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



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.



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.


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


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.

Untitled design (9)

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.

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, 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 ( 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!


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.


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.


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!