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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.

Teaching in a virtual environment has also helped Heather develop closer relationships with parents thanks to the constant connection and feedback she receives from them.

“I have more of a relationship with parents at OHVA than I did at brick-and-mortar schools—I know that sounds backwards, but it’s true!” said Heather. “We’re able to connect on a deep level, whereas before I might have just said a quick, ‘Hi!’ passing them by in a hallway, on the computer I can chat about this parent’s goats—things on a deeper level.”

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