communication, Education, high school, Hope, technology, Teen Mental Disorders, teenagers, Uncategorized

HOPE

hope

The presence, or absence, of this one word changes lives. So many students we talk to feel completely hopeless about their future. It is impossible for students to move forward in such a despondent state. As educators we have to take on the role of instilling hope in order to help at-risk learners push on and find success in their lives.

Gabby M. came to us with no hope. She was 18 and almost 2 full years behind in credits. She had dropped out of school, was depressed, overwhelmed and believing those who were telling her that getting her GED was her only option. Gabby’s cousin saw an ad on her Face Book page for My Virtual Academy and convinced her to give it a try.

 

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Gabby found success right away by completing several of her English requirements quickly. That gave her hope that she could get through the rest of the courses. While Gabby has had ups and downs, she credits her teachers and advocate for their continued encouragement and support. Gabby is now only 4 classes away from graduating and is considering going into cosmetology or becoming a midwife.

Students who earn their high school diploma have so many more choices for their future, including more opportunities to be accepted into the military and attend college, as well as more job opportunities. We strive to give all of our students hope. Hope that their lives will improve and that they can achieve their dreams. My Virtual Academy shows them that there is help available. Our teachers and advocates understand that our students have many roadblocks and things do not come easily for them.

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A parent contacted me yesterday asking if there was anything we could do for her 19 year old son who had dropped out of school in the 8th or 9th grade. Thankfully, Michigan laws have recently changed and he is eligible to attend high school for free through the age of 21. While attending our virtual high school he will be able to work at an accelerated pace and complete all of his classes. He will have his work ahead of him, but with the help of our online teachers and advocates, both he and his mother now have hope for his future.

 

Danielle Yanssens

My Virtual Academy

 

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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.

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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.

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communication, Education, Uncategorized

The Role of District Advocates in My Virtual Academy

My Virtual Academy provides tuition free online schooling for middle school and high school students throughout Michigan.  At My Virtual Academy we strive to support students and families throughout their educational experience. One way we provide support is through our District Coaches/Advocates. They are a support team committed to student wellbeing and continued success.

Below gives you a brief snapshot of each District Coach/Advocate and how they view their role at My Virtual Academy.

Mrs. Benacquisto

  1. I approach my students with the intent to make a meaningful connection, my first question is “Why did you choose My Virtual Academy?” I have students who have an illness, children, mental issues, legal issues, social issues, issues with authority figures, anger issues, and one who is starting a singing career.
  2. My approach to each student is different, although I say one positive thing in every conversation.
  3. I have found shelter for students, and food pantries; I have tried to teach students how to talk to probation officers and case workers. I listen when they cry about the pressure they feel from the world around them, some students have so little and no adult to lean on. I have had students cry when I tell them “I am proud of you”.
  4. I teach students to take responsibility for their actions, not everything is someone else’s fault. I help make schedules so the student can stay on pace, or to catch up and get on pace in their classes.
  5. I make sure my students contact their mentor weekly, and know about state testing.

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Mrs. Clark

  1. Being a consistent person in the student/parent’s life is huge.  A  lot of our families do not know what consistency is, and to have someone they know they can count on to ‘check in’ on them is invaluable.
  2. It is important that we are here to talk about school related issues, but also other accomplishments/issues.  School is just a fraction of their life, and as a coach we can focus on other aspects of their life too!

Mrs. Gibson

  1.  Providing consistent weekly communication to cultivate a relationship that is both caring and stable is crucial.  Being here when they need to vent frustrations, as well as positive aspects of their lives in and out of school. Being able to support students by providing assistance in the form of tech support, internet installation and reminding them of responsibilities such as: contacting their mentor, attending state testing, and answering any questions they may have with regard to, but not limited to their education.
  2. We encourage not only academic achievement, but continued success in various ways. We can help students form realistic attainable personal, and educational goals.
  3. We are able to recognize students for their hard work, dedication, and positive contributions for themselves and society. We are one of their biggest cheerleaders.
  4. We help students learn to balance their academic and personal life.

