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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Education, history, Uncategorized, virtual school

Let’s Take a Trip through Time: Significant Historical Events

In our My Virtual Academy Social Studies curriculum, we offer a broad range of classes for our high school students that cover significant events, both past and present. Each of our Social Studies teachers wanted to share an event from their specific course that they feel is especially important for students to understand and investigate further.

Industrial Revolution

-Mr. Jacob

ScottIn history there are many significant events that have shaped our world into what it is today.  Revolution, when bellowed, is a word that invokes a sense of uprising or call to action for many people.  The word has many meanings but has been used most synonymous with the overthrow of an organization or governing body.  The Industrial Revolution, however, is different from the typical revolution; it is more about significant change than it is an immediate correction that is fueled by politics.  For tens of thousands of years humans hunted, gathered, farmed and made products by hand; they used very few tools to accomplish these tasks.  The Industrial Revolution was a major shift in how we made everyday products.  By mechanizing we were able to mass produce items like clothing, furniture, tools and automobiles.  In about 200,000 years’ time modern man had not seen massive change, until the Industrial Revolution.  In the span of the last 200 years we went from horse riding for transportation to using rocket ships to go to our moon; it’s quite amazing.

http://www.bridge-online.cz/aitom/upload/maturita/temata/38_science_and_technology.pdf

The Civil War   

By: Mr. Thomas

Ken

Is the United States one nation, indivisible or is the United States a collection of linked but separate states?

The Civil War was the most deadly and arguably the most important event in the nation’s history. There are fews events in American history that has changed our country like the Civil War. The Civil War was fought from 1860-1865, but there was sectional tension building up from as early as 1857. Slavery was the root cause; however the tension spanned across America socially, politically, philosophically, and economically. Some historians may argue that everything leading up to the Civil War was caused by the Civil War and everything after was caused by the Civil War. Almost every part of American society was fundamentally changed. Americans killed Americans until the death toll reached 600,000 people about 2% of the nation’s population at the time. The war changed the way the Americans viewed their own nation and it answered many of the fundamental questions that Americans had at the time: free or slave, one or many, united or divided.

Why did the U.S. get involved in World War I?

-Mr. Parmentier

For the most part, the United States did everything in their power to stay out of the fighting in Europe when war broke out in 1914. Most in the U.S. didn’t feel the need to risk American lives for a war that was so far away from us and, in theory, didn’t cause us much concern. European countries were fighting for political and military positioning; an issue the U.S. didn’t want to interfere in due to our business and military alliances with both sides. Despite an attempt to block our trade, and the sinking of the Lusitania, which killed 128 Americans, we remained neutral. However, our position would change in January 1917 when we received word that Germany had sent a letter to Mexico promising to help them invade the U.S. once they were victorious in Europe. Upon receiving the ‘Zimmerman Note’, the U.S. and its citizens were in full support of going to war. The U.S. would help the Triple Entente defeat Germany and it’s Triple Alliance, thus, laying the foundations for WWII in the 1940s. Here is a copy of the actual note sent from Germany to Mexico.

Brandon

 

Mrs. Olind: 2013 Government Shutdown  

Amy

According to the Constitution, the responsibility for funding the government (passing the budget and paying the bills) falls on Congress. If it doesn’t perform this function, different government-run places and processes, including passport requests, issuing checks to government employees (Congress not included), and mowing the lawn and changing the trash at national parks and monuments, stop. In 2013, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) had been a source of conflict between Republicans and Democrats in the government, and Congress was fighting about whether or not to continue Obamacare and fund the programs within it. As a result, the Senate and the House did not pass the Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund normal government programs past September 30, 2013 (the end of their budget year); because of this, the Federal Government partially shutdown, meaning that essential government functions (mail, payment to the military, etc.) continued, but others stopped. The shutdown lasted 16 days, and 800,000 federal employees were furloughed, meaning they didn’t receive a paycheck during this period. On October 16th, 2013 Congress finally passed the CR to start things back up again, but the shutdown cost the economy 24 billion dollars when all was said and done.

More information aimed at high school students: Dogo News: Fodder for Young Minds

(Material drawn from Forbes.com and CNN.com)

The Roaring ‘20s

 – Thomas Stedman

            In the decade following the conclusion of The Great War, America experienced a time of unprecedented success and prosperity.  By contributing to an Allied victory in WWI, America proved that it belonged as a world superpower, used its newfound success to make important financial, cultural and political contributions that can still be seen today.

