Originally published to The Clearwater Progress on April 21, 2022
Science teacher Janna Privette hopes to “inspire students to ask good questions and empower them with the tools they need to solve them.” One of the best parts of being a teacher is “when you get to help a student see something in themselves that they didn’t know was there.”
Having students leave her class trusting science as a way to understand the world is important to Privette. The shift in society against trusting science concerns her.
“Science is the best process we have for understanding the world,” Privette exclaimed. “It’s not about the ‘what’ of it. It’s the ‘how’ of it.”
“I am trying to make myself a real person, trying to find those moments of connection,” Privette said, describing the challenge of the teacher-student relationship in a virtual school. “I think that connection is crucial. It’s something we have to think about in a different way,” she added. Showing nerdy science videos, sharing pictures of her own kids, just chatting with students at the end of class help build that relationship.
She also fosters the students’ connection with each other by providing opportunities to work together in small groups. The online platform includes multiple break-out “rooms” where students work in teams to collaborate on lessons.
Privette is in her second year of teaching for Idaho Virtual Academy, a free, public online school. The school is managed by K12, a Stride company, that operates online schools across the U.S. She previously taught science for four years at Kamiah Middle School and Kamiah High School. A bachelor of science in geology, from Whitman College, a master’s in geology from Boise State University, and an Idaho teaching certificate with an endorsement in natural science form the basis of her teaching credentials.
Privette teaches 9th-grade earth science and 10th-grade biology classes, each with 100 students. Approximately 1/3 of those students watch the online lessons later because they have jobs or other responsibilities when she teaches the classes. She strives to set up ways to encourage those students to work together, also.
This year she added a STEM research class after pitching the idea to her school’s leadership. Each student develops a research question, designing and building a science or engineering project. They compete in the Western Idaho Science Fair to present their findings, a process she believes increases their confidence.
“You can do real research even in high school,” Privette exclaimed. Her students may come into the STEM class as great students, but they leave it as scientists.
“I get to structure my time, the way I want to,” said Privette, describing the flexibility of her job. “I have time to think about my practice of teaching and new ways to engage kids.,” Privette said.
She enjoys developing creative new lessons to teach concepts. The students complete experiments at home, using readily available materials. They summarize their process and findings, presenting them to her in still photos, videos or in PowerPoint slides.
Teaching classes only one day a week frees up time to work with students individually and collaborate with her school’s five other secondary science teachers.
Privette said COVID pushed her into online teaching, but a better work-life balance keeps her there. Instead of the 80-hour weeks she worked at Kamiah schools, she now routinely works 40-hour weeks. This allows her more time with her husband and two young children, whom she describes as amazing. Privette enjoys snuggling her babies, getting out on the river, flyfishing, rafting and camping.
Privette wants area students and teachers to know there are options online that provide a more flexible work-life balance for public education. For information about Idaho Virtual Academy, look for the website K12 ID State LP Home.
To learn more about Idaho Virtual Academy, visit https://idva.k12.com/