Mrs. Madigan

  1. Weekly Communication-It’s important to be able to talk to my students on a regular basis so I know what is going on with them. If I know what’s going on, I can make better suggestions on how I can help them. For the students I don’t get to talk to, I keep reminding them that I am here for them if they need me.
  2. Sense of Humor-I think it’s important to joke with the students sometimes. Most students usually hear negative things (usually because they aren’t working like they should be). If I can remind them about the importance of school, but sometimes depending on the situation, still be able to lighten things up, it leaves the students feeling a little better or more positive about where they are at in regards to school.
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MVA Student

Mrs. Pauls

  1. We serve as a support system for the students.  We help to get them back on track and check in on them to see how everything is going.  If they haven’t been working in their courses, we find out why and then we try to help them get back on track.
  2. We try to learn more about our students: Why did you choose to switch over to MVA?  What kind of sports or hobbies are you into?  Do you have a job outside of school?
  3. We want our students to trust us and to feel that they could talk to us if they need anything.

Mrs. Peck

1)  I feel that our relationships with the students make them feel more confident in themselves, and thus they are able to complete more classes/courses.

2) We go above and beyond by providing families with resources that lead to housing, food, help with bills, etc, thus enabling them to focus on school once again.

3) Our weekly calls and contacts show the students that there are people out there that care and believe in them when many other adults have failed.

Mrs. Powell

1.Weekly contact with students is key. Providing a consistent, stable connection reaching out to students to check on their status (education, mental health, well being).

2.Scheduling-I like doing this when students are looking for alternatives and it allows the students to approach completing courses in a more manageable way with less stress and a structured plan.

3.Schoology Posts for Fun-I like to post “National (blank) Day” and have students respond. It’s another connection from me to them, it encourages students to share more about themselves, and it promotes interaction among their peers.

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Ms. Vahovick

  1. We reach out to our students with a smile on our face and in our voice when we call them.  They need our sincere interest and caring.
  2.  We are an advocate for our students.  We help them see what it will take to complete this semester, this year and graduate.  How many classes?  How many hours, how many assignments per week, per day….
  3.  Sometimes we support the parents, too.  If we can help the parents understand, then we may be able to get through to the students

The District Coach/Advocate role provides support staff to work with students in various capacities, and supplies community resources to online students and their families.  This is only one way we, at My Virtual Academy, support our students and encourage continued success.

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Education, teen moms

Virtual Clubs Provide Socialization for Online Students

By Niki Taite  MVA photo

At My Virtual Academy, we pride ourselves on student involvement. Although you may think it would be a struggle to get online learners to participate, we have a great amount of students who participate in our clubs.  Our only requirement is that you are currently working in your courses and keeping up with district mentor contact. We understand that life happens and our students may fall a little behind, but as long as they are working towards completing, they are allowed to continue in our clubs.MVA Clubs (2)

With 13 active clubs (listed below), we have something for all of our students.  I am proud to be in charge of our teen parent group. Our M.O.M (Moms on a Mission) group was created to bring all of our My Virtual Academy teen moms together. This is a group that embraces ideas/tips on parenting, along with discussions on current struggles/successes with our little ones. Weekly, I post a tip and encourage moms to give their input, as well. This is a group that will help our students realize that they are not alone and there are other teen moms that are dealing with similar struggles while perusing their high school diploma. Currently, we have 36 students enrolled in our M.O.M. club and 10 teachers.happy-mother-feeding-baby-boy-milk-bottle-7703765

MVA Clubs Offered to all Middle and High School Students:

 Art Club

Book Club

Chocolate Club

Career Club

College Planning Club and First Generations Club

Cooking Club

Environmental Club

Joy Luck Club

Moms on a Mission

Movie Club

Music Club

Pens and Pictures Club

Pinterest Club

S.T.E.M.  Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics

Niki Taite is the Lead Teacher for MVA’s Elective Teacher Team as well as the moderator for M.O.M – Moms on a Mission. She is also the mom to a very adorable and active 3 year old daughter named Marley.

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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!

goals
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.

