How stronger instruction boosts students

Posted at 9:08 AM, Aug 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-25 09:08:29-04

It’s back-to-school season once again, and students across Michigan are turning their focus from the beach and barbecues to hitting the books.

Teachers are the beginning, middle and end to every student’s academic journey. The best schools differentiate instruction to ensure strong academic outcomes for each and every unique learner in the classroom. Teachers also require instruction and often learn best from their own peers.

In 2015, I began my journey as an Instructional Coach. K12 Inc. pioneered the Instructional Coach approach to teacher support and training. Just as our students receive individualized support from their teachers, our teachers receive personalized instructional coaching and development thanks to our comprehensive Teach 360 program dedicated to educator excellence. Specifically, my role as an Instructional Coach involves partnering with teachers to analyze their instruction to ensure student engagement and successful learning outcomes.

This partnership between the teacher and myself fosters collaboration on a daily basis. We decide together if we can implement a different strategy or reteach a concept in a different way to benefit each and every student in the virtual classroom. We celebrate successes and replicate successful strategies in other classes or grade levels.

Together, we create “best practices” to better serve our diverse student body.



More student engagement
One common misconception about online schools is there is less student engagement as compared with traditional brick and mortar schools. In fact, the online courses and award-winning curriculum within Michigan’s four K12-powered schools can be accessed 24/7. State-certified teachers hold live, differentiated classes to enhance a student’s learning level.

This model also provides flexibility for both students and teachers. Last year, I even coached a teacher battling cancer. Our program enabled this educator to continue teaching her classes as she was receiving her medical treatment - talk about dedication!

For many of our students, the online model is essential to not only their academic success, but also in reaching personal goals. Students who are elite athletes, artists and musicians are able to focus on their personal passions and still receive a full-time education that meets their academic needs. Students who were not successful in their previous schools also find the online model is tailored to fit their needs. Every student has a story - a reason why they choose a virtual schooling option - and I am honored to be a part of their journey.

Socialization and student collaboration are also important to our faculty and students. Students and teachers meet locally in teacher-planned outings and statewide in school-wide events. Additionally, if students do not want to travel, K12-powered schools in Michigan offer virtual clubs at the local and national level.

Working across K12-powered schools in Michigan, I have a window into each teacher’s classroom. As an Instructional Coach, I pride myself on being not only a professional that my fellow educators can rely on, but a friend and mentor to support them along the way in their own learning journeys. This positive and gratifying relationship is vital to teacher success in the virtual classroom and is what helps to put students first at K12-powered schools in Michigan.

Casey Swan has been an Instructional Coach for K12 Inc. since 2015. Before that, she was a teacher for Michigan Virtual Charter Academy and helped open Michigan Great Lakes Virtual Academy. Casey has a B.S in Elementary Education from Central Michigan University and a Masters in Educational Technology from Grand Valley State University.