Teachers not yet a reality for e-school

Friday, June 15, 2007 | 2:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:09 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Missouri Virtual Instruction Program is close to reaching its goal of enrolling 2,500 to 3,000 students. The new program, which will take children out of the traditional classroom and send them online to learn, starts in August.

Yet no teachers have been hired for the program.

“I have to admit I wish we were further ahead, but with a new program we have a crunch time,” Curt Fuchs, virtual school director, said.

Hiring is in the hands of Connections Academy and Kaplan Virtual Education. The only requirement for teachers is Missouri certification.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has collected roughly 700 names of interested teachers, according to Mickey Revenaugh, Connections Academy’s vice president for partnerships and outreach.

Connections Academy, which provides the elementary curriculum, is now in the process of hiring a principal and hopes to hire someone within the next few weeks.

The new principal will be active in the hiring of teachers, which will be completed by the beginning of August. Kaplan, which is hiring teachers for the high school program, is in a similar situation and plans to have its high school principal hired by today.

The hiring process is going a little quicker than usual, according to Howard Leibman, vice president of Kaplan’s high school program. Having two to three months to hire a staff is fairly normal, Leibman said.

“It’s challenging, but I think we’re going to be able to work this through,” said Mike Hardy, project manager at Northwest Missouri State University, which is overseeing the high school program.

By the end of June or the first week of July, Kaplan will have math, social studies, language arts and science team leaders hired as well as a lead academic liaison, Leibman said. All other teachers will be hired during July.

With school scheduled to begin in mid-August, both sets of teachers will be required to go through training. High school teachers will take 40 hours to learn the e-college system, the instructional model and the curriculum.

Elementary teachers will have to go through three stages of intensive training. The first part is the curriculum, the second is how to use the technology and the third is how to teach online. This final stage focuses on developing the teachers’ communication and time management skills.

“Communication skills are more important than ever when teaching in a virtual environment,” Revenaugh said.

Training will not end with the start of the school year. Periodically teachers will continue to train and update their skills.

“I think most teachers would agree that teaching is an art that requires the continual development of skills, and that with teaching in a virtual environment it is even more so because it’s new,” Revenaugh said.

Although no teachers have been hired yet, the plan for supporting all students in their education remains the same.

“It’s a team approach,” Fuchs said. “We have three people for (each) student.”

The team will be consist of a teacher, a teaching assistant and an academic coach.

Students will be able to contact their teachers primarily by e-mail, phone and instant messaging. According to Fuchs, teachers will also have the ability to remotely take over the student’s computer while on the phone with the student explaining concepts. For example, an instructor can explain how to edit an essay by making the changes while the student watches.

“A teacher’s going to be working one on one most of the time because (the student) will be producing and they’ll be responding,” Fuchs said.

A portion of this report first aired Thursday during “News At 10” on KMIZ/Channel 17 ABC, Columbia.

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