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Congratulations to Omaha Virtual School’s (OVS) Wendy Loewenstein who was recently named a “20 to Watch” Education Technology Leader by the National School Boards Association!

“This recognition is an honor and reaffirms the hard work we have put into developing this school,” Wendy said. “It is also unbelievable that I am surrounded by an amazing cohort of ed tech professionals who are nationally known for their accomplishments in education. I am a bit humbled to be in their company.”

OVS was approved by the Omaha Public School (OPS) board in July 2016 and their first day of school was August 17, 2016. Wendy has been Director of OVS since May of 2016.

The online school uses an enriched virtual model where a significant amount of student engagement takes place at home with their learning coach and online curriculum.

“Our blended model increases student interaction and socialization, which contributes to the necessary socio-emotional learning that all students need in order to develop strong 21st century skills,” Wendy said.

OVS has a goal to develop students who are future ready, today. The school aims to ensure that students are able to leverage technology for their own personal growth and education, and not just for entertainment.

“ It is imperative that students can easily adapt to emerging technology so they are ready to apply their skills regardless of what is sitting in front of them,” Wendy said.

OVS teachers facilitate weekly online homeroom sessions called The Monday Morning Message where students engage with each other while the teacher introduces new skills or content that will be brought up during their weekly face-to-face meetings. During the face to face meetings, students are engaged in the station rotation model of learning. This is where they collaborate and problem solve together on real-world applications. There is also a teacher-led station, where students work in small groups at their ability level to deepen their understandings and focus on skills that are needed to perform grade-level standards. The tech station engages students in a variety of different technologies that are student-centered to make sure that students are working at their ability level.

“We believe that the variety of how we deliver instruction is what keeps students and parents motivated and excited to learn! “Wendy said.

Wendy explains that the OVS teachers took a leap of faith and were willing to try something completely new that pushed the boundaries of traditional education.

“We talk to our students about growth mindset, and our teachers exhibit this every day,” Wendy said. “Similarly, with our students, they are learning from each other and teaching our teachers a few things in Minecraft and coding. Our parents have trusted us with their students and have pushed themselves out of their comfort zones in regards to technology and instructional practices. They have become our biggest supporters and advocates for our school. We respect that their number one priority are their students and are open to feedback and input on how we can improve our school to benefit student growth. We are all life-long learners and I always say that we are all in this together, because we are.”

OVS’s digital educational resources have given families access to technology that they may not have otherwise. The school is able to provide a great amount of resources to help students learn and grow.

“This is what public education is all about, providing a sound educational experience for students that they otherwise would not have access to,” Wendy said.

In an age where information and resources are prevalent, it does not always come without a price.

“We always keep in mind that, it isn’t about the shiny, flashy tools, but it is how you use them and implement them strategically to ensure best practices and student growth,” Wendy said. “There is no silver bullet out there, and being aware that having a variety of resources is what is necessary to meet the needs of various learners.”

It has been a team effort to get OVS to the high it has reached now. Wendy credits a lot of help and forward thinking throughout the process to Superintendent Mark Evans and the OPS board.

“Various departments and people within Omaha Public Schools have helped us develop the framework and experiences that we are able to provide to students and families,” Wendy said. “Rob Dickson, the executive director of the Information Management Services (IMS), and his department, Kristine Denton and the Curriculum, Instruction, and Supervision department, and many others. Of course, my family and the families of our teachers have been very supportive of the amount of work and time that we have all put in to making our school work. Lastly, the parents and students in our school community are true pioneers and demonstrate a willingness to try something new and contribute to an opportunity that will benefit many students to come.”

Wendy is incredibly proud of how the school is doing within the short time frame of less than a year from when it opened.

“Student growth and a strong school community are the true measures of success and we will continue to work towards that at OVS in order to create the best possible experience for students!”

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