During National School Choice Week Stacey Powell shared how alternative schooling methods such as Kansas Academy Connections, a virtual online school, benefited her family.
When Stacy Powell moved to Pratt with her children and husband, Scott who took a pastorate position at Abundant Harvest Church of the Nazarene, she thought she would continue her teaching career and find a job in the USD 382 system. When it became apparent there wouldn't be any openings in her field (high school math) in the immediate area she went online to find other options and became immersed in a world of closely knit families, educators and students with the Kansas Connections Academy (KCA).
Seven years later, Powell is still teaching high school math classes like AP calculus, consumer math, and geometry with KCA online, and she loves the connections she has been able to make with her students and their families.
"I think the biggest difference between virtual classes and those at the traditional schools is that you are able to get so much more one-on-one time between students and teacher," she said. "I learn to know entire families because I spend as much time talking to parents and helping them understand the assignments as I do the students."
Virtual schools are just one educational option highlighted this past week during National School Choice Week. The goal of National School Choice Week proclaimed January 22-28 was to raise public awareness of all types of education options for children. These options include traditional public schools, public charter schools, magnet schools, online learning, private schools and homeschooling.
For the Powell family who has experienced several types of schooling options, there are benefits and drawbacks to each kind, but the best thing about having a choice, as celebrated this week on the national level, is that each student's needs are evaluated and met, with input from parents who are able to get more involved in their childrens' education.
"When our daughter, Hannah, encountered difficulties her freshman year in high school, we knew we had to do something to stop the downward spiral," Powell said. "Having the option to enroll her in online classes and then spend time with her, making sure we all understood the assignments and instructions made a world of difference."
Hannah, now 19 and employed by Pratt Regional Medical Center while continuing her education at Pratt Community College said that having a choice to try a different approach to education made her life less stressful.
"I had a lot of anxiety taking tests in a large classroom of kids," she said. "When I was able to pull back from that situation and study at home, I learned a lot more and built up my confidence of what I could handle and do on my own."
An additional positive side affect of online schooling for the Powell family was that mother and daughter became closer and learned to communicate better, a skill that carried over even when Hannah went back into the traditional school system to finish high school.
"We just spent a lot more time together and she helped me understand what I needed to do," Hannah Powell said. Her mother was not her teacher, but it did help to have her experience with the online system.
"There might be a time I will want to go back to teaching in the traditional school setting, but not yet," Stacey Powell said. "I really like where I am at now. It just fits."
Several families in the Pratt area take advantage of the freedom to choose how and where to school their children. Powell said that while online teaching is an 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. job, she additionally offers her tutoring services to students in Pratt and Skyline school systems as well as to homeschoolers and online participants. The flexibility of school choice makes it possible for her to share her knowledge with others and make good connections with entire families needing educational help.