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Oregon Connections Academy Teacher: Grateful for New Online School Career

ORCA Teacher, Katie

Jumping into the new year is a good time to count the blessings in life and take a look at my gratitude list. One of the main things is the shift in my career to the world of online public education and so far it’s been an amazing experience.

After a few years teaching at a traditional bricks-and-mortar public school, which I really liked, I was intrigued by the opportunity to assist students in an online learning environment. Both my sisters already loved working for Oregon Connections Academy (ORCA), the statewide public online charter school. So, at the start of the school year I joined them and became a high school advisor at ORCA.

One of the reasons I’m sharing my insights about my vocational journey is that friends and colleagues in other public schools often ask me what it’s like to be an instructor in an online education system.

At first I was nervous, but also excited. Starting a new job is an adventure and I didn’t know what to expect. I can still say I don’t know exactly what to expect, but each day I’m learning more and enjoying it more.

One of the first things I noticed is that it’s so rewarding to be able to help students find avenues to success that may have been overlooked at a bricks-and-mortar school. Many of my students have felt left behind in one way or another and it’s great to be able to be there as an advocate and advisor to work on meeting their individual needs.

This new role has been a learning curve for me as well as the students. The process is different - instead of taking the student to the classroom, our school takes the classroom to the student. For example, the flexible schedule gives me more time to reach out to students, whether they’re struggling or want to move ahead, so I can see what kind of supports the school can provide.

As an advisory teacher in an online school, I touch base with students every few weeks not only about their academic progress, but they often share personal information. That’s my favorite part – not always talking about schoolwork and tests, but what he or she likes to do once they are done with assignments and on the weekends.

I’m also making more frequent connections with parents which is so important to encourage student success. Building those relationships helps me relate and be a better advisor.

Many families choose virtual schooling for their children because it gives them flexibility in their daily schedule, that was also helpful for me when I became head coach of the girls basketball program at West Salem High School last spring.

Even though I wasn’t sure if I would really like this avenue of teaching as much as I did in the more traditional public school system, I’m so grateful I made the switch and count my blessings every day, especially the ones that involve helping students.

Katie Singleton, Oregon Connections Academy High School Advisor, Salem