My name is Michelle Mueller and I am currently the principal of Wisconsin Connections Academy (WCA), Wisconsin’s first virtual school (and one of the first Connections Academy schools) that opened in 2002. Over the years many people have asked me if Connections Academy would be a good school for their child. What will the experience be like? Can he really learn without being in a traditional classroom? It’s never a simple answer, because students come to Connections Academy for so many reasons. So, how can you know if virtual schooling is for you? One way to help learn about a virtual school is to visit one. Since I can’t transport you to WCA’s offices, let me take you on a virtual tour.
Wisconsin Connnections Academy operates from a central office in Appleton, Wisconsin, though we serve students throughout the state. When you walk through the doors the first thing you see are teachers working with their students. But instead of being at the front of a room full of kids, they are at their desks instructing students by phone, email, and in online classrooms.
Peek into the elementary classroom. That's Mrs. Yahnke, one of our kindergarten teachers, doing a letter and sound assessment. Over there is Mrs. Kammer, the third grade teacher, reading with Matt, one of her students. Matt enrolled in WCA because he suffered from migraines that made him miss school regularly. As a result, he really struggled to keep up with his academics. At our school, Matt can work at full speed when he’s feeling good, even getting ahead on his lessons. On days when he’s under the weather, he can afford to take the time off, and at the end of the week or month he’s still on schedule.
Look at the smile on Mrs. Brandon's face. Right now, she is conducting a lesson for a class of gifted and talented students using our LiveLesson® online classroom. Even with a virtual room full of students, the teacher is able to provide focused attention to the individual needs of each student. Katie is one of the students in Mrs. Brandon’s classroom. Katie was referred to us by an educator who saw that a traditional classroom wasn’t meeting Katie's needs. She is a quick learner who also is active in tennis and music. Katie needs a school that allows her to move at a faster pace. Her parents love that at WCA she can move ahead onto new subjects instead of being given "busywork" while waiting for other students to catch up. WCA also allows Katie to dig deeper into the subjects that intrigue her most. And she can dedicate more time to practicing and competing in the outside activities she loves, tennis and music.
Let's take a look at our middle school. Mr. LeMahieu, the math teacher, is helping Aaron solve a multi-step equation. Aaron has been enrolled in WCA for a few years now. Before WCA, Aaron had been home schooled, public schooled and private schooled, but none of these worked for him. He spent many tear-filled nights working on homework while his mother re-taught him what had been presented earlier in class. In a traditional school Aaron was bullied and even physically assaulted. He had lost confidence in himself and his abilities. Our virtual school has allowed Aaron to learn in a much more personalized way. He now is finding success in learning that he didn’t have before, and he’s gained self-confidence. Virtual education has been a real blessing for Aaron and his family.
Mrs. Wierschke, our language arts teacher, is out of the office today. She's joining a group of our families on a field trip. We hold field trips during the year at locations across the state. Families love our field trips because they provide an opportunity not only to learn, but to meet other students and parents. They also allow the WCA staff to get out and connect with our families in their communities.
I love working at a virtual school. I enjoy making sure that every child is supported, whatever the situation. Of course I'm not alone here. WCA has what I think is the best group of teachers I’ve ever worked with—almost all of whom have been here since the school first opened. And that dedication and love of what they do translates into success for all of our students.
I always tell families that WCA has hundreds of students and each one has a different reason why it’s the right choice for him or her. If you’re one of the many families who have found that virtual school is your best educational choice, please tell us why it works for you!
To consider WCA as an option for the upcoming school year, you must apply during Wisconsin’s open enrollment period in February. Learn more at www.ConnectionsAcademy.com/WCA.