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coding, Education, technology

What is Coding?

coding picto

December 7th through the 13th was Computer Science Education Week, and all week My Virtual Academy encouraged both students and teachers to participate in an Hour of Code – https://hourofcode.com/us. Most people think to themselves “what is coding” and why is it so important?

CODE

Coding is being pushed by companies and educators because businesses know that there will be a huge shortage of computer science college graduates to fill the need we have, based on the amount of technology we are currently dependent on. Trends show that this need is only going to increase. Many educators and professionals believe that because technology is such an integral part of life, every student graduating from high school should at least have a basic knowledge of coding.

coding

Just like anything new, students can be intimidated by coding. While coding can be difficult to learn, there are many programs available that have broken down “how to code” into manageable segments. Here are a few of the more popular tutorials from Code.org.
https://studio.code.org/s/artist/stage/1/puzzle/1
https://studio.code.org/s/infinity/stage/1/puzzle/1
https://studio.code.org/flappy/1
https://studio.code.org/s/mc/stage/1/puzzle/1
https://studio.code.org/s/starwarsblocks/stage/1/puzzle/1

Several of our students and even some teachers participated in the Coding challenge we gave them and here are just a few of their comments:

“These are great!”
“This is pretty cool! :-)”
“This is addictive!”

Our goal is for all of our students to graduate college and/or career ready. Most of our students are getting their education Back on Track, and we want that to continue beyond high school. There are so many Computer Science jobs available at so many levels, that we encourage all students to check out coding to see if it is something that may interest them.

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. Their goal is to help all students who have dropped out of school get Back on Track.

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student texting

By: Danielle Yanssens

As middle and high school educators for a virtual school, we are often frustrated when we try, and fail, to contact students. It is our policy for each teacher to contact their students at least once a week to ensure that they stay on track in their courses and to give the students an opportunity to ask questions. However, if the student simply won’t pick up the phone, how do we make that contact? We try emailing and messaging through our student information system, and some students will respond. However, the best way several of our teachers have been able to stay connected to their students is by texting. Your first response may be to say “that isn’t true communication, you can’t really connect with someone through a text.” But is that really true in today’s technology based world?

Mark GrayMr. Gray and Mr. Denault from the Math Department use Google Voice to send text messages to their students.

Nick D

I took a look at my own personal experience with texting to evaluate whether I felt this was a quality way to communicate. My phone rarely rings, especially during business hours. I receive several texts a day from friends, family and co-workers though. Sometimes it is a quick message letting me know that my daughter’s practice was cancelled or a reminder to run an errand after work. Co-workers who aren’t in my building will often send detailed texts regarding an upcoming project or situation that needs handling. If I need more information, I will call them, but if not, I appreciate being able to address the message when I have time. I truly value text messages from my two teenage daughters. I think back to when I was a teenager, and cell phones were rare. I have access to what is going on in my daughters’ day, far more than my parents ever did, through text messaging. The ability to text definitely makes me feel more “connected” to family, friends and co-workers. Some may not see this as a quality type of communication, but as we continuously tell our teachers they need to find ways to “connect” with their students – if text messaging works, then why not use it? Below is an example of a text message between one of our teachers and a student. I would call that great communication, since this teacher wasn’t able to contact the student via phone or email all semester. It’s definitely better than no communication at all.

Me: Hey Jennifer! This is Mr. D your math teacher! I’m worried about your progress!
You are only 6% done with my course and should be around 50%.
Is there anything I can do to help you get moving a little quicker?
I love math and love to help! Let me know please! Mr. D. 2:10 PM
Jennifer: Um could u send me a print out of the week by week pacing guide and I am having a really rough
time with fractions 2:12 PM
Me: You should have one in your folder with the rest of the math worksheets. I will try and send another one,
but you can always download it in schoology and just follow along! You wouldn’t need to print it out.
Do you have time to work a bit right now with me on the phone? 2:23 PM
Jennifer: Yes I do
Me: Okay, great! 🙂 2:34 PM
Me: Don’t forget…I’m here to help almost every day! Just need to ask! That’s what we do! 🙂 2:36 PM
Jennifer: Okay thank you 2:37 PM

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.

communication, Education

Text Me!

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