career ready, Education, technology, Teen Mental Disorders, teen moms, Uncategorized, virtual school

What is Personalized Learning?

Everyone is a genius.

Danielle Yanssens

Personalized Learning “refers to a diverse variety of educational programs, learning experiences, instructional approaches, and academic support strategies that are intended to address the distinct learning needs, interests, aspirations, or cultural backgrounds of individual students”, according to The Glossary of Education Reform by Great Schools Partnership. How does Back on Track, offer personalized learning?

When a student submits an inquiry online or calls the Back on Track office, we are able to offer them several different options to acquire their high school diploma. For students who have previously dropped out of high school and are 21 or older, we enroll them into Clintondale Virtual School, a credit recovery program which, for a small fee, allows adults to achieve their high school diploma. This appeals to adults who had considered getting their GED in the past, which limits their options for post-secondary education.

For those students who have previously dropped out of high school and are between the ages of 18 and 20, we suggest our tuition-free Step Up program where students work on one class at a time and are required to complete a minimum of one class per month, with the ability to work year round. This gives students the opportunity to work on completing their high school education at a faster rate than if they attending a full time high school. We have also found that for this population, students are able to find more success when focusing on just one course at a time, rather than the full six class course load.


Many students who are between the ages of 16 and 20 choose to attend one of our brick and mortar alternative education schools. This student population includes students that are teenage parents, potential dropouts, have been expelled from their traditional school, or have been court-ordered by the juvenile detention systems. Our alternative education locations offer various skilled trade courses where students can graduate with a certificate of completion to help them obtain employment right out of high school. While there is increased security at these locations, they are also staffed with caring employees who encourage students to complete their education and get on a better path for their future.

Parents with students in grades 6 through 12 will often contact us requesting information about our virtual school, My Virtual Academy. MVA partners with school districts throughout the state of Michigan, offering a fully online option for students. This appeals to a wide variety of students, including those looking to graduate early, students who struggle with mental or physical illness, teenage parents, students who do not feel safe in their traditional school due to bullying or students who have to work full time in order to help support their family.  We have students who are pursuing their passion, such as the theater or gymnastics, and choose online schooling to work around their schedules. Some parents even prefer their children attend a virtual school based on their cultural and religious beliefs.

In addition to the several different educational programs Back on Track offers to help meet the different learning needs of our students, we also offer a variety of learning experiences and instructional approaches. Our highly qualified, certified teachers ensure that the curriculum meets all Common Core Standards. Teachers have the ability to offer students different types of assessments based on their instructional needs, and offer in-person tutoring in addition to daily on-line tutoring. Students receive one-to-one instruction, with teachers contacting them a minimum of once per week, as well as participating in whole group activities in our weekly live sessions.

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While there are some obvious limitations to virtual and alternative learning, the many benefits often make Back on Track the best option for many students.


What sets us apart from other Virtual Middle and High Schools?

Teacher connecting with her student via Skype


Danielle Yanssens

I often hear commercials on the radio and have advertisements pop up on my laptop for virtual middle and high schools. I work for an educational company, and a virtual school is one of many ways we assist students in getting their high school diploma. So what sets us apart from other virtual schools? That’s an easy one – our staff.


At My Virtual Academy our staff focuses on making connections with students. Teachers and Advocates work hard to know their students, communicating with them once a week at a minimum. Employees of most virtual schools are exactly that – virtual. They work from their homes the majority of the time. Our staff works out of our Clinton Township, MI location at least 75% of the time, allowing for collaboration among teachers, quick access to information about students and lots of ongoing professional development.

“My boys are getting the education they deserve. The staff is amazing and it’s nice knowing they really do care about the students.” Kimberly P.

We always start with the question “why did you decide to attend a virtual school”? We find out if the student is struggling in life, or just wants to work independently and maybe graduate early. We ask students to set goals for themselves and consistently encourage them to achieve their goals. We hold live sessions every week so the students are able to interact with each other and their teachers in real time.

AntiBulling Day 2015
Our staff is always addressing the basic needs of our students so that they are able to focus on their educational needs. Advocates have a list of resources for all of the areas throughout Michigan that our students live. If someone tells us that they can’t provide food or diapers for their baby, or they have been evicted from their home, we are able to direct them to services that address those needs, knowing that if those basic needs aren’t met, they won’t be able to sit down and focus on their school work.

