Celebrating Teachers

Teacher Appreciation Week has come to a close, but we aren’t quite done celebrating teachers yet. As we mentioned earlier in the week, teachers deserve a big THANK YOU in addition to several other awards for the variety of roles they take on…not to mention the good work they do.
Whether traditional, blended, or fully online, we are honored to thank teachers across the nation. We thank you for engaging, for encouraging, and for motivating students across the country. You are truly shaping the future, and we appreciate all that you do!
Online schools have created an interesting new career path for teachers. Despite the non-traditional setting, these educators create engaging experience for their students. Below are the stories of three teachers; their journey to online teaching and how they create a unique and personalized learning experience for their students.
Heather McFarland, Louisiana Virtual Charter School
My name is Heather McFarland and I’m an online teacher at Louisiana Virtual Charter School. I teach World History and chose online teaching for the versatility with my family, but also because I was bitten by the online learning bug! Let me explain. When I first became an online teacher I worried I would feel disconnected with my students, but as I began working with my students and providing instruction in the online classroom, it became apparent that I was able to connect with them in significant and innovative ways.  I began to witness that the online model brought out another level of learning. For example, in my class we have student moderators — students that participate in peer teaching and breakout rooms, allowing them to connect and interact with each other while teachers facilitate and provide instruction. This brought learning to a whole new level. With online learning, I have seen a huge difference with my struggling students. If they are not mastering a subject matter, we can review those areas and work at their own pace so that they understand the material. This is why I chose online learning. Students experience fewer gaps because, as an online teacher, I am able to see those gaps and correct them.
At Louisiana Virtual Charter School it is our goal to make sure that we help each student fill-in missing gaps. Every child is unique and deserves the best learning solution that works for them. Why limit them? This is why it is important in the online setting that we continue with the rigorous curriculum and teacher support for students and parents. Innovation is the key to continue the success of every student.
We also got a chance to talk education with Heather earlier this week, check out our Teacher Talk Google Hangout on Differentiation in the classroom here.
Cady Looper, Oklahoma Virtual Charter Academy
When I was in the 1st grade, I completed an assignment that said, “When I grow up I want to be”, and I answered, Teacher. I fulfilled that dream in 2004 when I graduated from Oklahoma State University. I have been teaching various elementary grades for 10 years. Next year will be my 5th year with Oklahoma Virtual Charter Academy (OVCA)!  My husband of 2 years, my dog, and I live in Yukon, Oklahoma which is just outside of Oklahoma City. I love to cook, read a good book, spend time outdoors, and watch my favorite TV shows. Also, my family loves to travel to Colorado in the summers every chance we get. Lastly, I love to teach, especially reading.
Curiosity lead me to the position at OVCA. I was curious to see how teaching students in their own environments impacted their education. Gaining valuable experience in many of my positions within the brick and mortar schools, I still wanted something more. OVCA has given me many opportunities to expand my knowledge of teaching. OVCA opened 5 years ago and has blossomed into a fully-functional school right before my eyes. I have been able to take part in developing and perfecting many of the policies and procedures that makes our school run efficiently. I do not feel I would have had those types of opportunities anywhere else. I believe that online teaching is the future of teaching. I am happy that I am a part of the beginning years in Oklahoma!
The most rewarding part of my day is building a lesson, teaching that lesson, and then the lesson helps a student grow with knowledge. Receiving emails about how a struggling student mastered an objective because of a class connect I taught brightens my day and is a reminder of why I teach. Additionally, our school holds outings once a month and this is my chance to put a face to the little voice I hear on the phone or in class connects. It is still amazing to me the connections I am making or have made with students in the virtual world.
Casey Swann, Michigan Virtual Charter Academy
“Well hello 3rd graders!  Give me a smiley face if you can hear me and the volume sounds good…”
Yes, that is the way most of my classes begin here at Michigan Virtual Charter Academy (MVCA).  My name is Casey Swan and I am a K12 virtual teacher.  I have worked as a virtual teacher for the past 3 years and it has been one of the most challenging yet rewarding careers that I have had.  I started my teaching career when I was 23 years old, teaching 7th grade life science in Florida.  I continued to teach middle school science for the next 8 years in Virginia.  Once my husband and I had added two beautiful children to our family and moved back to our home state of Michigan, it made sense with the cost of daycare for me to stay at home.
I began doing some independent contracting work for a virtual university. That is when I truly got “the bug” for working and teaching in a virtual setting.  I started working for MVCA in 2012 and 2 years later I am a lead teacher. Our school has undergone tremendous growth and I was happy to experience and be a part of that.
I think the most rewarding part of my job is really giving my students and families the individual attention they need.  Working one to one with students allows me to enter their world and really get a handle on what it is they need from me.  Something that wasn’t able to do in a regular school setting.  I also LOVE telling people about what I do!  So often families and friends do not even know that this is an option for them, personally I could not be prouder of what I do and those that I connect with daily.
When I am not teaching, I enjoy “disconnecting” and spending time outdoors with my family.  We are avid boaters and love lake living.  You can find us tubing, swimming and paddle boarding during the summer months.  I love to read, so when I am not doing readings for graduate school you can find me curled up with my kindle.  I recently took up boxing and I am having fun learning new tactics, not to mention getting in shape!
K12 Inc is a Getting Smart Advocacy Partner.

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