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Leveraging Personal Experience to Make Meaningful Connections in Virtual Learning: Get to Know EdOptions Academy Teacher Michaela Kenon

Leveraging Personal Experience to Make Meaningful Connections in Virtual Learning: Get to Know EdOptions Academy Teacher Michaela Kenon

Teachers are in a unique position to share their own wealth of life experience with students, who can then soak up that insight, curiosity, and perspective. That breadth and depth of experience can also help teachers find common ground and connect with their students. Teachers and students in virtual classes may not have the opportunity to interact in person, but they are no less able to share their experiences and learn from each other. In fact, sometimes, the online learning environment, which is all about individualization, makes it even easier for teachers and students to uncover those meaningful connections—setting the stage for closer rapport and deeper learning in the process.

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 licensed 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 each 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 math, German, and CTE instructors, Michaela Kenon, 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?

I have been an educator for 17 years and hold a Master of Arts in mathematics education degree. I am a German native and certified to teach mathematics (highly qualified) and German (highly qualified), as well as CTE/business education.

Due to my husband’s employment with the government, I have had the opportunity to live and teach in various places around the world. I’ve taught in public as well as private schools in Germany, Saudi Arabia, and several states in the United States.

I have held the roles of math department chair/mentor, CyberPatriot coach, math team coach, course development team member for a district’s virtual academy, math content coach (summer lab for teachers), benchmark/pacing guide committee member, capacity cohort team member, data analysis committee member, and curriculum review panel member.

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

My home situation as a child was a rather difficult one, and I was very fortunate to have had many teachers who believed in me and my academic abilities, encouraged me, and showed me that they genuinely cared. They made sure I knew that my circumstances didn’t define who I am as a person and were the reason why I loved going to school and enjoyed learning.

I am hoping to do to the same for the students I teach by making a difference in their lives, helping them to believe in themselves, to challenge themselves, and to become productive members of society.

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

I absolutely love being able to offer students the ability to take classes that otherwise may not be available to them. Many brick-and-mortar schools are limited in the number of teachers they can hire, which, in [turn], limits students’ abilities to select courses they would like to take. EdOptions Academy makes it possible for students to have an educational experience that is tailored to their needs and/or preferences.

Being an EdOptions Academy teacher allows me to provide more individualized learning for my students. Not all students do well in large classes, especially if they are not very confident in their academic abilities, are introverts, or suffer from anxiety. Some students are not being challenged enough and are bored, while others are overwhelmed—EdOptions Academy is able to accommodate all of their needs.

As a full-time virtual teacher, I am available to assist my students throughout the day offering one-on-one help or lessons in small-group settings in my virtual classroom. My students are able to build confidence by working through their courses independently but know that I am right there if they need me. They can revisit lesson concepts as many times as needed to reach mastery, which is so important.

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

When students first enroll, I send them a little video of myself and have them fill out a form where they can share things about themselves. I also send out fun quizzes with questions/facts about myself so they can see that I am a regular person just like them and that we may even have some things in common. Texting is my students’ (and my own) favorite form of communication, and I check in with them frequently. They know they can reach out to me at any time, whether in the evenings or on the weekend, whether it is related to academics or personal matters.

I also love making songs or raps to encourage and motivate students, like the one below!

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

I have been very lucky to have had several “proud teacher” moments since becoming an EdOptions Academy teacher, and I look forward to many, many more.

This past summer, I was able to help a student get the foreign language credits he needed to graduate high school. He was not very motivated, and I had to keep encouraging him to keep going, while reminding him about the importance of reaching his goal of graduating. He completed his course and was able to participate in his high school’s late graduation ceremony at the end of summer.  

Another student enrolled last semester, and I immediately noticed that he had a German last name. His father reached out to let me know that his son dealt with a medical condition, and the symptoms associated with it cause him to be in a lot of pain and subsequently miss a lot of school. This young man went through phases where he didn’t do any work, and I spent hours with him on the phone just talking about random stuff to get to know him. I found out that he chose German because of his family’s heritage, and his father told me that my class was the only one he actually did work in. He was able to finish his course with a B!

This past semester, I had a student who was serving time in a juvenile detention facility. He took a career exploration course that allowed him to learn about different career options based on his personal preferences and abilities. He was intrigued by the idea of becoming an advocate for young adults who had gotten in trouble with the law but wasn’t sure if that was even an option since he had gotten in trouble himself. I encouraged him to pursue his passion, and he based all writing assignments in the course on his future career. He completed his course with an A!

Just [recently], one of my students finished her course. She started it in the summer and then suddenly stopped doing work. She confided in me that her family was moving around quite a bit from relatives to relatives and that she didn’t have reliable Internet access. After communicating with her counselor, I found out that her family had actually become homeless, which was taking an emotional toll on her, and she was not focused on her schoolwork. Her school extended her course several times, I kept encouraging her, and she [just] successfully finished.

I have plenty more “proud moments” that I could share!

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!