By: Amy Threewitt

Among friends, I’m the unofficial parent “expert” on teachers.  Because my five school-aged children have learned in nearly every type of education environment, I’ve encountered teachers of all kinds.  Public school, private school, home school, charter school and virtual public charter school…you name the school; at least one of my children has been taught by its teachers. So I can say with some authority that alternative public school teachers are truly innovative and something special.

PublicSchoolOptions.org agrees with me.

Our organization, which empowers parents and students to advocate for choice in public schools, kicks off the annual American Pioneer of Teaching Award contest on April 1.  What makes our competition unique is that it spotlights teachers who’ve selected the education profession’s road less taken, those who teach at charter, virtual charter, blended or magnet public schools.

Here’s how the competition breaks down:

  • From April 1 to April 10, parents and students nationwide can nominate their teachers for the award through the PublicSchoolOptions.org website
  • Finalists are announced on Facebook April 24, at which point families, friends and community members can cast their votes and share comments
  • The winning teacher will be announced May 6 during National Teacher Appreciation Week

Teachers’ stories in years past have reminded me of how my own children thrive with the help of public school options.  They reinforce for me how choice can make the difference between academic misery and academic mastery, between loving or loathing your education experience.

They also allow us to celebrate the professionals at the heart of these alternative public schools.  After all, charters get pretty good news coverage.  But the focus is, as it should be, almost always on the children.  I see this dynamic even in my own life.  Curious friends and strangers often ask about my children’s various educational experiences, but they seldom ask about the teachers.

I wish they would.

Because the very nature of the student-teacher relationship is different with alternative public schools.  Personalized education takes on a whole new dimension.

I think of Mrs. Hunter, my fourth-grade daughter’s virtual public school teacher.  Though my daughter has yet to be diagnosed with a learning disability, she has struggled with reading since kindergarten.  Mrs. Hunter is her fiercest advocate.  She meticulously compiles test scores and reading data for my daughter’s individualized learning plan.  She also sends surprises, notes of encouragement and even little cards when my daughter reaches mini milestones.  She did the same for my older children, whom she taught in years prior.

Alternative public school teachers like Mrs. Hunter also excel at communication with parents.  Gone are the days when my husband and I viewed parent-teacher conferences as our once-a-semester shot to get details about our child’s performance in the classroom.  Now I find a more constant, two-way flow of communication.  Ironically, I’ve had some of the best communication with the online public charter school teachers, who offer open lines of communication through a variety of mediums.

So that’s my story. Now, we are ready to hear yours…and the stories of families from across our country who’ve found a teacher that’s encouraged and excited their children to learn in a magnet, charter or virtual school.

Let’s hear it!

Amy Threewitt is a Director of the Board of PublicSchoolOptions.org, a national alliance of parents that supports and defends parents’ rights to access the best public school options for their children, and parent chair of the Wyoming chapter. She lives in Cheyenne, Wyoming and has five children.

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