Wendy Oleksinski's picture

Personal Connections in a Virtual World

How do you express yourself? Melissa Ballard, a 4th grade English/Language Arts teacher at Georgia Cyber Academy (GCA), likes to write in her journal. She also likes to make new friends and play in the mud.  During the first week of school, Ms. Ballard takes every opportunity to connect with her students on a personal level. How does that look in a virtual classroom?

Students who are enrolled at GCA have a multitude of ways to connect with their teachers. The school hosts several face-to-face events throughout the school year. The first events of the year, the Back to School picnics, take place at Stone Mountain Park in Stone Mountain, Wilmington Island Community Park in Savannah, Amerson River Park in Macon, and other locations around the state. Since teachers who work at GCA live in various cities and towns in Georgia, students and teachers often live in the same areas. Ms. Ballard met two of her students at a Waffle House in Valdosta!

Students and teachers can also connect through the use of webcams and microphones. Students in Ms. Ballard’s class practice using journals by writing “All About Me” entries. Ms. Ballard brags that her students “love” sharing their written ideas on the webcam and microphone.  “I’ve learned so much about them already,” Ms. Ballard explains. “We enjoy sharing our interests and hobbies during live Class Connect sessions as we get to know each other the first week of school.”

K12 Inc.'s picture

Why this Social Media Star Loves Being Back-to-School at NCVA


Johanna enjoying her first day of third grade at NCVA.

At just eight years old, Johanna Colon has a viral dance recital video, appeared as a guest on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and Little Big Shots, and still finds the time for online school at North Carolina Virtual Academy (NCVA).

Johanna started third grade last week, and this year marks her sixth year of dance training.

“She started bopping around to music when she was just a few months old, and by the time she could walk, she was dancing,” Johanna’s mother, Elissa Colon, said. Johanna officially started dance lessons at two years old.

Elissa knew online school was the best option for Johanna with her busy schedule of lessons and recitals during the school year.

“NCVA is very rigorous, so it keeps Johanna engaged, and the online environment means she can do school anywhere she is,” Elissa said. “We were already looking for a different option than public school because Johanna needed to be challenged with her school work. She is advanced and was bored in her classes. Then her dance recital video went viral and I needed to find a schooling option that kept school as the priority.”

In June of 2015 Johanna performed a routine channeling her inner diva in an end-of-the-year recital. Her mom recorded the performance and shared it on social media for her friends and family to watch, titling the video, "Johanna channeling Aretha Franklin!"


K12 Inc.'s picture

K12-Powered Dance Prodigy Featured on Hit Fox Talent Show


Tahani Anderson on So You Think You Can Dance: The Next Generation.

A heartbreaking loss, but the K12 family couldn’t be more proud of 13-year-old iQ Academy-LA student Tahani Anderson. Her journey to the Top Four on the hit Fox TV show So You Think You Can Dance: The Next Generation (SYTYCD) ended on Monday night when Tahani was eliminated. 

In last night’s episode, the dance prodigy impressed the judges with a hip-hop style tribal performance of “Where They From” by Missy Elliot. For the second half of the celebratory 250th episode, the child contestants choreographed their own routines. Judge Nigel Lythgoe appreciated Tahani’s choreography so much, he said he “couldn’t take his eyes” off of her throughout her performance.

Tahani has always danced to her own beat, performing since the age of two. She sometimes practices eight hours a day! Thus, she appreciates the personalized learning approach at iQ Academy-LA. “If a subject is challenging, I get extra help from my teacher,” she said. “When I understand my lessons, I move forward at my own pace. It’s great!”

The K12 family will always be on “Team Tahani” and can’t wait to see where she turns up next!  Check out a montage of all of Tahani’s SYTYCD performances here!

K12 Inc.'s picture

How GCA Helped These Siblings Discover Their Passions

Candy, Shaine, Cayce, and Jace Freeman.

Candice Freeman and her husband Shaine knew that they needed alternative school options when their two children were only 3 and 4 years old.

“We moved to an area where the only good options for school were either private school or homeschool. The public schools in our district didn’t work, so I knew I wanted to get them started with something different,” said Candice. “Jace was also a bit advanced for his age, so I wanted to make sure that he could get ahead if he wanted to.”

The Freemans enrolled their children into Georgia Cyber Academy (GCA) when they were each in kindergarten. Candice noted the easy transition for the whole family and said she appreciated the rigorous curriculum.

Jace, who is now in fifth grade, has been able to advance to a sixth-grade language arts class this year. When Cayce, who is in fourth grade, had a bit of a hiccup with her schoolwork and needed some extra help, her teachers were eager to help and give her extra practice work so she could improve. Now, she is doing so well that she is likely to advance to sixth-grade language arts next year, just like her big brother! The Freemans believe that GCA has already put their children on the right track for college.

Cayce and Jace love the Class Connect sessions and interacting with their teachers.

K12 Inc.'s picture

GCA Student Bethany Lemonds’ Amazing High School Ride Comes to a Close


GCA student Bethany Lemonds shows off her riding skills

For Georgia Cyber Academy (GCA) student and “cowgirl” Bethany Lemonds, this spring brought not one, but two separate graduations. Bethany graduated Summa Cum Laude from GCA, two weeks after she received her Associate Degree from the Newton Campus of Georgia State University’s Perimeter College.

“Participating in two graduations was an amazing opportunity,” Bethany said. “It was such a time of accomplishment.”

Bethany, who joked that she technically graduated college before graduating high school, was extremely involved in her GCA graduation. She introduced the commencement speaker, Georgia Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, and she also accepted the AJC Cup Award, an honor presented to high school students who show excellence in leadership, academics, and community involvement.

After the 6th grade, Bethany began online schooling and worked tirelessly to maintain a 3.5 GPA. While Bethany said her workload was larger at GCA than in her original “less-than-ideal public school situation,” she found that the increased schedule flexibility ultimately gave her more time.

“My experience with GCA was nothing less than wonderful,” Bethany said. “It opened doors I didn’t even know were there.”