Families in 2021 have many options for educating their children. Homeschool, which began on a larger scale in the 1970s; private schools, which have been available for many decades; local public schools, which are utilized by the majority of PA families; and for the past 20+ years, we have encountered the “new kid on the block”: charter & cyber charter schools. When it was our family’s turn, many of our friends were at the end of the decision process. It seemed there were so many questions and so many decisions to be made. This was our journey.
One of the biggest questions people have before trying something new is, “What does this experience look like?” For students moving to a cyber charter school, it can be difficult to imagine what school will be like in a different environment. I would love to tell you about what being a student at a cyber charter school is really like. I attended PA Virtual from kindergarten through 12th grade. During my time here, I developed valuable skills, made great friends, and genuinely enjoyed learning. If you’re considering virtual school but are feeling nervous about the change, let me put your mind at ease.
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If you would have asked me during my graduate program what the likelihood of me working at a virtual school was, I would have told you slim to none. However, sometimes life has a funny way of taking control of things. As you can imagine and possibly relate to, I was furiously applying for jobs once I received my diploma. I applied to anything and everything available because I was determined to get a job in my field. I didn't have anything against virtual schools – I just simply knew nothing about them. My internships prepared me for working with large and diverse caseloads in a brick and mortar setting, and I was surprised to see just how well those skills transferred into this virtual setting.
For the first time in PA Virtual’s history, we have hired one of our alumni as a teacher! Former student Sigrid Gulbis was hired this past summer as a High School Math Academic Support Teacher. Ms. Gulbis entered the first grade during PA Virtual’s second year in business and graduated four years ago. This past May, Gulbis graduated Summa Cum Laude from DeSales University with a bachelor’s of science in math. “It’s interesting to see many teachers who instructed me are still at the school and now are my coworkers,” Gulbis said.
After deciding she wanted to focus on a competitive tennis career beyond the high school level, Julia Darkey, a former student in the Manheim Township School District, has found a great balance by enrolling at PA Virtual. “In Lancaster County the idea of homeschooling is very common, but not so much cyber school,” said Renee Darkey, Julia’s mother. “We knew another local family through tennis who had a great experience with PA Virtual and knew it was the right place for Julia.” Each year, the media reports stories of cyber students who face challenges when trying to attend their local proms, homecoming or take part in district activities- a practice that is illegal per charter law - because they are not considered “district students.” The Darkey family, however, has never experienced this with MTHS. Coaches and the administration have since gone above and beyond to make sure that Julia is always included in school team activities, despite the fact that she isn’t present in the same classrooms as her teammates during the day.
In the United States alone, roughly 2.7 million young women participate in Girl Scouts and cookie season officially kicked off in January! Last year, Caitlin Wert, now in 10th grade, received the Silver Award from the Girl Scouts of Eastern PA for her efforts in educating her female peers on a range of important matters. Through lessons learned in cyber education, Caitlin was able to confidently and accurately teach these lessons. “Through sessions offered by the Guidance Department at PA Virtual, I have become educated on important topics such as bullying, self-esteem and respect. I incorporated some of what I learned into my "Girl Power" program, especially during the session I held on anti-bullying.”