“I’ve been to a lot of schools, and this school is by far the best I’ve been to. I love all the staff/teachers, etc. Everyone is so nice and they’re always encouraging. They try to help you any way that they can. I can’t wait to finish in the fall.” Bernadette R

At My Virtual Academy every staff member believes that each student is one caring adult away from succeeding, and they each work hard at being that caring adult in order to get the student back on track.

Danielle Yanssens is in charge of Continuous Improvement for My Virtual Academy. Her organization also offers On-site Alternative Education programs, several free online learning options and credit recovery for students throughout the state of Michigan. If you or your child are looking for a different middle or high school experience visit

My Virtual Academy.

Education, technology, Uncategorized

Have a Fresh Perspective in the New Year and Keep it All Year Long!

Danielle Yanssens

My Virtual Academy is starting off the New Year at a new location. Everything is clean and new and open. There is fresh paint and many windows and enough space for everyone plus room to grow. We are encouraging everyone to be healthier in 2016, a bag of fruit was on their desks when they arrived back to work after the holidays and there is a workout room available to use on breaks. It is a new beginning for our virtual school, our staff and, most importantly our middle and high school students.

New space 3

Just like our staff, our students need a fresh start in the New Year. Our staff has set goals for themselves, and we want our students to do the same. Starting with small attainable goals, like “I will complete my classes by the end of the semester”, or “I will raise my scores by at least 10%”. If you are close to graduating – definitely make getting your high school diploma your ultimate goal for this year!

The most important thing to remember when setting goals is to put a plan into place to help you get there. For example, if your goal is to complete all of your classes by the end of the semester, print up a calendar and write down how much time you will spend each day and on which subjects. Put in place mini milestones, like “I will complete my English paper by this Friday”. If something happens and you don’t reach one of your goals, forgive yourself and then get back on track. Life can get in the way for all of us, but never give up on that final goal. And when you do reach that final goal – celebrate and then set a new goal! Life is about constantly changing, learning and growing. You may have setbacks, but you will get there!

fresh perspective

Danielle Yanssens is in charge of Continuous Improvement for My Virtual Academy. Her organization also offers On-site Alternative Education programs, several free online learning options and credit recovery for students throughout the state of Michigan.


Educating Educators About Online Middle and High Schools

By Danielle Yanssens

Yes, I work for an online middle and high school. I am proud of the work that we do. Educators come up against a lot of criticism from those not in the education world. When educators start pointing fingers at each other they are doing a disservice to all students.

I am forever grateful to my public school teachers for giving me a love of learning, and the desire to teach. Developing programs for an online middle and high school certainly never entered my mind as a possible career when I was in school earning my teaching certificate. I kind of fell into this position, but now that I am here I realize what an amazing gift online learning is to so many students.

online learning
We recently received a new student who needs six courses to graduate. Five of those six courses are English courses. According to his CA60 file he never received any testing to see if he was dealing with a learning disability. What happened to this student? We started to point fingers – the public school system failed, allowing him to fall through the cracks. How did he get through 4 years of high school without a teacher, mentor or administrator stopping to say, “Hey, this student is really struggling with English, he might need some accommodations.” But then we took a step back, because we don’t really know what happened. Maybe someone did suggest he be tested along the way, and the parents refused. More than likely the public school teachers had a class overflowing with students that struggled and they did their best to meet the needs of everyone. It simply wasn’t enough for this particular student.

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We are hoping that online education will be just the thing this student needs to pass his remaining courses and earn his diploma. As soon as I read through his folder, I was able to go to all three of his English teachers and let them know the situation. They immediately collaborated on ways they could work with him, one English course at a time, until he completed all five. Our dedicated staff is determined to help him find a way to graduate.


Parents have several options for their children’s education, many more options than ever before. Public brick and mortar schools, private schools, alternative education brick and mortar schools, homeschooling, and yes, even virtual school. Most parents choose public schooling, and most children successfully earn their high school diploma at their local public high school. Parents and students choose virtual school for a variety of reasons. Most, but not all, are students that would most likely drop out of their brick and mortar school and never receive their diploma. We use a personalized approach to help each student find success. We are not trying to lure students from their public school, we are simply trying to make sure they know that we are here if they need us.

Education, Teen Mental Disorders

An Increase in Adolescent Mental Disorders is Causing Many Teens to Turn to Alternative Education Options

By: Danielle Yanssens
Studies have shown a rise in anxiety, depression and behavioral disorders among teens. According to Psychology Today teens are five to eight times more likely to suffer from depression than they were 50 years ago. Many adolescents are simply terrified to go to school.

