Amanda Goodman, KPHO
When it comes to K-12 education, Arizona families have some options but one in particular is becoming a fast favorite for students, parents and teachers.
“I’ve taught in public high school in Arizona and Indiana,” said Elizabeth Nelson.
Now the 8th grade math teacher doesn’t have to leave her Mesa area home to get to class because she teaches online.
“Everything in blackboard and on PowerPoint,” she said.
Nelson teaches at Arizona Virtual Academy, an online public charter school.
Three years ago she left the traditional classroom behind for good.
“I just felt like it was time to branch out and I love technology so the idea of a virtual school just sounded kind of cool,” said Nelson.
It also allows her to spend more time with her family, supporting her own kids in their achievements at traditional public schools.
The convenience of both online teaching and online learning is catching on.
Arizona Virtual Academy says according to a study by the Evergreen Education Group, in 2014 one in six students from kindergarten to 12th grade were enrolled in online schools nationwide.
“I’ve seen it grow,” Nelson said.
The school she works for is just one of the accredited online public schools in Arizona.
It has thousands of students enrolled including Campbell Faulkner.
The 11-year-old 5th grader and his family opted for online instruction because of his on-going medical needs.
“I was always missing a ton of days and this year I’ve missed zero days, so its been way better and way more flexible for me,” Faulkner said.
His mom says they looked at all their options, from brick and mortar charter schools to home-schooling.
“We knew that we didn’t want to set-up the curriculum and have to find out what the state guidelines were but we knew online school, they would set it up for us, and we literally just jumped in head first,” said Carrie Faulkner.
They haven’t looked back.
The curriculum is rigorous but students can learn on their schedule.
“Since we can move at our own pace, it makes it way better because we aren’t getting left behind or we aren’t leaving other people behind,” said Campbell.
All the while teachers like Nelson are right on the other side of the screen, ready to jump in as needed.
“I teach it once to who ever comes live, its recorded for everyone else and I can spend the rest of my time helping out the kiddos that really need much more support or more enrichment,” Nelson said.
There are opportunities for face to face interaction between students and teachers, like at AZVA’s blended learning centers or at field trips and different events they schedule.
While both Campbell and Nelson say there are some things they miss about going to a physical classroom every day, such as the face to face interaction, it’s not enough to lure either of them back.