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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.”

Students have a hard time believing their teacher likes to play in the mud, backpack in the woods, and spend most of her free time outdoors. They are especially interested in her purple kayak! Sharing pictures and adventures with her students helps Ms. Ballard connect with her classes in a very meaningful way.  She says, “Students are able to see I am a human, and they never know what they will see in class!”

About The Author

Wendy Oleksinski

Wendy Oleksinski is a high school advisor at Georgia Cyber Academy (GCA). Prior to joining GCA in July 2013, Wendy worked as a classroom teacher, private tutor, and staff development instructor for more than 13 years. Wendy graduated from Piedmont College in 2003 with a Master of Arts degree in early childhood education. She has earned numerous awards and accolades in the field of education, including Teacher of the Year for Gwinnett County Public Schools and Teacher Ambassador for K12 Inc.  Wendy currently lives in Suwanee, Georgia, and enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with her family.

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