There are alternative schools, such as Neil E. Reid High School in Clinton Township, Michigan, with programs addressing the needs of students with severe behavioral and emotional issues. Many teens are able to attend these schools and find success. It is often helpful for them to meet other students dealing with similar issues, and is a big relief to know they are not the only ones struggling.

Teens suffering from anxiety or depression are often terrified to attend traditional school.

Teens suffering from anxiety or depression are often terrified to attend traditional school.

Many students cannot take that first step to attend any school. Credit recovery is an option, offering students the ability to take one course at a time when they are ready. However the price can be restrictive for some parents.

Attending a virtual school is an option that many have turned to. Those affiliated with public school districts are free to attend. When students feel immobilized in a classroom among other students, being able to continue their education at home can be the key to allowing them to stay on track for completing high school and earning their diploma. Some students are able to work from home for one or two semesters and then transition back to their brick and mortar school after therapy and counseling.

A My Virtual Academy parent, who requested to remain anonymous, said she thought her daughter was being defiant. She would cry and scream, refusing to leave the house to go to school. The mother went as far as trying to physically force her into the car to take her to school. She felt helpless and finally took her daughter to a psychiatrist. She discovered her daughter was suffering from depression. While her daughter was being treated for the disease, she enrolled her in My Virtual Academy to keep her from falling too far behind in school.

These alternative education avenues are not ideal for many, but they are a necessary choice for some students. For detailed information on various children’s mental health issues and their impact on their education go to

Danielle Yanssens is in charge of Continuous Improvement for My Virtual Academy. Her organization also offers On-site Alternative Education programs, several free online learning options and credit recovery for students throughout the state of Michigan.

Source: The Decline of Play and Rise in Children’s Mental Disorders, Psychology Today January 2010. Author Peter Gray for “Free to Learn”.


You Can Be a Key Ingredient in Helping an At-Risk Student Earn Their High School Diploma

“Every Kid is One Caring Adult Away from Being a Success Story”
~ Josh Shipp

By: Danielle Yanssens
Teenagers drop out of school for many reasons, it isn’t always poor academics. Students may leave school for financial reasons, family caretaking responsibilities or teen pregnancy among other reasons. Students who drop out of high school are more likely to live in poverty, be incarcerated and use illicit drugs. (Hair, Ling, & Cochran, 2003)
At-risk students often get lost in large traditional high schools, but many thrive in smaller alternative or individualized school settings. Alternative education schools give students more personalized attention and often offer vocational classes. Virtual schools are great options for students suffering from anxiety, depression or bullying. Many teenage parents who are either caring for their children or working full time to support their families succeed in online school or taking credit recovery courses.
A student’s success is directly related to the amount of involvement by family members. One caring adult can lead to a higher GPA, regular school attendance, a positive attitude towards school and the likelihood of enrollment in post-secondary programs. (National Parent Teacher Association 2001) A student without family support can still succeed in high school. Any compassionate mentor – teachers, social workers, neighbors, friends or relatives can be the difference between a high school dropout and a high school graduate.

Kaylee - mentor

Kaylee Smith, teacher and mentor for MVA, with one of her students .

What can you do for a student at-risk of leaving school?
• Remind them often about the importance of getting an education
• Help them with homework
• Praise academic achievements no matter how small
• Monitor their school attendance
• Encourage positive extracurricular activities
• Tell them that people with high school diplomas earn twice as much as those without (and keep reminding them)
• Help them keep track of their credits, with graduation as the final goal
• For those students who are unhappy at their traditional school, help them find local online high schools, alternative high schools (both free to students) or credit recovery programs
Mentoring an at-risk teenager doesn’t have to be a huge time commitment. Touch base with them a couple of times a week and see how they are doing. Let them know you care and tell them you believe they will succeed as often as possible.

For more information on mentoring at-risk youth visit:
Source: Hair, Ling, & Cochran, 2003 … (Alliance for Excellent Education, 2003; American Youth Policy Forum, 1998; Hair, Ling, & Cochran, 2003; Harlow, 2003).
Source: National parent Teacher Association (2001). National standards for parent/family involvement programs. Chicago, Illinois: Author.

Danielle Yanssens is in charge of Continuous Improvement for My Virtual Academy. Her organization also offers On-site Alternative Education programs, several free online learning options and credit recovery for students throughout the state of Michigan.