For two decades, I've worked as an educator, and during those years I have worn many hats. I spent the first 15 years in a brick-and-mortar setting, but five years ago I joined the Louisiana Virtual Charter Academy (LAVCA) team as a kindergarten teacher.
Not only am I a teacher in the LAVCA community, but I'm also a parent to four LAVCA students. They started in the program as elementary school students and are now in high school, which has been an incredible journey to be a part of.
Through this experience of being both a parent and teacher in an online school, I have seen how—when teachers, Learning Coaches, and families work together—students are better supported and provided with the resources they need.
Prior to joining the team, I taught at a Montessori school that I adored. Teaching at LAVCA allows me to continue pursuing my passion while also spending time with my loved ones. The virtual setting gives our family flexibility that we didn't have before. My children are now at an age where they are self-sufficient with school. But, when things were still new, we were learning together every day.
Being a parent of LAVCA students makes me an even better teacher because I understand what the parents and Learning Coaches need to set students on a path to success. During the first few weeks of school, I make myself available nearly 24/7 to answer questions. Because I teach kindergarten, this is often the first experience families are having with a virtual school—or school in general—and it's important to me that they feel empowered, informed, and engaged in the new environment.
Even though LAVCA students are in different parts of the state, I make sure to invest in building a community in my classroom. Every month, my students work with their families and their Learning Coaches (often a parent or other trusted adult) on a project to get to know their classmates better. One month, we collaborated to create a family book. These activities make students feel like they are part of something bigger.
Getting to know the families allows me to customize my instruction to better serve each student. If I know a student is struggling in a certain area or isn't grasping a topic, I offer helpful resources to the Learning Coaches. It is so rewarding when a Learning Coach calls me after a student has been struggling with a lesson and says, "She got it!" It's a lightbulb moment for them and their student when things just click!
Students, families, and Learning Coaches get out what they put into virtual education. It's not easy at the beginning and requires a lot of work, but it is so worth it. When families know you care, they buy in to the child's education even more. When the students know you care, it goes a long way.
My teacher hat is always on, whether I'm parenting my children, working with Learning Coaches, or interacting with students. For me, this is more than a job. It's a lifestyle that I love, and I feel lucky that every day that I'm making a difference.
KEYWORDS: Flexibility, Teacher Engagement, Teachers, School Options