Cyber Charter Education: Why WE CARE and I MATTER
Cyber charter school students and parents, just like brick-and-mortar families, want to know that they are valued! In this blog, school counselor Ms. Mathis discusses the key principles of PA Virtual as a cyber school — and how these key concepts benefit students, families, and employees!
Adapting to change is in the proverbial DNA of PA Virtual, and is a necessity in the realm of cyber charter education!
The environment and learning platforms have evolved over time to meet the needs of students and families as technology has advanced and expectations have shifted.
Another key element of a PA Virtual education, though, is the unique sense of community that is felt even across our virtual environment. Prospective parents and employees may find themselves wondering: What is the internal culture like? What values do we as a school hold? What’s it like to be an employee?
In this post, I’ll give you an insider’s view of our organizational values, how they impact employees (including myself!), and, most importantly, how these aspects foster a supportive environment for families and workers alike!
PA Virtual Values
At PA Virtual we have two, interrelated sets of values. One provides a foundation for our philosophy of working with students and families. The other is the basis for how we work internally, as an organization. Although these two sets of values are designed to impact very different audiences, they are interdependent. Together they ensure a high-quality educational option for families, and a workplace environment where employees choose to remain.
The virtual environment has been tested over the last few years. PA Virtual has worked hard to create a supportive, challenging learning environment for the students of Pennsylvania. Our staff have even provided support to our brick-and-mortar colleagues in an effort to help them create an effective online environment.
The first set of values, WE CARE, focuses on the student and family experience, as we support our learners academically and personally in collaboration with the family.
- Our well-rounded curricula prepare students across core subjects (math, English language arts, science, history) as well as key electives (art, music, and physical education). In grades K-8, the K12 Curriculum provides a hybrid of online and physical materials, and in grades 9-12, the fully online Edgenuity platform advances students along their learning journey.
- Educational partnerships with Learning Coaches and families is essential to student success. Teachers develop strong working relationships with these stakeholders, as well as with the learners themselves, in order to benefit the individual needs of our students. This facilitates a student-centered, customized education that accounts for diverse learning styles. Additionally, we have support for student and family success.
- Academic excellence is at the heart of what we do as educators! By empirically measuring student achievement, and supporting improvement when needed, we prepare students for the workplace, military, higher education, and beyond. Adopting and using robust technology makes this possible, and our teachers are constantly learning new tools to help students practice skills — programs such as Study Island, Learning A-Z, iXL, and more.
- Finally, engaging opportunities inside and outside of the classroom are a key component of any education, be it at a cyber charter school or a brick-and-mortar model. Between field trips and socialization opportunities, clubs and organization-led activities, and in-class and small group virtual interactions, students have extensive exposure to social settings, where they learn collaboration, problem solving, and conflict management skills.
As educators, it is extremely important we work hard to support our students and help them each succeed to the best of their ability. In order to do so, it is critical to have the necessary resources, as well as the trust of those above us in the organization. I began my journey as a school counselor with PA Virtual in October of 2014. I had not set out to pursue a career in virtual education, specifically. In fact, I was uncertain at first as to whether I would be able to support my students in a meaningful way through the use of technology, as opposed to an “in-person” environment. My concerns were unfounded as I was provided the technology and opportunities needed to engage with students and support them on their academic and personal journey toward the future they envision.
As an educator, it is important to me to know that my input and ideas are taken seriously. I want to know that the expectations I have for myself and my work match the values exhibited by the organization I represent. As an organization, we adhere to a set of values that are the foundation of our work with students and with each other.
|M:||Making a difference|
|A:||Accountability and compliance|
|T:||Trust and culture|
- First and foremost, PA Virtual prioritizes both organizational and personal integrity as a vehicle to promote trust, respect, transparency, and honesty. As such, we commit to high standards in governance and leadership development, to ensure that we are making a difference.
- Similarly, we recognize the importance of maintaining accountability and compliance, especially as a public educational institution, in our fiscal, legal, and regulatory responsibilities. We have a duty to steward our funds as wisely as possible, and we consistently hold ourselves to high standards.
- Transparent communications are an integral part of the PA Virtual culture, including both internally and externally. This type of open communication includes weekly updates regarding news and changes at the school, highlighting staff news and updates, and providing important resources and links needed by all. For external audiences, we provide information on compliance, health and safety, annual reports, financial audits, and more — all aimed at accountability and wise stewardship of our resources and personnel.
- In any workplace, trust and culture are crucial to success! Having confidence that your organization has your best interests in mind fosters a healthier work environment. Here at PA Virtual, we aim to create a workplace culture that nurtures consensus, trust, and recognition as a top employer — and one where employees stay for years!
- Our effective operations value goes hand-in-hand with accountability and compliance, as we find the most efficient and effective way to operate as an organization. A related key aspect surrounds ethical, engaging, and effective marketing, while maintaining a trustworthy reputation. Educational consultant Dr. Stephen Holmes notes that school reputation” is shaped by what others say about it (reality, experience, and reputation), not what we say about ourselves (marketing and advertising).”
Applying to My Life
Over the course of the past seven years, I have seen our organization develop into a community of educators who share the values required to grow as a school community and develop an internal culture that supports us all.
The values upheld at PA Virtual allow me to feel trusted and supported as an employee, and that I have a good sense of what is happening as an organization. As I go through my school days, I know that I am working my hardest in support of my students, and have the necessary resources.
I know that I MATTER because our organization exhibits a high level of transparency in their communications about progress and achievements of the organization, as well as areas that need additional attention and changes. I also see the value of integrity exhibited by others, including personnel in high-level positions who hold themselves accountable when they err — inspiring me to do the same. It is so much easier to have faith in the organization you work for when you trust they are being honest with you. I have felt that trust when approved to attend various professional development offerings based upon the justification I provided as to the important impact the learning can provide.
Some Words of Advice
The world of cyber education continues to grow, especially for cyber charter schools. For prospective families and anyone interested in working at a cyber school, PA Virtual offers a culture of trust, communication, integrity and high standards — all in an environment where excellence is paramount! Between WE CARE and I MATTER, we’ve created an environment where staff and students grow in knowledge and have opportunities to grow as a professional.
I see this play out through the trust I have in other members of my Middle School team. I am able to have faith in the open communication of the organization as a whole, know what is expected of me, and I am trusted to accomplish my tasks and support my students. I have watched these values evolve over the past several years, and I have enjoyed seeing them have an impact on the entire community.
As it is at any workplace, the staff at PA Virtual know the importance of individual efforts as part of a team and organization. As an employee, it’s important to not only bring our best to our work, but find a place that celebrates our strengths, nurtures our career interests, respects our contributions, and helps us improve in constructive ways. I am able to have faith in the open communication of the organization as a whole. I know what is expected of me and there is trust in my ability to accomplish my tasks and support my students. I am confident I’ve chosen a place where students are supported, families are valued, and employees make a difference!
About the Author: Bernadette Mathis is a Middle School counselor at PA Virtual.
Photo credits to DeeMar on Pixabay.