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Demonstrating Passion for Student Achievement: Get to Know EdOptions Academy Teacher Natasha Sumner

Demonstrating Passion for Student Achievement: Get to Know EdOptions Academy Teacher Natasha Sumner

Teaching is a job that takes passion—and this is no less true for online teachers than it is for those who are in a traditional brick-and-mortar classroom. Virtual teaching takes the same level of dedication, the same attention to student needs, and the same commitment to building real rapport with each student. It’s these personal connections that facilitate truly deep, meaningful learning and that help students realize their full potential and long-term goals.

At Edmentum, putting relationships first in online learning is always a top priority. With technology playing a growing role in nearly every aspect of day-to-day life, the way that we’re all communicating is evolving—and we believe that online courses can reflect this. Our team of outstanding virtual teachers is the backbone of student success in our fully accredited virtual school, EdOptions Academy. Our teachers are from your state, often from neighboring districts. They are state-certified classroom teachers with at least three years of classroom experience, and they receive extensive training in online education and virtual instruction after joining the EdOptions Academy team. They are real educators, with real passion for helping every one of their students achieve those lightbulb moments that lead to positive long-term academic and career outcomes.

Check out what one of our EdOptions Academy English language arts teachers, Natasha Sumner, has to say about what motivates her to work in education, what her job as a virtual teacher involves, and why she loves working with EdOptions Academy students!

Share a little about your background in education. Where did you go to college, and what degree(s) do you hold? What schools/districts did you work at prior to EdOptions Academy, and what roles have your held?

My postsecondary background consists of a B.A. in journalism with a minor in English at SUNY Oswego (State University of New York at Oswego) and a Master of Science degree in childhood education, also at SUNY Oswego. Once I finished grad school, I headed straight to Colorado! I landed my first job as a 3rd grade teacher at Coyote Hills Elementary, which is part of Cherry Creek School District No. 5 in Denver, Colorado. After close to a three-year stint, I got married and moved to Saint Paul, Minnesota. I taught 3rd grade at Barack and Michelle Obama Service Learning Elementary School, which is part of Saint Paul Public Schools. During my last five years in Minnesota (2010–15), I worked at Parkview Center School, which is part of Roseville Area Schools. During my time at Parkview, I taught 3rd/4th (looping),and 5th grade. I also served as a teacher observer and facilitator for staff professional development on the topic of culturally responsive teaching.

Being an educator takes a lot of passion. What’s your “why” for having pursued a career in education?

Well, initially, I was a budding journalist. However, during the summer before my senior year of college, while I had an internship at a daily newspaper, I also worked a part-time job at the local YMCA. Working with kids brought me tremendous joy, and I started to reflect on my choice of study. I had an epiphany; I was meant to be a teacher! I still completed my undergrad journalism program, but I began a graduate program in education immediately after that.

Why did you choose to start teaching online courses with EdOptions Academy?

When I was teaching in Roseville Area Schools in Minnesota, I integrated technology throughout my teaching day. I enjoyed applying flipped classroom approaches, backchanneling, and other technology tools—I noticed increased student achievement and engagement.

So, when our family moved to Pennsylvania, I decided I wanted to work for an organization that encompassed technology and education. I didn’t know much about working online at first, but after some research, I learned about Edmentum. After reading about the company’s longstanding history as online education frontrunner, I was impressed! 

What is your favorite thing about being an EdOptions Academy teacher?

Making connections with students of diverse backgrounds is my favorite part of the job! A sense of satisfaction comes from knowing that I can make a difference in the life of a student. I know this to be true because when I work with a student, and the student “gets it,” it’s my fuel. However, I also love working with my instructional leader and colleagues. We count on each other, and it makes the joys more joyful and the stressful times less stressful!

What do you do to get to know your EdOptions Academy students and make sure that you develop a real relationship with them?

I develop a real relationship with students by learning their story. When I talk to a student for the first time, I try to “hear” a smile. If I can get them to smile, I feel like I’m heading down the right path. Every student's circumstances are unique. For instance, if a student shares that he has a new dog in our conversation, in our follow-up conversation I’m going to inquire about the dog. Or, if I have a student with medical needs and I know that they have a set schedule and they won’t work until the evening, I’ll adjust my schedule to meet their needs. So, making myself real is knowing them. In a nutshell, the students talk; I listen and acknowledge. Before I can help a student learn, I must know the student. That’s how I show I’m real. 

What is your proudest moment as an EdOptions Academy teacher so far?

Anytime a student makes an achievement—whether it be grand or small scale—I consider it a success. However, this spring, I worked with a nontraditional student; I was his teacher for the last course he needed to graduate.

The student, a newbie father and a full-time worker, had little time for school. After connecting over a phone call, we worked out a plan, and I started sending him daily encouragement for making time in the course. We also established checkpoints; these were opportunities to celebrate the progress he made toward completing the course. He ended up finishing the course and graduated from EdOptions Academy! A positive, consistent rapport is paramount for student achievement.

Want to learn more? Find out how you can bring virtual learning to life and enhance, expand, and extend your school’s or districts’ offerings with flexible and fully accredited digital learning solutions from Edmentum’s EdOptions Academy!