Empowered in education: Caroline takes steps towards STEM
Caroline is a Pennsylvania middle school student who loves science, sailing, reading fantasy novels, and participating in extracurricular clubs. In her previous school, she wished she had more time to pursue those interests and include them more centrally in her education. Reach Cyber Charter School (Reach Cyber) has given her the ability to pursue her interests while also focusing on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in online school.
“I was part of my family’s decision-making to join Reach Cyber. I started in February 2017 after going to a private, parochial school,” said Caroline. “But I wanted to stay at home more, do STEM activities, and hands-on projects. My schoolwork at Reach Cyber lets me do that, and that’s one of the things I like the most. I love the idea of flexibility and being able to choose the order in which I do my lessons.
“At first, I thought that I would have to sit at home for hours and do nothing but schoolwork all day, but I soon realized that the teachers make it fun for me. My teachers care about if I know the material, and they’re not just like, ‘Get it done.’ They give fun assignments and work. I like LiveLesson® sessions because we get to go on the webcam.”
And Caroline did not have to give up friendships or connecting with other students through clubs and activities. “I like Reach Cyber because of the flexibility of the lessons and the fact that even though I am in a virtual school, I still have friends. We have a ‘secret agent chat’ group of friends who talk a lot. We all met through LiveLesson sessions or field trips. I have Connections Academy® friends in Pennsylvania, Maine, Michigan, Texas, California, and even Spain. I like all the clubs I’ve joined because they are STEM focused, and the teachers are excellent. I am in a Raspberry Pi and coding class, which helps me learn coding and computer science. I want to study computer science in college, and this will help me. I get to explore things that interest me more. Independent study is fun because I can get credit for doing fun projects that I pick.
“I take breaks to practice my musical instruments, attend lessons, and participate in performance opportunities. I can take piano lessons earlier in the day when most other kids my age are in school. I am in a marching band in my school district. I am also in my community’s junior philharmonic, and I take private piano lessons. I play piano, flute, piccolo, clarinet, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, and oboe.
“I volunteer as a deckhand on the historical schooner Lettie G. Howard and help out with our local maritime museum. I actually get to volunteer as part of the crew for “school sails,” where students from the local brick-and-mortar schools come on the ship for a field trip, and do evening and weekend sails as well. In the winter, I participate in the sail training and maintenance program. Because I’m a Connections Academy student, I can crew on sails during the school day, and I have even taken time off from school to go on longer sails on the Atlantic Ocean and through the Great Lakes.
“Reach Cyber is helping me reach my goals. I am taking steps toward a STEM career through my courses, talks with a scientist, clubs, and contests. I’m learning a lot, but it is way more fun than having to sit around in a classroom all day. Reach Cyber has been perfect for me.”
Leigh Anne Kraemer-Naser, Parent
Leigh Anne Kraemer-Naser is a Learning Coach to her two daughters, Caroline and Charlotte, who both attend Reach Cyber Charter School (Reach Cyber). Her family began looking into alternatives to traditional schooling options when bullying issues began to surface. Leigh Anne enrolled her daughters in Reach Cyber in the 2017–2018 school year and is loving the empowering flexibility that online school has provided.
“Our previous school was wonderful when we started out; however, as my daughter got older, the bullying got worse. The teachers saw Caroline’s quirkiness and her interest in fantasy novels and engineering as distractions instead of passions. She withdrew into isolation and misery. It finally became too much for our family to bear, and we began the search for other options. As an educator and school consultant throughout Pennsylvania, I knew that any school in our city either was not academically a good fit or was going to be more of the same social and emotional torment. I needed an environment where Caroline’s individual needs as a student and a person would be supported, encouraged, and celebrated. I knew that the local brick-and-mortar schools couldn’t provide both the social and academic setting to meet all of her needs.
“The Pennsylvania Department of Education site had a list of cyber schools, and I started my due diligence. When I began looking at Reach Cyber, it seemed too good to be true—a flexible approach to the school day, an award-winning curriculum, and the cherry on top was a focus on STEM. I attended the parent information sessions online and loved what I was hearing. A phone call with a Connections Academy® coordinator was enough to seal the deal. My younger daughter, thrilled at the idea of school in her pajamas, joined in her sister’s excitement.
“For everyone who asks, ‘What about social skills?’ I can tell you that there is socialization going on. I’m pretty sure every sixth grade student knows our guinea pig, Patronus, just as well as my daughter Caroline does. Our teachers know the children’s interests, and instead of telling them to put down the fantasy novels, they encourage them! We’ve gone to STEM day camps, and it was fun to meet the teachers in ‘real life.’”
And Leigh Anne gives high marks to the teachers at Reach Cyber. “I never thought I’d encounter so many professionals who truly are able to see where each child is and raise them to new heights. The STEM team at Reach Cyber and the Talent Networks/ Leadership team at Connections Academy have given my child her confidence back and let her believe that she is in control of what she learns, what she does, and how she succeeds. Caroline loves STEM, and she has built robots, websites, apps, and microcomputers with the support of teachers who have let her design her own learning path.
“I cannot say how much we love this school. The flexibility in scheduling has allowed our children to join my husband and me on business trips, but the structure of Connexus® and the planner keeps our learning on track. It’s a perfect balance that allows our family more time together. This is the way education should be: learning is relevant, focused, and outcome driven, with the support of caring teachers who celebrate my children’s passions and uniqueness. Our family is closer than ever, and my children are excited to be empowered in their education.”