Meet an Online Teacher: Kelly Edginton
At K12, we appreciate all that our teachers do and recognize the enormous impact they have on students and families. We’re happy to continue our new series of blog posts to introduce thinktanK12 readers to some of our amazing and experienced teachers around the country.
In this month’s installment of Meet an Online Teacher, I’m pleased to introduce our readers to Kelly Edginton! Kelly is a former teacher, and now works as the Interim Head of School at K12 partner school, Idaho Virtual Academy. Kelly was one of the very first teachers at IDVA when it began in 2002, and she later served as principal of both IDVA’s high school and elementary school before moving into her current role.
Last year, she was recognized as a finalist for the 2012 K12 Distinguished Leadership Award thanks to her dedication to students and their families, and IDVA teachers and administrators. Having been with an online school since its earliest days, Kelly has a unique vantage point. In our interview, she shared her insight on how online learning has changed over the years, and on the unique strengths and challenges of online education.
Previously, you were the Director of Academic Services at IDVA, what did that job entail?
My job is quite broad, so this is a little bit difficult to answer! I work with the Academic Administrative team to help develop and maintain programs to increase student achievement. I compile and analyze all sorts of data for our school for reports and to help drive our academic programs. This year I worked on a team to develop a new student onboarding program working with seasoned IDVA parents as our onboarding specialists. I am managing this team in addition to my other duties.
I’ve probably missed plenty of job duties. Basically, I will do what is asked of me. This isn’t something unusual at our school. We have a fantastic staff that will do whatever it takes to improve our school. I am lucky to work with a terrific team who all help with many of the aspects of my job. If I didn’t have these people working beside me, I would never get everything done!
What brought you to online education and K12?
I spent a period of time while my three boys were young as a stay at home mom. I always knew that I would return to teaching once they were all in school. When my youngest started 2nd grade, I opened the newspaper and found a classified ad seeking elementary teachers for a new school – Idaho Virtual Academy. It was an open house interview invitation, and I went! I sat down with the Head of School for IDVA, and had a wonderful discussion. Soon after that I found myself sitting with other wide eyed educators in a hotel conference room going through new teacher training!
Idaho Virtual Academy is ten years old this year. How has online education changed in that time?
Online education has changed in many ways in the 10 years since Idaho Virtual Academy was founded! For example, back in 2002, our online teacher duties leaned more towards customer support. Over the years, our online teacher duties have moved solidly into the teaching realm. Several factors have led to this change. Ten years ago, we didn’t have Blackboard Collaborate so any teaching that happened was over the phone, via email, or in face to face meetings. Face to face was impossible for many of our students and teachers due to distance. Now that all of our teachers have their own online classrooms, teaching and learning is taking place much more effectively. Additionally, we now utilize a variety of academic data to identify struggling students and guide individual and group instruction. In the past, we didn’t have the data or the training needed for strategic instruction. Online education has changed drastically in many ways over the last ten years. I have no doubt that it will look much different ten years from now, too!
What aspect of your job do you most enjoy?
There are so many aspects of my job that I enjoy! If I have to narrow it down to the one thing that I most enjoy it would have to be the people with whom I work. I have developed close relationships with many at IDVA, at other Virtual Academies and Virtual School Programs, and at K12. My co-workers – my friends – are intelligent, hard working, caring, and always make me laugh when I need it the most.
Do you have a favorite memory from your own school experience?
My second grade teacher had a great spot set up in her classroom. She hung streamers from the ceiling to surround a pillow covered special reading area where students could sit back and dig into a good book. I need to make one of these spaces in my house!
What are your favorite things to do in your free time?
I love spending time with my family! We snowboard, sail, and travel together. I love watching my sons’ sporting events with my husband and have plenty of opportunity to do so. Saturday morning coffee with my mom and sister and relaxing with a good book are always treats, too!
You mentioned that you and your family love to travel – where is your favorite place you’ve had the opportunity to visit?
That’s kind of tough, but I guess I’ll have to go with Australia, since it was my most recent trip. My husband and I traveled over with our oldest and youngest sons this spring. Our middle son was already there traveling and performing with an extreme sports show, Nitro Circus Live. We all had backstage passes to the shows in Adelaide and Perth and also had tons of fun doing the regular tourist stuff in those areas.
What sorts of ongoing training or lifelong learning do you do personally and professionally?
I am currently in a Teacher Evaluation training cohort with our other academic administrators. I try to find trainings that pertain to what we are doing at our school. In this case, we want to improve our teacher observation/evaluation practices.
Training/learning on a personal level? Well ….. who has time! Years ago, when I had more time, I took a painting class with my sister in law. My sister talked me into joining her for Tango lessons a couple of years ago, too. The instructor kept getting after me for not allowing my partner to lead, though. No more tango lessons for me! I have researched my family’s genealogy a bit. The best part about that was traveling to the Isle of Mull in Scotland and knowing some of the family history there.
What challenges do you see in education today? Does online education have different challenges?
Resistance to change has to be one of the biggest challenges in education today. There are many who think it’s acceptable to keep doing things the same as always. That’s definitely not OK! Our students already live in a different world than we did when we were young. They know more about technology than most adults. The opportunities to utilize technology in teaching and learning are vast! Some teachers are afraid to try new methods of teaching and learning. Just take a look at the fights that are taking place in some states regarding introducing technology initiatives into the classroom. I think this is because there are some that are afraid to step out of their own comfort zone. This fear is impeding education. Online education has internal “resistance to change” challenges just like traditional education. Additionally, there are even more external “resistance to change” challenges to overcome.
Our State Superintendent of Education [Tom Luna] made a good point at a conference I attended last year. He said, “Technology will not replace teachers. Rather, teachers who use technology will replace teachers who do not use technology.”
A big thank you to Kelly Edginton for chatting with me! Come back next month when we’ll meet another amazing K12 teacher. And if you have a question you’d like to ask an online teacher, please leave it in the comments!