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School choice advocates at the 2016 Parent Advocacy Boot Camp.

On July 10th over 100 teachers and parents met in Washington D.C. at Capitol Hill for the 2016 Parent Advocacy Boot Camp hosted by PublicSchoolOptions.org.  Jennifer Schultze, Wyoming Virtual Academy teacher describes how her advocacy efforts began and suggests ways you can get involved in your state.

When I first started my online teaching career, 7 years ago, I remember thinking what a great ‘choice’ it was for my family, personally.  Over the next year, I began to discover that just like I had made a career choice that was the best fit for my family, parents had the same motivation to find a school choice that best fit their family’s needs.

One of the biggest misconceptions about ‘school choice’, in my opinion, is that parents make school placement decisions on a whim.  In my experience, families have core values and beliefs that lead them to research alternative education models long before transitioning their student. This does not mean that one system is better than another, or that one system is the best fit for all. What families care about is their children and how they learn best.  They see benefits to school choice not because they are against a current system, but because life circumstance, geography, career paths and other aspects of a family life have changed drastically over time.

Over the last 15 years, on-line education has blazed the trail for 21st century learning skills.  Children are given opportunities for college-prep, college credit, and technology skills that will go on to follow them throughout their life.  We are no longer a one-size fits all society and that is also true of education.  Wyoming Virtual Academy (WYVA) strives to be a place for students to learn when a traditional classroom environment does not meet their needs.  We have students schooling at home with various health problems, teen moms home with their infant while working towards their high school diploma, students whose parents are in the military, and athletes that can travel with the flexibility to work towards their educational goals.

As one of these “trail-blazing’ virtual teachers, I realize how important it is for everyone to be involved in school choice advocacy efforts.  If you are not sure how to get involved in your state, I have several suggestions.

  1. Find out what is going on in your state with school choice advocacy.
  2. Join your state’s Public School Options Coalition and find out about events like Capitol Day.
  3. Become familiar with your Senators and Congressman.
  4. Meet with your legislators, send them letters to share your story.
  5. Speak at legislative events.
  6. Use social media to share positive stories and resources.
  7. When you see something that is not accurate on social media or the news- speak the truth and use your own personal story.
  8. Share your awesome success stories with your school or K12.Inc.  They are always looking  to highlight amazing families and students!

If you are reading this, you love children.  You touch children’s lives in some way and you know that lasts a life time.  We do not have to stay quiet or shrink back.  We see them struggle.  We see them succeed.  We see them grow, and change, and learn.  If what we do is working for students, shouldn’t we be fighting for them?

About The Author

Jennifer Schultze

Jennifer Schultze teaches music in grades 7-12 and serves as an advisor to high school students at Wyoming Virtual Academy (WYVA). Prior to joining WYVA in July 2008, Jennifer was a general music teacher, high school choir director and middle school band director for eight years. Jennifer graduated from the University of Wyoming in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in music education. In 2006 she received a master’s of science in curriculum, instruction and assessment from Walden University.  In addition, she is a concurrent professor for Eastern Wyoming College.  Jennifer lives in Buffalo, Wyoming, with her husband, who is a deputy sheriff, and their five children. Jennifer loves coffee, reading, blogging, and spending time with her family.

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