Michelle Austin is a secondary school teacher who joined Tennessee Connections Academy in 2019. She has a bachelor of arts degree in political science and secondary education from Middle Tennessee State University. Ms. Austin has loved working with her team of educators and building relationships with the students. She shares her story below:
“I have a passion for young people and for government and civics. I want to empower young people to be active citizens and build an understanding of how our government functions. At Tennessee Connections Academy, we get to know students in a way that builds relationships, often more so than in the traditional school setting. I enjoy helping the students meet their educational goals and prepare for life outside of school.
Tennessee Connections Academy students are not only getting a rigorous, first-class education but also are learning the skills needed after school, whether they pursue postsecondary education or go straight into the workforce. Students learn important soft skills, such as appropriate and professional communication, how to set schedules and follow them, how to take initiative and ownership for their learning, and a host of technical skills that aren’t innate in the brick-and-mortar setting. Students will be prepared for the high levels of technology that most professions will require.”
Ms. Austin believes that Tennessee Connections Academy creates a welcoming community with the first phone call. She says, “The first week a family is with us we call to invite them into this wonderful partnership of working toward educational goals and helping the student achieve what they need before graduating and entering the real world. The tone is set from the beginning that we are a team, and we continue that with phone calls, texts, one-on-one sessions, and consistent communication.
I love when I get to talk to kids on the phone and hear what they are doing outside of school or when they open up about their challenges. It is encouraging when you know the relationship is there for students to feel safe sharing. I also love that our Learning Coaches have the ability to know how their student is progressing at all times. It creates space for the partnership in a student’s learning.
We offer students the ability to work at a pace that may suit them better. They can work ahead or take a little more time for lessons and skills that are challenging. Students also have access to one-on-one tutoring during the school day, which isn’t possible in a brick-and-mortar setting.
I love that students have the flexibility to follow their passions if they are in a competitive sport, pursuing a talent, or traveling with family. We also enable families to have more time together. There is no rush to get kids to a location, no bus rides, and no pickups, which helps families have some of that precious time back in our busy world.”
Some students haven’t had success in the traditional setting, and it brings me joy to see when these students realize we are here for them and genuinely want to see them succeed.