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Pittsburgh International Children's Festival

PA_Virtual_Pittsburgh_Childrens_FestivalPA Virtual had a FANTASTIC time this past weekend at the Pittsburgh International Children’s Festival! The Festival is one of the best activities that Pittsburgh has to offer families, and we were so glad to be part of it this year.

We hosted a booth in the lovely EQT Plaza (right in the heart of the amazing Cultural District) and made “magic scratch” door hangers with over 500 kids and families! We met families interested in learning about PA Virtual, sang “Happy Birthday” to a new 4-year-old friend, did “The Glue Stick Dance” with Gab Bonesso of the Josh & Gab Show, and experienced some major puppy love at The Animal Friends booth.

Although we got a little soggy with Sunday’s rain, we had a blast. We can’t wait to be back next year!

A big thank you to the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust for organizing the event, and all of the families that came by and visited us!


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Posted on: May 25, 2017 by Andie Byron in

In the Community


PA Virtual Teachers Selected to Speak at National Conference

PA_Virtual_Teacher_Mrs._BarnettCongratulations to Katie Barnett and Christy (Ansell) Kotwica who are heading to New Orleans this summer after being selected to present at the BbWorld17 Conference!

All PA Virtual students use Blackboard (Bb) Collaborate each day to access their courses, assignments and to interact with teachers and students. Mrs. Barnett and Mrs. Kotwica – or “Miss A.”, as her students call her (her maiden name), co-teach their first grade virtual classroom in a unique way, and have been invited to share their methods at the conference this July.  


What makes this first grade class so special?  Mrs. Barnett and Miss A. have implemented a circular teaching model in their online classroom.  This unique structure works by creating small groups and different stations where groups can work on different skills, reinforce lessons, or have independent study times.

Mrs. Barnett has taught at PA Virtual for 11 years, and has always been a primary classroom teacher for Elementary students. Miss A., in her third year at PA Virtual, is the Academic Support Teacher in the virtual classroom. Instead of pulling students out of the classroom for additional academic support, the pair works together each day to provide high quality instruction to their students. Both teachers work closely with parents to further individualize each student’s educational experience and give parents/guardians the tools they need to help their child(ren) understand the skills presented in the classroom.  

The BBWorld17 Conference will take place July 25-27, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Lifelong educator, Dr. Jill Biden is slated to be the Keynote Speaker and will open the conference.  The BbWorld 17 Conference will bring together educators who use the platform each day to share best practices and address today’s educational challenges. Mrs. Barnett and Miss A. are very excited to join over 150 speakers and industry experts who will share their innovative ideas with other attendees.

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Posted on: May 23, 2017 by Jennifer Kilpatrick in |

How I Spent My Spring Break

PA Virtual Junior Tours Colleges

By: Julia Darkey

While most kids used their spring break to relax, catch up on sleep, or maybe go on vacation, I was up every day at 7:30 a.m. getting ready for college tours. From April 14th to April 21st, my dad, mom, and I went on college tours throughout Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. My mom and I scheduled tours for almost all of the colleges we visited so we had a set schedule of where we were going to be and when. I would HIGHLY recommend scheduling the school tour on their website. Often there were as many as 50 students, plus their parents on my tours; and colleges often set a limit of students per tour so you don’t want to be disappointed that you can’t tour the school after traveling there because you didn’t make an appointment.

It was really a huge help to schedule visits with the schools not only so we had a set schedule, but also so we had an actual student showing us the ins and outs of the campus. I was able to ask any questions I had and get a truthful answer from someone who is actually attending that school. The schools were also very great about giving me the option to attend live classes and even go to lunch with a student!

Before I left for my trip, I made a worksheet with questions on it that I completed for each school I visited. The questions on each sheet started fairly broad (school’s location – rural, suburban, urban?, feel/look of the campus – old or new?, number of students, etc.) but eventually narrowed down to more specific questions (does the school have my study major, tuition/costs, how many clubs, Greek life, internships, international exchange opportunities, etc.). As soon as I would finish a college tour, I would get in the car and fill out the worksheet while the visit was fresh in my mind. Since I visited so many colleges, and eventually every tour started sounding the same, it really helped to write down all the information and details about each school. Once I got home from my trip, it was very easy to look back and rule out some colleges that were not a good fit, and to do more research and reach out to colleges that were a good fit for me.To begin our journey, we started in Virginia visiting Old Dominion University and Virginia Wesleyan. After that, we drove along the east coast of North Carolina and stopped at East Carolina University and UNC Wilmington. We finally made it to South Carolina and toured Coastal Carolina University, College of Charleston, and Furman University. After spending four days in South Carolina, we headed back up north, making a pit stop at Brevard College and UNC Asheville and ended our college tours in central North Carolina at Elon University. So in seven days, I visited ten colleges.

Each college was different and unique in its own way. I personally want to attend college in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States. I visited some schools near the beach and some in the mountains, some large campuses, and some very small. I learned a lot during this trip especially that I do not want to attend a large university. I also learned that a college education is very expensive, especially if you are looking out of state like I am. I quickly learned that you get more “bang for your buck” by attending a private school versus a state school if you are planning to study outside your home state. State schools are designed to educate students from that state and the tuition costs are much more affordable for them than for out of state students, which often can equal the cost of a private university education. Additionally, private schools usually have larger endowments that provide Merit scholarships to students based on their educational accomplishments, which can greatly reduce tuition costs. I also like that the private liberal arts schools really emphasize not only providing a college education, but developing the whole person - mentally, physically and spiritually. I hope that a private school will provide me a more personalized education and since it a more tightly knit community, I hope to develop relationships that will last a lifetime.

This trip was a big help to me because a lot of times when looking at colleges, you want big name schools just so you can say you’re going there, but often you can get the same, if not a better, education at a smaller school and the campuses are just as beautiful. My “shortlist” for now is Elon University, Rhodes College (in Memphis, TN where I visited on a previous campus trip) and Furman University. If you are like me and considering a smaller campus out of state, all of these schools are gorgeous and offer top educational programs.

My trip was a great learning experience and also a really fun trip with my parents. Even if you aren’t looking at colleges far away, it is always a great idea to personally tour the campus so you can get a feel of what your “home” is going to be like for the next four plus years. You won’t regret it!

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Posted on: May 04, 2017 by Julia Darkey in |