Keith Guerra is a Learning Coach at Pecos Connections Academy (PCA) for students Emma Guerra and Cayden Guerra. The switch to virtual school was unexpected, so he was happy to find a flexible, high-quality education option for his family. Keith shares his story below.
"Our family’s story started at the beginning of the 2016–17 school year. Cayden had just completed kindergarten in the Albuquerque public school system and he was all set to move into the first grade. That is when his mother, Ashley Chambers, was unexpectedly diagnosed with leukemia.
Our family had to move across town to live with Ashley's parents so Cayden and his sister, Emma, could receive care during their mother's prolonged medical treatment. Suddenly, the traditional brick-and-mortar schools were no longer an option because of the risk posed to Ashley's weakened immune system by the common illnesses children bring home from school. What were we to do?
With little time before the start of the new school year, it seemed like homeschooling was our only option. However, how could we possibly research curriculum, make decisions, and purchase materials in time to ensure the children received the quality education they deserved?
That is when we learned about PCA during a commercial on our local PBS television channel. As an online public school serving students statewide, PCA offers a professionally structured curriculum based on the same standards set for the brick-and-mortar schools. This took our burden away and provided not only the teaching resources but also the professional support needed for our family’s successful transition.
PCA's online teachers have been incredibly supportive. They provide our students with individual attention, perform one-on-one student evaluations, track progress and deficiencies, and monitor test scores. They also provide additional tutoring as needed for the math and language arts LiveLesson® sessions that are conducted four days a week. The PCA staff is also very responsive. Monthly calls from our teachers keep us updated on school news, and any questions we may have for teachers or about technical computer support are answered in a timely manner through email or phone. Further instruction is provided for the Learning Coaches (parents, grandparents) through individual lesson plans and online resources.
Cayden's first year at PCA was so successful. After only one semester in first grade, Cayden was reading at a third-grade level! He is currently enrolled in second grade, and his sister, Emma, is enrolled in kindergarten. In January’s testing, Cayden performed at a 3.11 grade level in overall reading and text fluency. Emma has shown growth as measured by the formative assessment provided three times a year (her LEAP score went from 43% to 87%, and her iStation went from Tier 3 in Letter Knowledge to Tier 1).
The best thing about PCA is that Cayden and Emma's education is a total family affair. Parents and grandparents are also engaged as learning coaches. The living room is the hub of our classroom with computers and desks. There is never a loss for conversation at dinner when the family reviews the day’s lessons. Cayden now leads the family Bible reading, and Emma is quick to share new vocabulary words or math skills.
Emma and Cayden have been afforded opportunities to socialize with other PCA students at arranged outings at parks, restaurants, and an art studio. Though not always able to participate, we hope to take advantage of more of these occasions in the future. Emma has enjoyed the creativity of hands-on art projects, and Cayden, who wants to be a scientist one day, likes the outdoor science experiments. Both Cayden and Emma think online schooling is fun, especially when you can wear pajamas to class anytime you want!
The best thing about PCA is that education is a total family affair.