The summer is coming to a close and the nation is preparing to head back to school. For many families it is a great opportunity to have the ability to choose online or virtual school. With any educational model, there are several factors to successfully engage students, parents and teachers and school leaders. In addition to quality curriculum, virtual models must have efficient delivery mechanisms and consistent communication avenues to ensure a strong partnership with all parties.
Technology has provided students and their families the ability to remove logistical barriers such as time and distance and allows them to make individual choices around schooling. According to the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) 2013 report Keeping Pace With K-12 Online Learning, more than 1.5 million K-12 students are engaged in some kind of online learning. Last year, Dr. Cherie Ichinose shared in a post technological advances in education and the power of online learning
Flexibility is a major driving factor of why virtual learning can be successful for many students. Using multiple technologies such as email, text messaging, video conferencing and phone calls, students can decide how and when they learn. Online schools are expanding their extracurriculars by offering online communities, clubs, school activities, field trips and services projects and even graduations.
Jennifer Schultze is a music teacher with Wyoming Virtual Academy and originally posted on K12’s thinkTank blog. Schultze shares her experience of teaching music to students virtually and the benefits she has found in her personal life and her students lives.
Today marks the first day of school for the 2015-2016 school year at Wyoming Virtual Academy (WYVA). WYVA is a program of the Niobrara County School District #1 and is open to students in grades K through 12. I have proudly been an online teacher for all of the six years that WYVA has been available in the state.
I come from a long line of teachers and know the effect that they have on young lives. My grandfather was a math teacher who was dedicated to struggling students. He took me under his wing and influenced my decision to become a teacher.
I am currently a music teacher at WYVA, and while it may seem challenging to teach the subject over the internet there are many fundamental similarities. As a teacher I see the same kids, same hearts, and same stories – the online setting doesn’t change those basic facts. I have become a stronger instructor and better at engaging students while teaching at WYVA because of the online environment, not despite it.
Many of the students I teach are struggling because of personal or home-life issues. Last year, there was a student that struggled to complete quizzes and I learned that the student had difficulty reading. We met regularly one-on-one and I soon discovered that the student was an auditory learner and had a great passion and aptitude for music. One of the elements I enjoy most about teaching online at WYVA is the ability to meet with students and provide individualized instruction.
As a mother of five children, online teaching has allowed me to be around for my kids and pursue my passion for teaching at the same time – a work/life balance that was difficult for me in the brick and mortar setting.
I’m excited for the new school year to be underway, to greet returning students, and welcome the new WYVA families. I look forward my first class of the day and can’t wait to see what the school year brings.
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For more on online and virtual learning:
- Removing Barriers: How online School Provides Families Options and Students a Unique Experience
- Better Online Schools & Learning Options
Jennifer Schultze is a passionate educator and teacher at Wyoming Virtual Academy.