By Robin Slutsky
With the end of the school year around the corner, you wouldn’t expect Branson School Online Principal, Mrs. Leanna Christians, to be thinking about cell phones, but, that’s exactly what she was doing this morning.
“My daughter asked me when I got my first cell phone and I said I was 33."
By way of explanation, Mrs. Christians adds,
Mrs. Walker Christians completes this reflection by adding,“This small exchange between us got me thinking about when I went to elementary school. We spent hours on penmanship and handwriting. Now, we have voice activated computers and touch screens for everything.”
“If you look at the evolution of technology, you see it’s had a huge paradigm shift on education, and that online school is the next step in that process.”
As an administrator, who worked as a teacher in brick and mortar schools in Kansas City, Kansas and now has eight years of experience at BSO, Mrs. Christians has had the chance to make professional comparisons between the two educational systems.
“As a teacher, when you graduate you feel like you can change the world…but when you get into the classroom… and you have 50 minutes to work with 40 kids … you come to realize it’s a set up for failure. You can’t succeed with that expectation.”
Further comparing brick and mortar to online education, Mrs. Christians adds,
“In an online setting, it’s completely different. You can make a difference. You can see student’s strengths and weaknesses and work with the kids, one-on-one, so that they take ownership of their education and succeed.”
Appreciating the rapid advancements in technology as a benefit to teaching, BSO Principal Christians explains,
“If you know better, you do better. Online schools are becoming more accepted, more people have heard about our programs and are investigating them as a real alternative to a teaching process that feels stuck in the past to many families.”
Families, who look at Branson, in specific, are seeking different academic and social experiences for their children, states Mrs. Christians.
Pointing out that Branson School Online is a state funded public school, Principal Christians says faculty pride themselves on working not only with the student, but parents, to help students go from enrollment to graduation.“They see potential for growth for their children who may have varied needs that other schools can’t or won’t accommodate."
“For example: Some students are more mature than your average high school students. For them the monotony, the drama of the teenage situation is wasted energy. They want to prepare for the real world. We don’t want them to drop out or slow down because they’re not engaged.”
Through Branson’s individualized instruction, students can move at their own pace.
adds Mrs. Christians.“For a student who wants to fast track through high school and go onto college, this is the perfect situation,”
“They don’t have to wait. Once they’re done with a class’s assignments, they can move forward and continue on toward their next class. They don’t have to wait for the proverbial bell to ring before they’re dismissed.”
For other students, who may need to slow down to master a concept, they can. Each student moves at their own speed.
says Mrs. Christians.“It’s like having your own lane on the highway,”
“How perfect is that!”
For Mrs. Christians Branson’s student-focused emphasis is the most important part of what the school offers.
“The best part of my job is helping the whole student. It’s not about putting the knowledge out there and hoping they can suck it up. I can meet with a student who is struggling with a class or two, and doing wonderfully in all the others, and together we find out why they are struggling and fix it.”
In the elementary grades, where graduation and preparation for real life aren’t as paramount as skill building, Principal Christian’s remarks that there is still the same type of student centric focus.
“It’s all about finding out about their passions and keeping them engaged so that they succeed. No matter the student’s age, we are all on the same team and we make sure we (the students, the parents, and the teachers) are all working together.”
Principal Christians, who has a M.S. in Administrative Leadership and Policy Studies from the University of Colorado at Denver and a B.S. in Elementary Education from the University of Oklahoma, feels that technology combined with online education is the future of education for families who want real time options for their children.
“We are always evolving. We listen to our parent groups. I would love to take 100% credit, but, I can’t. I was just a helper person who got us there. We really listen to our parent groups, our teachers, and our students. We always strive to move toward the future.”
Applications for the 2010-2011 academic year will be available on the Branson School Online website as of March 15, 2010.
Contact: Judith Stokes, Branson School District, School Code: 0948.
Please Phone: 1-719-946-5531 or Toll free 1-888-863-7850 or click here for website: http://www.bransonschoolonline.com/