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Meeting Students Where They Are to Build Authentic Connections: Get to Know EdOptions Academy Teacher Diane McRandal

Meeting Students Where They Are to Build Authentic Connections: Get to Know EdOptions Academy Teacher Diane McRandal

Education is all about making connections—connections between old and new skills to build on understanding; connections between academic lessons and real-life tasks; and maybe, most critically, connections between students and educators to drive that deep, meaningful learning. One of the most common fears about online learning is losing that element of connection. But, with dedicated educators, motivated students, and the right tools, incredible, interactive, and highly connected learning can take place in virtual courses.

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 health and physical education teachers, Diane McRandal, 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 graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a B.S. in health and physical education, emphasizing adapted physical education and motor learning. I taught in brick and mortar for 20-plus years in elementary and middle school physical education, adapted physical education, and health. I have been the department chair for physical education, as well as the student assistance leader and time-out teacher. I have presented in-service and teacher training on inclusion and support for special needs. I have also presented in-service to teachers for computer skills and tools as a teacher.

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

I love seeing a child’s eyes when they succeed. I love their smiles, their pride, and their willingness to try. Every child has the ability to learn and succeed—watching that happen is my “why.”  

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

I left the classroom when my youngest was born. When I was ready to get back into education, I tried subbing, but that wasn’t for me. I then had a program reach out to me to write online curriculum. I enjoyed that but missed teaching. It was around that time that I discovered EdOptions Academy. I did some research and found the mission and approach to be similar to what I believed in—“kids first” and “hands on.” I felt this would be a better fit for me, and so far, I do believe I am right.

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

I love the freedom. Don’t get me wrong; teaching virtually is hard. But, having the ability to work outside or on the go is a joy. Instead of showing up every day in the same classroom or setting, working online allows me the freedom of moving around.

On the teaching side, I love the connections with students. Zoom [video conferencing] has brought a lot to our program. The ability to connect and work with students live is incredible. As we bring students onto this platform, they are seeing much stronger success. This is what teaching is—EdOptions Academy is willing to put in the work and is constantly improving for the success of each student.

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

Being “real” is a challenge for sure. Every EdOptions Academy teacher does an initial phone call with each student in their course, and this helps a lot. Students today are all about texting and convenience. Being able to use their tools is a great way to connect with them. I make myself available to them—offering “convenient hours” to me means convenient for the student. There is a point at which you have to shut down for the day, but giving flexible options allows students to feel more successful and willing to connect.

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

This is a tough one; I have more than one for sure. One of my favorites is the call that I got from a parent who was crying. She was so happy—I had sent her the first-ever positive progress report her son received (he was in high school). Or, the student who needed this course to graduate and go into the military. We worked. We discussed and shared information. We worked more. He made it and texted me his picture in his cap and gown with: “Thank you. Couldn’t have made this without you.”  Then, there is my group from the lab—what a turnaround story they are! Watch this video to learn more about their story. 

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!