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Online schools are key option for students
Krista Kunkle
Krista Kunkle is a high-school language-arts teacher at Georgia Connections Academy, an online K-12 charter school serving students statewide. She is the schools current High School Teacher of the Year. - photo by Photo provided.

The classroom is changing.

Just as our marketers are learning to personalize their products, so are our schools. Each child comes from a unique “cookie cutter,” so schools should be unique, too, and focus on each child’s needs.

The child entering grade school right now is more likely to interact with a teacher and peers online in a virtual classroom for at least part of the learning experience.

Some states, like Georgia, even have a virtual-learning requirement for student graduation. Each student has to take at least one course online before graduating from high school.

It’s the digital age. It’s mobile. It’s instant. And our children adapt to it naturally. Schools, teachers and parents must adapt as well.
In Georgia, there are three virtual charter schools offering free instruction for grades K-12. I work at one of those, Georgia Connections Academy.

The school I teach at presents the complete instructional day online. In Georgia, we also have “a la carte” options for students who need just one or two courses online, and still other programs offer “blended” models with a physical classroom and teacher utilizing course options from online curriculum. With the new requirement, even traditional brick-and-mortar schools optimize online courses to help students recoup lost credits, move them ahead and gain college credits.

The reality is that schools now adapt to even more cookie shapes, thanks to “digital learning,” and can meet any level of interaction with a child at any location (traditional, home, mobile) to offer a complete learning experience that results in a diploma.
Education is no longer tied to place. It is tied to SERVICE: How do we as teachers meet that child, his or her unique needs, and make dreams into daily realities?

The benefits of where I work are the excellent education, the customer-service focus of the highly qualified teachers and greater accessibility to a child in any county, whether in a rural area in the southern part of the state or the urban neighborhoods of Atlanta.

Once they are acclimated, many students are able to accelerate their learning and course rigor beyond their local option and then choose to stick with online virtual education because of the dual-enrollment programs that complement and enhance the Advanced Placement courses we offer at our fully Southern Association of Colleges and Schools-accredited virtual charter school.

Students and families benefit when they take college-level courses after they have breezed through high-school classes. Why not graduate high school with college hours already completed so they can study in their career field even sooner? That’s what turns those dreams into goals and the goals into reality.

Some call this revolution the K-20 mashup. The lines between high school and college are increasingly blurred for advanced learners. That’s a good thing.

We need talented children to be motivated to excel rather than remold to fit a specific cookie cutter.  

The bottom line is that a virtual education allows me to tailor that classroom experience to the student in front of me, the advanced learner, the child who needs more attention than what’s received in a local classroom, the child who needs flexibility to fit a professional-sports or entertainment schedule, and the child who simply needed a quiet place to work without the distractions of a classroom.  

It’s these educational choices that are making Georgia a leading option for students, parents and educators. I’m blessed to be part of it.

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