My name is Tracy Ostwald-Kowald (my students call me Mrs. O.K.), and I am an online school teacher for Connections Academy. My students live all over the state of Wisconsin. There’s a map in the school offices showing where the students live. In order to teach online, I needed to have my teacher certification and a working knowledge of computers—and a talent for making coffee.
In the spirit of thankfulness, I’d like to share with you a few of the reasons why I am thankful to be a fifth- and sixth-grade virtual school teacher at Wisconsin Connections Academy (WCA).
A Token of Appreciation for Fellow Teachers
I entered the teaching field armed with a music degree, two teaching licenses, and two powerful hearing aids. The degree and teaching licenses got me hired; the hearing aids help me thrive.
When I was twelve, a teacher suspected I was having trouble hearing her in class and suggested a screening. Her suspicions were correct; I had mild hearing loss in the frequencies in the middle of the spectrum, the range of the human voice. I was diagnosed with a progressive hearing loss due to nerve damage, a condition that has worsened with time and will continue to change as I grow older. Hearing aids are the correct and only treatment.
I loved teaching in a traditional classroom setting, but as my hearing slowly deteriorated, I realized I would need to find an alternative. I’m thankful that online schooling caught my attention. I was immediately fascinated by the unique program at Wisconsin Connections Academy, the substantial portfolio assessments, the family commitment, and the enthusiasm for technology in education.
What Are You Thankful For?
I am thankful that teaching at Wisconsin Connections Academy enables me to work closely with students and Learning Coaches who live in cities, towns, and rural areas throughout the state. I enjoy getting to know my students well and engaging with them in a challenging and fast-paced curriculum—all while channeling my inner computer geek!
Because of my hearing loss, I sometimes need small modifications, or “reasonable accommodations” as the law calls them. I’m thankful that this is very easy at WCA; I use the same headsets and phone as the rest of the staff. All are hearing-aid-compatible.
I am thankful that at Wisconsin Connections Academy, my hearing loss is only one part of who I am as a teacher. My students and my coworkers take my hearing loss in stride.
At one time I taught students with hearing impairments—not as a specialist, but as their regular classroom teacher. The presence of a role model, a professional with the same disability they had, motivated these children more than any lesson I could teach.
Words of Appreciation for Students and Families
This season of giving, as I give thanks for my many blessings, I count my Connections Academy students among them. And I hope that when they think about my disability—if they think of it at all—they’ll see it as an example that they, too, can succeed no matter what challenges lie ahead.
What makes you and your children most grateful? Be sure to share your thoughts and stories as a family during the upcoming holiday season!
To learn how you can be more involved in your children’s education and enjoy the rewards of helping them succeed, visit the website for Connections Academy online public school. Or to learn about online private school, visit Pearson Online Academy ’s website.