Improvements in technology opened the door for new jobs in manufacturing which raised wages and created a middle class.  With more time and money, Americans were able to spend their income on recreational items such as automobiles, radios, and movie tickets.  Despite a federal ban on the production, transportation and sale of alcohol, jazz clubs and speakeasies thrived.  The passing of the 19th amendment allowed women to vote for the first time, altering the traditional views that Americans had on the role of women in society.

Thomas

Image Courtesy of headsupdetroit.com “Woodward Avenue in 1917”

            Although the “roaring twenties” are often remembered in a positive light, there were a lot of growing pains and racial tension during the era as well.  The resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan intimidated and negatively affected the lives of immigrants and African-Americans.  The spending and extravagance of the decade came to a screeching halt with the bank failure of 1929, leading to the Great Depression.

The ‘20s are a fascinating look into the imagination, willpower and creativity of the American people.  Within the span of 10 years, the country had completely changed the status-quo and paved the way for even more radical changes in the way of life after World War II.

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Education, Uncategorized, virtual school, women in science

When I say the word Scientist, what do you picture in your mind?

The science department here at My Virtual Academy posed this question to our online high school students. We asked our students to draw a picture of what they think a scientist looks like. Not surprisingly, most students drew a white male, with crazy hair and wearing a lab coat. Basically, a drawing of Albert Einstein.  Most people, not just our virtual high school students, tend to assume that all scientists are white and male. Few people cannot name a famous woman scientist. That is because we, as a society, fail to tell stories about women in science.  We reinforce the impression that few women have patented inventions, derived important mathematical equations, or contributed to scientific discoveries in any way. This lack of recognizing visible female role models can discourage young women from pursuing a career in science.

scientist 1    scientist 2     scientist 3

This month, the Science department at My Virtual Academy has decided to spotlight women in science. We believe it is important to show our students, especially our female students, that a career in science is an option for them after they receive their high school diploma. By spotlighting women in science, we hope to peak the interest of our female students and inspire them to think about a career in science.

 ~Mrs. Goodman (Chemistry, Biology & Physical Science Teacher) would like to recognize:

Mae Carol Jemison : Chemical Engineer, Physician, Astronaut

 goodman science

Mae Carol Jemison received a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering from Stanford University in 1977 and a doctorate degree in medicine from Cornell University in 1981. She has a background in both engineering and medical research.

Dr. Jemison joined NASA’s astronaut training program in 1986 and was the first African American woman to travel to space in the Space Shuttle Endeavor on September 12, 1992. During her eight days in space, she conducted experiments on weightlessness and motion sickness on the crew and herself. In all, she spent more than 190 hours in space before returning to Earth on September 20, 1992.

After leaving the astronaut corps in March 1993, Dr. Jemison accepted a teaching fellowship at Dartmouth.

~Mrs. McCoy (Biology, Marine Biology MVA Teacher) would like to recognize:

Hedy Lamarr: Co-Inventor of Spread Spectrum Technology

mccoy scientist

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I could live without my cell phone!  If you feel the same way, take a moment and say “THANK YOU, HEDY LAMARR!”.   Back in the 1940’s, Hedy and co-inventor George Antheil received the patent for a “Secret Communications System”.  It was an anti-jamming device used in radio-controlled torpedoes by using something called frequency hopping.  In the most basic way to explain it, if someone had encoded a message in frequency waves, only someone with a receiver could decode it because the message would be “hopping” all over the place.  But what also happen is that it could be buried in multiple messages much like we use cell phones, etc.

While her invention was not used during WWII, it was used on blockade ships during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  When the rest of the world caught up to Hedy’s invention, it was used everywhere from military communications, GPS, faxes, any and all wireless communications including cell phones and so much more.  Because of the importance of her invention of “Spread Spectrum Technology”, she finally received recognition for the “beauty” of her invention in 1997 when she and George Antheil were awarded the Electronic Frontier Foundation Pioneer Award.  Later in 1997, Hedy Lamarr was the first woman to receive the BULBIE Gnass Spirit of Achievement Bronze Award (the equivalent of winning an “Oscar” for inventing).

While Hedy Lamarr has since passed at the age of 86, her life is now celebrated and the history of technology is giving her the much earned recognition that she deserved.  It is with a sigh of relief that we can all enjoy the fact that this great inventor was able to live long enough to see her hard work be utilized as she envisioned AND receive the accolades that she so deserved.

