Wearing masks, social distancing, missing events with relatives; the pandemic caused us to shift into a new normal, one our society will remember for decades to come. This new normal also brought about a big change in education, one that exposed many, myself included, to the virtual learning environment for the first time.
I am proud to say that I am one of the founding teachers to help launch a new full-time online public school called Oregon Connections Academy that opened this February. Although this was different from the brick-and-mortar setting I was used to, I never expected this shift to be so joyful and fulfilling.
One of the most rewarding things about being a part of this school is witnessing first-hand those “ah-ha” moments in learning with students. Instead of working with a group of thirty students throughout the day, I can give students personal attention so they can have a positive and engaging learning experience.
For example, one of my fourth grade students in our school’s gifted program, was not engaged at his previous in-person school. He wasn’t getting the support he deserved or a curriculum that challenged him. Once he enrolled in Oregon Connections Academy, he got the academic rigor he needed. His father even sent a note thanking me for inspiring his son saying: "I see my son re-energized, full of energy and motivation towards school."
I love teaching online from home for some of the same reasons students love learning from home. Having a distraction-free environment is one we share. It also provides a unique environment where children feel safe and are free to be themselves. That is perhaps why students from all different backgrounds enjoy attending Oregon Connections Academy.
One of my fourth graders turned to our school because the online curriculum his local brick-and-mortar school was using didn’t work for him. At his previous school this young man had test anxiety coupled with severe anxiety from active shooting drills. When he got to my class he was a grade behind in math. He and I worked together one-on-one on a weekly basis, and I’m proud to say this amazing student flourished and caught up to his grade level!
Another bonus for me in my first year of this new online teacher adventure is how wonderful it is to have so much parental involvement. Parents have a front seat to their children’s education with online school and I enjoy working with them to form a powerful community to help students feel supported and encouraged in their studies.
In addition to an active involvement in their child’s learning, families appreciate so many other aspects of our virtual school, like the flexibility. Besides the ability to learn at their own pace, being able to do classes online provides students with a flexible schedule. I know students who concentrate better later in the day, while others like to get started early and take frequent breaks.
One of my fifth graders is a competitive dancer who travels frequently for competitions. At her previous school, this performer was bullied because of her talents. After enrolling at Oregon Connections Academy, she made friends and was able to take her online school with her on the road.
Not only does the flexibility of this type of learning help our students, but from my perspective, teaching from home also gives me the freedom to be of service in my community. Our family has been involved in foster care for several years and I’m part of a group mentoring other foster parents. I also volunteer as a member of the Lane Library District Board because I believe cultivating a love of reading is so important in literacy development.
Becoming a virtual school teacher has been a rewarding experience. When someone asks what it’s like to teach at an online school, I say it is fantastic. I can’t wait to see all the exciting “firsts” I will experience next school year.
Oregon Connections Academy is enrolling students for the 2021-22 school year. For more information about Oregon Connections Academy or to start the enrollment process please call (800) 382-6010 or visit www.OregonConnectionsAcademy.com