Originally published in Westside Seattle – March 17, 2021
By Hannah Baisch
Undoubtedly, this has been a school year unlike any we have ever seen. Students and families were forced to make tough decisions about their child’s education and had to rapidly navigate a slew of online options. Many families decided to go with long-standing virtual schools like Washington Virtual Academy (WAVA), a state-wide online school-at-home based in Lusk that has been serving students in this state for more than 15 years. We asked WAVA Middle School teacher Hannah Baisch why teaching at an online school has really worked this year.
1. ) Flexibility: I love that students can work at their own pace and watch recorded classes if needed. Many of my students will rewatch classes to better understand the content. Some of our students have jobs, are athletes, help with siblings, etc. I have three students this year who are attending Arabic school in addition to WAVA. A few students help on their family farm in the mornings and do all of their work in the afternoon. Some students do band at their local district, we are flexible and accommodate all schedules.
2. ) Diversity: We have students and teachers that come from all across the state, some living in urban areas, some in rural areas. We offer clubs to meet their unique needs, I have had three trans students this year who have connected in a diversity club and through lunch chats. I love the diverse backgrounds students bring to WAVA to make our culture rich. It is so exciting to see students thrive in our online environment.
3. ) Accountability: Students, parents, and teachers can see each students’ grades and time spent in their online school at all times. This helps keep the students keep on track. When we see a student getting behind on course work, we can quickly pull them in for a 1:1 conference. Students learn how to communicate with their teachers by emailing them, and their ability to advocate for themselves and communicate effectively is a skill that will benefit them their entire career.
4.) Rigor: The coursework is challenging; students are graded on several assignments a day. If a student wants more rigor, they can always be promoted. I have several students in my 7th grade math class that are 6th graders.
5. ) Individualized: I seek to modify instruction for each student on a as-needed basis. I have had several students dealing with mental health issues in this challenging year. Mental health matters, this year I have accommodated and modified instruction for many students so that school isn’t a culprit of anxiety. I seek to cultivate a community of learners who I know as unique individuals. I love to have frequent check-ins with students so I can best support them both emotionally and academically.
6.) Highly qualified: Many of the teachers I work with (including myself) are dual endorsed in special education. We know that each student is unique, and we seek to tailor instruction to meet the needs of each learner. WAVA is a place where teachers are constantly putting their heads together to figure out what is best for each student.
Hannah Baisch is a 7th grade math and science teacher at WAVA. She and her family live in Burien, WA.