~Mrs. Premcevic (Biology and Earth Space Science MVA Teacher) would like to recognize:

Sara Volz, 20 (MIT Chemistry Major, co-author of two papers on CRISPR)

premcevic scientist

At the young age of just 17, Sara Volz invented a process that increases the amount of biofuel produced by algae to win the 2013 Intel Science Talent Search. Sara claimed the $100,000 grand prize with her project, which uses artificial selection to pinpoint which organisms are churning out the most fuel. This new method not only helps to bring down the overall cost of algae biofuel, but it was developed primarily in her bedroom under a lofted bed! In 2014, Sara along with her professor and a PhD student, discovered how to turn one specific protein on and off in a cell which in turn, can one day help cure diseases. Sara is currently at MIT researching genome editing using a tool called CRISPR. CRISPR is like scissors for DNA that cut out bad genes and replace with good ones. Sara’s work demonstrates how a young woman who is fascinated by science can have a real impact on society.

~Mr. Hardy (Chemistry and Math MVA Teacher) would like to recognize:

Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski- Currently earning her PhD at Harvard in Physics)

hardy scientist

She’s been called “the next Einstein” by her professor at Harvard University, but her name is Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski. Born June 3, 1993, she is a former MIT graduate, and current PhD candidate at Harvard University.

At the early age of 5, Sabrina Pasterski made the decision that she would like to one day build spacecraft. At age 9, she began learning how to fly airplanes, flew her first solo flight in Canada in 2007. By age 12, she had begun building her own airplane in her garage at home in Chicago, IL. Sabrina Pasterski graduated from the Illinois Mathematics & Science Academy at age 17. She completed her undergraduate degree at MIT in just 3 short years with the highest GPA possible. Today, Sabrina Pasterski is in her final year at Harvard, where she will earn a PhD in Physics. Her work in Physics involves mass and radiation of particles, and using quantum fields to advance the current understanding of black holes and gravity. Her work has been cited by Stephen Hawking. At age 22, Sabrina Pasterski has job offers from the likes of aerospace company Blue Origin (founded by Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com), and NASA. Her career will be an intriguing one to follow, as she may very well be the one whose life work eventually takes mankind beyond our solar system out to the far reaches of the universe. Sabrina Pasterski has her own website (PhysicsGirl.com) where she posts information about her interests and her work.

~Mr. Fouladbash (Chemistry and IPC MVA Teacher) would like to recognize:

Dr. Jennifer Dounda: Professor of Chemistry and Cell Biology

joe scientist

Jennifer Dounda is an American Scientist and a renowned professor of chemistry and cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley.  Since the early 90’s, Jennifer Dounda has been making progress in trying to technologically manipulate human DNA in order to remove disease from the human genome.  Within her work, she created CRISPR – way of performing a so called ‘Genome Surgery’ – in order to perfect the DNA of an organism.  This method was recently used in a set of subject animals (female macaque monkey twins) and have proved successful in gene manipulation.  This work by Jennifer Dounda and her CRISPR technique shows great promise for the future, for if we can change the code by which we are built, we can program the human body for perfection!

 

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Books, Education, technology, Uncategorized

Reach Endless Academic Dreams

book butterflies

The importance of reading has always been a great necessity since the beginning of time. Mankind originally created a means by which to communicate with one another in the form of print, most commonly known as Egyptian hieroglyphics.

In today’s society, children must be exposed to print in the earliest stages of life. Mothers reading to their unborn children set the precedence for the fundamental successes of educational development. Just think about the service we could provide to our children if everyone adapted to the idea of reading to their children even before they are born. It would be like the metamorphosis of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly!

Reading-And-Singing-To-Your-Unborn-Child

We are very fond of Carl Sagan’s quote: “One of the greatest gifts adults can give – to their offspring and to their society – is to read to children.”

As educators, we understand the importance of reading to children of all ages. We believe that the more exposure a child has to reading at a young age, the more likely they are to enjoy it and become avid readers as adults. It’s become a new tradition for expecting parents to request that guests attending their baby shower bring a book instead of the traditional card to add to their baby’s bookshelf. We start to accumulate books even before our children are born. It’s never too early to start reading to our children and influence them to become readers themselves!ChildrenAt My Virtual Academy, reading is integrated cross-curricular throughout our students’ online education. Both our online high school and middle school students are actively engaged in various reading activities within our clubs, weekly live lessons, monthly thematic units, and our daily virtual lessons. It is our goal to instill the value of reading to our students on a daily basis.

book club

We encourage and challenge you to spread your wings and immerse yourself in the exciting world of literature!!

book butterflies

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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.

Cart-master

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.
pride

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.

connect

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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