Disc Golf Tournament in the “16 and under” category.

Brugler’s disc golf passion has brought her all over the world. Because of this, she often needed to leave school on a Thursday to travel and compete in one of her many successful competitions. When Brugler reached the 6th grade, her father Jeff Brugler finally decided that it was time she found a schooling option to fit her unique traveling needs. Thanks to a friend’s suggestion, Jeff enrolled Lacey in Ohio Virtual Academy.

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“Ask your mom before you use her good cake pan for that!”

Teaching Middle School Science Online

“How do you teach middle school science online?” I get that question a lot and answering it isn’t always quick, easy, or painless.  I love my job teaching for Insight School of Kansas and Kansas Virtual Academy, and to me it is obvious why other teachers and students like it here as well.  However, I am often faced with defending my school, my students, and even myself as a teacher. In order to dispel rumors and preconceived notions, I wanted to address some of those most frequently asked questions head-on in this article.

Admittedly, the transition from teaching for four years in brick-and-mortar classrooms to teaching science online wasn’t easy at first. Over my seven years teaching online, I’ve found innovative ways to connect with my students, including live synchronous classroom sessions. Using my webcam, I conduct just as many demonstrations in my virtual classroom as I did in a traditional setting, but now I do them from my kitchen counter instead of a school laboratory with the same science kit as the one mailed directly to the students’ homes.  I do utilize technology for virtual labs and videos as well. There are some amazing virtual labs and virtual demonstrations that I used even in brick-and-mortar schools. 

“Don’t they miss being with real kids?”  I think a very important practice for online teaching is to create a community in your classroom.  Teaching live classes all year makes it a little easier for me.  I am able to start off with icebreakers or warm up activities.  I’ve found that middle school kids love sharing information about themselves.  Giving them a few minutes before class starts to chat with each other goes a long way.  Each of my students is a “real live kid” and I work closely with them to develop a close student-teacher relationship—in some cases we build stronger relationships than I did in the traditional setting. 

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ORVA and ISOR Prom: A Night of Enchantment

FAST Administrator Amanda Sinnott, peer mentor Elizabeth Ives, and DJ Lyons

Written by Jenna Needham

What happens when an online students attend a prom? A night of enchantment, of course! The Insight School of Oregon (ISOR) and Oregon Virtual Academy (ORVA) partnered up to create a night to remember for their students which involved a free “Enchanted Forest Masquerade” themed prom.

Debunking the myth that virtual students miss out on socialization, Amanda Sinnott, who is part of ISOR’s Family Academic Support Team said, “This seemed different from a regular prom because there were no kids sitting on the sidelines. Students made sure everyone was dancing and having a good time.  It was a very inclusive event. It made me cry happy tears when I got home!”

The prom featured a DJ, pictures, beautiful clothes, and of course, dancing. Over 80 students showed up to this- the first prom they were able to attend for ISOR and ORVA. A peer mentor from one of the schools had “ice-breaker’ events planned in case students were shy, but they ended up not having to do any because everyone was dancing together and talking to each other all night!

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K12 CEO Stuart Udell: GCA Commencement Remarks

Ebony Arnold, Andre Arnold, Head of School Matt Arkin, and K12 CEO Stuart Udell

Thank you, Ryan.

I’d also like to thank Head of School, Matt Arkin, and Deputy Head of School, Veronica Clemons, for their outstanding leadership.

It is an honor to be with you today. Congratulations, Class of 2016! (Applause) 

I also want to congratulate all of you -- the families- -who supported these students in so many ways. Graduates, how about a big round of applause for your families. (Applause.)

And Graduates, since this very well may be the last time you will ever hear these words, “If you can hear me, send me a smiley face!” (Laughter)

Class of 2016, you’ve arrived. You’ve done the hard work to get here and formed friendships that will last a lifetime.

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OHVA Olympic Hopeful Prepares for a Busy Summer


Written by Jenna Needham

The time commitment and drive it takes to train with former Olympic figure skaters would intimidate most people, but Cienna Baka takes on the challenge with ease.  She is able to do this because of the flexible schedule that online education provides.  Cienna is a 10th grade student at Ohio Virtual Academy (OHVA) who has dedicated her life to ice skating competitively. 

Since she was six years old, Cienna has always been training on the ice or traveling constantly for competitions. Her schedule is so busy that her entire family operates around it. With such a huge time commitment to her ice skating, this would prove to make going to a brick-and-mortar school a difficult task. This is what led her family to distance education.

Ohio Virtual Academy provided such an accommodating schedule for Cienna that she can do her work or communicate with her teachers easily at the ice skating rink or even on the road. Cienna now balances her year-round ice skating, traveling, and school work effortlessly since she enrolled in the virtual school. 

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Why the Head of School and Principal at ISOR Have Pink Beards

Written by Jenna Needham

The Head of School and Principal at The Insight School of Oregon (ISOR-ALT and ISOR-PH) really go the extra mile to support their 600 students! During their two-week winter break, ISOR attempted a new program to help students raise their grades. In a show of solidarity, Head of School, J.D. McMahan, and Principal, Jim Sinnott, promised to dye their beards pink if enough students participated in the program! The result was an incredible 37% of the student body raising their grades a full letter, leading to sparkly pink beards for Mr. McMahan and Mr. Sinnott!

“I am so proud of our Insight kids. We need our students to know that they are not alone over the school breaks. We are still there for them and rooting for their success. I am so impressed by their willingness to raise their grades, especially over a break!” Said Amanda Sinnott, who is part of the ISOR’s Family Academic Support Team, when asked about the success of the Insight School of Oregon’s students.

Building off of their success on winter break, the school tried the same program again for spring break, which is one week long. The result was 28% of students raised their grade by a full letter- - in half the time it took during winter break! This time, as their reward, students had the opportunity to participate in the “onesie unicorn 2.0 dance extravaganza!” This cool social event took place in a class connect session where students were entered into raffles to win onesies, t-shirts, and other prizes.

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Praise & Appreciation

Earlier this month, the Nation marked Teacher Appreciation Week.  This special week every year couldn’t come at a more perfect time- the final month of the school year when we’re wrapping things up, starting to grow a little weary, and when the students’ excitement about summer break is starting to become noticeable!

In fact, during this week, I began inwardly questioning whether students were enjoying my classes anymore- - when all-of-a-sudden I received a “day-changing” email. Our amazing middle school advisor worked alongside students to produce a touching video for teachers. With her help, students posted some of the things they appreciated about a specific teacher on the whiteboard during homeroom to later be shared. Our advisor put together a video with each teacher’s slide.  After watching this heartfelt video, I was moved to tears. 

Throughout the week, there were other great emails, videos, and even prizes from various teams in our organization.  It all meant so much and I really appreciate not only the thoughts behind this touching tribute, but the time taken during busy schedules just to let me know students care and notice my hard work. Then it occurred to me… Am I doing that enough with my students? Receiving praise all week made me wonder if I was giving enough myself. The answer was probably not. I, like the students, was ready for a break.  I felt like I was saying “good job”, but nothing deeper.