Wendy Oleksinski's picture

Radio Station Makes Dream Come True for GCA Teacher

For Rosie Lowndes, a middle school director for Georgia Cyber Academy (GCA), being on the radio has always been a personal goal and dream.  When Lowndes was invited to be a guest DJ on 103.3 FM, an urban contemporary radio station in Atlanta, she was more than thrilled.


Rosie Lowndes with GCA Students

Jennifer Schultze's picture

Positive Culture Creates Effective Learning Environments for WYVA Families

For the last few years Wyoming Virtual Academy (WYVA) has worked on developing a positive culture and environment within our school community.  WYVA staff and administrators have embraced theories such as the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People as well as strengths-based approaches which concentrate on the inherent strengths of individuals and groups.

I recently presented at a K12 Promising Practices seminar on the topic of positive school culture. I shared that I have seen our school thrive in the last few years in ways since implementing these new approaches.

At our school, students in kindergarten through high school are given weekly assemblies and strategies to develop life skills, create personal goals, and to help them find ways to better organize their learning approaches.  WYVA teachers work to have consistent communication with students that show that we are not just invested in them as teachers, but that we truly care about all of our students and families as individuals.

Lisa Spinelli's picture

Online Instruction Fosters Deep Connection for OHVA Teacher

Heather Petersen, 40, always wanted to be a teacher. When she was a little girl she’d have her siblings and cousins pretend to be her students as she instructed them on her own chalkboard.

Today, after 16 years of teaching, Heather’s love for teaching children continues, just in a less traditional method than using chalk on a board. A teacher with Ohio Virtual Academy (OHVA), Heather has been with the school for 13 years.

“I really do enjoy a lot about it,” Heather said about her long-time career with online teaching. “I really liked being home when my children were little so I could run them to preschool and just be able to have that time and relationship with them working from home.”

Heather started her teaching career in a Christian school in Toledo until a charter school came in and took over. She then took a position with the public school system, where she taught for several years as a second grade teacher.

Heather, who has six children of her own, was a victim of budgetary cuts within the struggling public school system and left at home with a new baby and a lot of anxiety about how she was going to help provide for her burgeoning family. That’s when she saw job openings at the Ohio Virtual Academy.

“I am an anxious person so I was getting worried about how we were going to pay our bills,” Heather said. “Finding OHVA was really a blessing.”

Recognizing her gift for teaching, OHVA offered Heather a teacher position and she quickly accepted. The position has been a perfect fit for her both personally and professionally.

Heather now teaches iSupport for first graders who are struggling with their reading and writing. What Heather especially loves is the unique format the online schooling offers so she can tailor her lessons to each child’s individual needs.

“One little boy was very hesitant to work with us, but I knew Batman was really his thing. So after getting a lot of pushback, I went to Walmart and bought a Batman mask. In a breakout room, I put it on and told him, ‘Read to me!’ and I didn’t necessarily get the exact results I wanted to, but from then on he was much more relaxed and works with me more with not nearly as much pushback,” Heather said.

Jeff Kwitowski's picture

Charter Schools Get Berned

At a recent Democratic town hall Presidential candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders, was asked about charter schools.  His answer set off a flurry of press releases, statements, and op-eds from charter school leaders across the country trying to set the record straight. Senator Sanders said:

“I believe in public in public education, and I believe in public charter schools.  I do not believe in private – privately controlled charter schools.”

Writing in U.S. News & World Report, Sara Mead said that Senator Sanders’ comment “provoked umbrage from charter school advocates, glee from charter critics, perplexity from journalists, and indifference from people who don’t closely follow education debates.”

Nina Rees with the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools said she was “disappointed that Senator Sanders continues to be confused about the tax status of charter schools since it is legally impossible to run a for-profit charter school in this country.” (A statement that itself is not entirely accurate.  California, for example, has some charter schools that operate as LLCs.)

Nonetheless, Sanders comments and the firestorm it created, shows how important it is to get the facts right about charter schools, their tax statuses, and the legal and structural differences between governance and management.  Nonprofit charter schools may contract with vendors just as school districts regularly contract with private, for-profit providers; however contracting with private providers does not change a school’s nonprofit tax status, nor does it mean they are no longer public schools.

Wendy Oleksinski's picture

Innovative Lessons and Learning in the Online Classroom

How are students learning in a virtual setting?

Many parents may ask this question when considering online education for their children. Simply put, students learn by becoming engaged in the content.

Two of my colleagues, who are talented second grade teachers at Georgia Cyber Academy (GCA), Joy Knight and Danyelle Lynch, demonstrate how student engagement comes to life in the online classroom.

Although students may differ in abilities, Joy, who taught for four years in a brick-and-mortar setting before coming to GCA two years ago, claims, “We know that students all have one thing in common – they must be engaged for optimal learning.  Our desire for each class is to grab the students’ attention, make them feel like valued contributors, and enable them to dig deeply into a topic so they can make connections.” 

The two teachers recently taught a class on grammatical contractions and wanted to incorporate a “contraction surgery” activity they saw on Pinterest. A contraction surgery involves cutting apart words and bandaging new words (or contractions) together. Joy and Danyelle decided to go ahead with the activity and adjust it for an online class. 

Photo: Courtesy Wendy Oleksinski
Joy Knight, First Grade Teacher

Danyelle, a teacher of 18 years, explains, “Joy entered the classroom virtually as “Dr. Knight” -- dressed in scrubs and a mask!  The kids were immediately drawn into the lesson and remained engaged throughout, which was exactly what we wanted.” 

For Joy and Danyelle, it is not about how many slides they cover in an online class session, instead, students will find lots of conversation and sharing during any one of their classes.

“This (co-teaching method) results in many connections being made that might otherwise be missed,” says Joy.  

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