Valley teacher rediscovers passion for education through online instruction
PHOENIX – Online learning may not be for everyone, but it definitely is for Alexa Ruona.
The second-grade teacher was ready to call it quits for her career in education just before COVID-19 hit.
But she grew a newfound appreciation for the job when the pandemic forced her school to transition to virtual learning last year.
“I have been teaching for eight years and I was just feeling burnt out and, like a lot of other teachers, feeling underappreciated and I was ready to leave,” Ruona told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Friday. “Then Aspire came about and I just fell in love with online learning.”
Aspire is the Deer Valley Unified School District’s brand-new online academy for grades kindergarten through 8th grade. This upcoming school year will be its first official year.
The concept of the new school was in the works within the district but since the pandemic changed life for many, the district pushed it out earlier than expected.
Now, roughly two weeks before school starts on Aug. 2, the demand is clear for the new learning model.
“We have seen, in the last few weeks, an uptick in enrollment and have been able to schedule our students accordingly,” Juliet Amara, director of online and virtual programs with the Deer Valley Unified School District, said.
“Right now we are reaching some of our maximums.”
To date, Aspire has one teacher per grade level for kindergarten through sixth grade, including special education services.
The school also has the traditional programming found in brick-and-mortar schools, such as reading specialists and other specials like music, art and P.E.
The overall goal is to meet the needs of today’s society and the different needs of families and students while also keeping up with the trends in education.
“My favorite part, and why I fell in love with online teaching, was the flexibility it gave me and families,” Ruona said. “Seeing kids learn in different places and not within the four walls of a classroom has been incredibly encouraging for me.”
Deputy Superintendent Dr. Gayle Galligan attributes the online learning success for the district’s students to the creative and dedicated teachers within Aspire.
The teachers use the online learning tool “Canvas,” but the curriculum goes beyond that with interactive lesson plans and field trips planned by teachers like Ruona.
“Any classroom is successful because of the teacher and Aspire has some amazing teachers,” Galligan said. “Those are teachers who chose online teaching because they felt like that was their niche.”