- Brandywine Virtual Academy
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Meet a BVA Teacher: Mrs. Brodsky
It is the first day of credit recovery summer sessions for the Brandywine Virtual Academy (BVA). Science and special education teacher, Mrs. Jackie Brodsky has her headphones on as she works with students in the online virtual office. “Let me put up an away message,” she says, “so students will know I am temporarily unavailable.”
Mrs. Brodsky is in her first year as a teacher for BVA. She worked in a traditional classroom as a long-term sub and as a teaching assistant for BVA. Last year she also piloted the online elementary program. She currently teaches middle school science classes.
“One thing that surprised me was how well you get to know students,” says Mrs. Brodsky. “Working with students online allows personal interaction." This helps tremendously in her ability to provide one-on-one support and to more fully understand the students and their needs. Because Mrs. Brodsky works so closely with students, she knows when to adapt writing projects or provide alternative assessments for students who struggle with reading.
Mrs. Brodsky makes her lessons fun and engaging by using games and interactive live lessons. She encourages students to participate in class by writing with her on the white board, providing links to online interactive experiments and offering supplemental resources. Many of the lessons or activities focus on hands-on experiments in the science curriculum, and Mrs. Brodsky spends a lot of time answering questions and adapting the experiments. “Not all of the students have access to the necessary materials,” she says. “I work with students to create alternative experiments they can do with items available in their kitchens or try to find other choices.” Mrs. Brodsky gives a specific example of a flower dissection experiment that students completed last January. Some of her students didn’t have easy access to flowers, transportation or extra money to purchase flowers at a store. Rather than give up on the assignment, Mrs. Brodsky found a free online lab for students who needed it.
When BVA first began during the 2011/2012 school year, she notes there were students experienced in online learning. Now, more and more students are new to the online classroom. While incoming students undergo an extensive orientation prior to beginning classes, one of Mrs. Brodsky’s first jobs as a teacher is to show students how to work online, navigate through the Virtual Office, make sure they are comfortable in the learning environment and then get into content. This is especially important because BVA has open enrollment, meaning students can enroll at any point throughout the year.
Mrs. Brodsky is also very accessible to parents and encourages parent interaction. “I actually talk with some parents once a week. That is very uncommon in a brick and mortar school.” Mrs. Brodsky says, “Parents need to be involved. It’s easy for students to procrastinate. It’s easy for things to slip fast online.” She suggests that parents check in with the BVA teachers regularly, monitor the progress reports and ask students very specific questions about their schoolwork. Mrs. Brodsky suggests asking students questions like “What’s the last thing you worked on?” or “When was the last time you submitted an assignment?”
When asked what advice she has for prospective students, Mrs. Brodsky says, “It’s not easy. That is the biggest misconception, that online education is easy. It can actually be more difficult.” However, if students have good time management skills, ask questions and reach out to their teachers, students are very successful.
Mrs. Brodsky also notes “summer school is a great option for any student.” Some of her students are enrolled in credit recovery, while others are advanced placement students who want to get ahead on some credits. One of Mrs. Brodsky’s students this summer is a returning student who took classes with BVA a few years ago while she underwent chemotherapy. Taking classes online allowed her to remain in school while she was in treatment. Thankfully the student is in remission, and she is taking classes this summer to make up some work. This is just one example of how BVA helps students stay on track with their education no matter their situation.