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Two years ago I began a new adventure in my education career, teaching middle school math for a virtual school.  I had experience teaching in a variety of school settings.  I taught at an inner-city high school, a secured residential facility for students aged 12-19, a small charter high school for at-risk students, and a rural high school.  I’m one of those crazy people that is always looking for a new challenge because I am bored easily.  A good teacher friend of mine told me about the virtual charter school that she was teaching for and encouraged me to check it out.  Here is what I have discovered.

Professional Growth Opportunities
I had recently finished my third college degree, a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership & Administration with a goal to eventually become a school leader.  At the time, I was working for a rural high school on the far edge of the Phoenix area.  There were not a lot of schools in the district, which limited the availability of administrative positions.  As a mom with four young children, it was important to me to work near my home.

When I began researching Arizona Virtual Academy, I found that they were just one school in a larger company with schools around the country.  I was excited about the possibility of more options for professional growth.  Once I began teaching for AZVA, I found that they had a leadership mentoring program in place within my own school and so many more opportunities beyond that to expand and grow.

Rigorous Curriculum
I teach math, because I love math.  I enjoy the structure and increasing complexity of math.  When I saw that I could teach a more rigorous curriculum than I had seen at any previous school I taught at, I was elated!  Students that work through our curriculum, year after year, gain a much stronger and insightful understanding of how math concepts relate to each other and to real life.

For example, students in middle school math at my virtual school are exposed to complex, in-depth assignments that utilize real-life scenarios.  These scenarios are actually relevant to a student’s life and involve calculations using numbers that are not perfect, easy integers.  (How many times have you measured a wall or door frame in your house for a home improvement project and gotten an exact, perfect number?) Yes, students see fractions and decimals in all schools, but I have not experienced such consistency in continuing to keep students exposed to former concepts within a new concept.

Flexibility
I am a mother of four children.  They are involved in sports activities, school clubs, a variety of music lessons, and ballet lessons.  In addition, they will occasionally have a school program or awards assembly during the school day.  As a teacher in a traditional school, I missed most of their programs and assemblies that were during the school day.  As a teacher in a traditional school, I couldn’t take my kids to school on the first day of school to ease those first-day jitters.  As a teacher in a virtual school, I have some flexibility to work around my online class schedule to take an early lunch hour to watch my daughter receive her Student of the Month award or not have to take a day off work when one of my children has to stay home ill from school.  These make for hectic days and require a firm hold on my calendar, but the support from my school to balance teacher duties with mommy duties is amazing!

I have not regretted jumping into a completely new arena in education.  I do have to be highly organized and structured to make this an effective choice for me, professionally and personally. Teaching from my home office for Arizona Virtual Academy has been an exciting, invigorating, and empowering adventure!

About The Author

Elizabeth Nelson

Elizabeth Nelson teaches 8th grade math and is a Lead Master Teacher at Arizona Virtual Academy (AZVA). Before joining AZVA, Elizabeth taught math in Arizona and Indiana for 4.5 years.  She became a business owner and mother before ultimately realizing that teaching was her passion.  Elizabeth graduated from Indiana University with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a minor in economics.  In 2009, she earned a second bachelor’s degree, this one in secondary math education. In 2014, she received a master of science in educational leadership from Ball State University. Elizabeth lives in Mesa, Arizona, with her husband and enjoys family time spent with their combined eight children. Elizabeth loves taking photos, math, adventures, learning, and spending time outdoors with her family.

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