The Art of Building Opportunities for the Students Who Need Them Most

Contributed By

Matt Essert

Contributing Writer

The Art of Building Opportunities for the Students Who Need Them Most

Posted in Community | March 10, 2016

Every year, more and more students across the country enroll in online education. By some estimates, as of 2013, there were more than 275,000 K-12 students across the country learning through online schooling.

Even though online education is not always the simplest path, Stacey King, a teacher at the Utah Online High School in southwest Utah’s St. George, has been paving a new path using Schoology for students who would otherwise not receive the education they need.

Helping Those Who’ve Been Overlooked

“One program we have is designed specifically for students that would not graduate from high school without the ability to do classes online,” Stacey explains. These students come from all sorts of backgrounds, each with a unique story.

Because of behavioral issues, illness, injuries, or too many absences, many students simply can’t attend typical classes to earn the credits they need. By using Schoology to create custom courses, teachers at Utah Online have been able to design a curriculum to help students make up for “lost time” and graduate alongside their peers.

“[Now] the setbacks they have encountered in high school will not have to be life setbacks for these students,” says Stacey.

Developing Life Skills

Alongside her ability to offer the standard core courses via Schoology, Stacey says one of her proudest accomplishments is creating an entirely new set of courses—Food and Nutrition, Child Development, and FACS Exploration (a basic "Home Ec" class).

These “hands-on” courses provide students with more than just the credit they need to graduate high school, complementing Stacey’s mentality of not letting potential limitations slow down her mission to give students a well-rounded education.

“I love that these classes are teaching skills to these students to help them be successful in life,” Stacey says.

Creating (Non)Traditional Learning Experiences

Stacey has only been using Schoology for a little over a year but has quickly found what works for her. Though, she admits, "I feel like I have just barely scratched the surface.”

Because of her students’ unique and varied circumstances, Stacey creates exactly what the students need to maintain as normal a learning experience as possible, and it’s working.

"I have twice as many students now in these classes as I did just last semester," Stacey explains. "Online courses are notorious for their low passing rates, but the passing rate for my students in these classes is about 70%."

"There will always be those students that you just can't seem to reach no matter what you do," she continues, "but the vast majority of my students did extremely well in these classes; and the ones that didn't are the ones that just didn't even try for one reason or another."

When Stacey asked her students about their favorite parts of her classes, she's pleased to say the majority have responded that they like learning knowledge and skills that they can actually apply in their lives. They also like the organization of the courses and the ability to work on their classes when it works for them.

Because of this overwhelmingly positive response, Stacey continues "to create classes to offer students opportunities that they would otherwise be unable to receive.”

A Few Tips for Building Similar Learning Experiences

When asked if she had any tips to share to readers who might want to pursue a similar path, Stacey railed off a few of her favorites:

  • Use a variety of content delivery methods
  • Focus on giving students meaningful feedback (the rubric tool in Schoology is awesome!)
  • Do what you can to minimize your workload without decreasing quality (I have my students turn in all assignments in an "Assignment Portfolio" at the end of each lesson so that I can see it all at once instead of everything individually)
  • Let students do some of the work through research and projects
  • Virtual guest speakers and field trips are great

An Opportunity to Change Lives

Stacey’s enthusiasm is almost impossible to ignore. “I became a teacher because of the profound influence some of my high school teachers had on my life. I want to be that kind of teacher!”

Rather than feeling like a stranger on the other end of a computer, Stacey’s been able to foster strong relationships with her students. She says, “I feel like I have been able to get to know my students, earn their trust, and be an influence in their lives in a way I haven't felt with other online programs I've used.”

Though online education is becoming a more viable option for many students, for some of Stacey’s pupils, it might be the only option. Luckily, it might also be one of the best.

Stacey King
Teacher
Utah Online High School
2015 Educator of the Year

Written by Matt Essert

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