North Carolina Connections Academy Teachers Train for First Day of School
Nerves, a little bit of anxiety, and a whole lot of excitement filled a Triangle-area hotel this week as North Carolina Connections Academy (NCCA) teachers and administrative staff met in-person for the first time. They came together to prepare for their first day of school, which starts August 24th for the state’s newest fully virtual public charter school.
“You’re on the ground floor of the hottest start-up in the state,” said Dr. Bryan Setser, NCCA Board Chair. “We’ve finally gotten to this historical point for North Carolina. I’m invested in this program, and with the right mix of your talents, experience, and humility —your willingness to take this risk, thinking of the possible and being growth-minded—we will not fail. I’m excited to learn with you and work with you.”
NCCA teachers come from a variety of backgrounds, from as much as 30+ years of teaching to newly licensed instructors excited to begin their career with this education option. Some have taught in virtual schools prior to coming to NCCA, but for many this is the first time they are taking on this opportunity.
“For me, when I first started teaching online, I had to adjust to not lecturing but rather guiding the students in their educational experience,” said Chris Van Dyk, who jumped at the chance to move to North Carolina when he learned that NCCA was coming to the state. Van Dyk transferred to NCCA after having taught for two years in Baton Rouge with Louisiana Connections Academy.
Other teachers spoke of their core beliefs that brought them to North Carolina Connections Academy.
“I am looking forward to working with students and their parents,” said Polycarp Omollo, who left tenure in Harnett County schools to become an ESL and Second Grade teacher for NCCA. “In the brick and mortar schools, parents aren’t always as involved as I think they should be in their children’s education. I believe this model is the future of education.”
“I want to make an impact somewhere, and I thought this would be a great opportunity,” said Cherie Creten, who will teach Secondary Science for NCCA.
“I like to teach humanity. These kids don’t judge each other because they have a different learning environment and I teach them respect,” said Shelby Hathaway, who transferred to NCCA from Colorado Connections Academy. “Here we have equal access for all.”
Will Miller, one of three Physical Education adjunct teachers for NCCA, is in a unique situation. He works in both worlds, as a traditional teacher and coach for Wake County schools and as a virtual coach and teacher for NCCA. For the past seven years, he has also worked with virtual schools in Utah and Nevada.
“I had to be involved in the groundbreaking work that North Carolina is doing with NCCA and when I did my research, I found that the culture of Connections Academy and the culture of NCCA staff was exactly what I wanted. I’m excited to see it all come together,” he said.
This week, teachers are learning how to use their computers, manage their classes, connect with their students and navigate the school’s technology resources. They are also taking part in team-building sessions to collaborate with peers and establish innovative teaching styles.
Principal Nathan Currie is thrilled to be working with such teaching talent in the school. “I expect you to deliver a world-class, student-centered experience to our children and their families,” he told teachers. “The lives of students are resting in your hands today.”
Teachers will participate in three days of training off-site before moving into their offices at the learning center in Durham on Monday, August 17th. Teachers will begin welcome outreach to their students and families once at the learning center, and begin the school’s first year serving families across the state on August 24th.