- Utica Community Schools
UCS Virtual Academy enters fourth year focused on student success
The reasons vary for why the UCS Virtual Academy is going strong into its fourth year:
- It supports the unique learning styles of its students
- A learning environment free from distractions
- An alternative for families with medical concerns
- A more convenient option for busy families
“My daughter's experience with this program has been wonderful. Every year they have enjoyed being able to participate in activities with the school even being virtual,” said parent LeeAnna Lekoff. “Our teachers make sure the kids understand their assignments and provide needed assistance. Even if the students are working independently, the teachers remain on the screen to give them help.”
Virtual academy students have the best of all worlds – access to the exemplary UCS curriculum and teachers right from their favorite learning spot.
Students receive the core elementary and specials and secondary elective and required courses. Students can also participate in extra-curricular activities, including marching band and athletics, through their home schools.
The UCS Virtual Academy is unique among all on-line learning in that students work with directly with a live teacher through the course of a regularly scheduled school day.
“I believe that the virtual academy provides students with a high-quality education that will prepare them for success in college, career, and life,” said teacher Mary Beth Acoff. “So many occupations and colleges have transitioned to virtual or offer WFH opportunities, I believe that Utica Community Schools is offering a necessary foundation to help students be successful as they transition to life beyond high school.”
Initiated during the pandemic for families who wanted a remote learning option, the virtual academy has evolved into a successful option for the 230 students who thrive in an on-line environment.
UCS Virtual teachers said that their approach to on-line learning has also evolved over those years.
“As this program has continued, we have learned best practices for teaching online,” said elementary teacher Emily Taubitz. “Those of us who are still teaching in the program are passionate about what we do and seek out the best resources and modes of instruction for students.”
Virtual academy students said the academy provides the best learning environment for their success.
“You don’t get distracted,” said third-grader Londyn Fooks. “My siblings and my mom are busy doing other things. It’s a quiet spot.”
UCS senior Nicolas Perdomo agreed, adding that students are learning important life skills about organization and commitment to getting the job done.
“It’s a good option if you want to be your own boss and work on your time, but you always have to stay focused and on task,” he said. “You need that constant mindset.”
Teachers said that families love the convenience of the academy and how students can learn from anywhere there is internet access.
On Friday afternoon in Taubitz’s class, the students were having fun working together and independently on math options. The students were learning in their favorite places – their rooms, common areas of the house, classrooms set up in their basements or parent home offices.
This unique environment and smaller size have led to a family environment, according to teachers.
“I think one of the greatest strengths of the virtual program is the relationships that we make with our families,” Taubitz said. “We are in their houses for a full day every day. I know my students, their siblings, their pets, and their parents and they know me. “