- Brandywine Virtual Academy
Meet a BVA Teacher: Mrs. Houghton
Mrs. Kathy Houghton smiles as she shows off her workspace for the Brandywine Virtual Academy (BVA). On her desk sits a laptop, dual screens and headphones. She enters the online classroom and begins checking on student progress, submitted assignments and the online Virtual Office, whizzing around in the online environment like a pro.
This is Mrs. Houghton’s first year working as a math teacher for BVA, where she teaches high school geometry and 7th grade math. Although this is her first year as a BVA teacher, she previously worked for eight years as a math teacher for the Brandywine and Pennock’s Bridge Technical College High Schools. As an educator, she is well-suited to teaching online. Mrs. Houghton is outgoing, positive and student-focused, which translates well to an online learning environment.
She explains that her math lessons are very participatory, and BVA teachers make it a priority to be accessible to students and to adapt to their needs. Students choose to attend BVA for a variety of reasons, such as credit recovery or to take classes that won’t fit into their school schedule. Mrs. Houghton’s face lights up as she says, “I had one student who was traveling across the states with her father. She did all of her classes online.” Mrs. Houghton smiles and continues, “I was always asking, ‘where are you now?’” It’s obvious just how much Mrs. Houghton enjoyed these updates.
Attending BVA allowed this student the adaptability to travel and attend school, and BVA teachers understand the importance of adjusting to student schedules.
Classroom content is accessible to students 24/7. They can work on the material at their own pace and get help directly from teachers in a multitude of ways. During the school year, teachers or teacher assistants are available from 8:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m. For summer sessions, they are available from 8:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. During these hours, students can communicate with teachers using headsets, chat, email, private break-out rooms or in the online course classroom. Mrs. Houghton explains that when students work on quizzes or assignments, they can even email her to ask for help on a problem. She says, “students can ask specifically about this question or this assignment. I like that the classroom shows me exactly what a student is struggling to understand, and I can help the students focus.” Mrs. Houghton adds that she makes sure to answer all student inquiries, in whatever format, within 24 hours. This student-centered feedback is part of what makes BVA unique.
BVA teachers also develop weekly live lessons for the classroom. Students can watch them live or tune into a recorded version at another time. Mrs. Houghton tries to make her live lectures both fun and informative. She admits that sometimes math lessons can be dry, but it is her job to get students interested and involved. Mrs. Houghton shared an example of a live lesson on slope from last January. Everything related to outdoor sports, specifically the Winter Olympics. In addition to engaging graphics, the real-world examples Mrs. Houghton uses help to emphasize and reinforce concepts and the relevance of the topic. Mrs. Houghton also uses music to lighten the mood before her live lectures as students are chatting and socializing. When asked about her musical selections she says, “well I like to think I’m hip and cool,” but she admits that she often plays her daughter’s music mixed with a bit of her own style.
Mrs. Houghton genuinely puts student needs first. “Teaching for BVA has made me a stronger teacher,” she reflects. "After working so closely with students on an individual basis, I have a better understanding of why students get frustrated with math. You can see their thought process clearly when they are working online. This allows me to adjust questions in the classroom so students don't get frustrated."
Teaching is Mrs. Houghton’s second career. Her first career was in computer programming and management. However, she wanted to interact with more people, specifically kids. As a teacher for BVA, she connects with students daily. She not only teaches students mathematical concepts, but how to solve problems as well. She adds ,“I am always learning, especially from the students.”
Learning with BVA is a unique opportunity for students. Mrs. Houghton emphasizes that the learning is self-directed, and students have to be self-advocates of their own learning. The payoff for students is the adaptability to their lives and their schedules. It is teachers like Mrs. Houghton who help students succeed in the Brandywine Virtual Academy.