Teacher: Westmoreland Online Academy ‘a powerful choice’ for students

The covid-19 pandemic had several unplanned lessons for U.S. educators, who were required to adapt to a wide variety of “classroom settings” that blended in-person, virtual and asynchronous instruction. For some students and parents, learning from home was a stressful, unproductive experience that showed them the value of in-person education. […]

The covid-19 pandemic had several unplanned lessons for U.S. educators, who were required to adapt to a wide variety of “classroom settings” that blended in-person, virtual and asynchronous instruction.

For some students and parents, learning from home was a stressful, unproductive experience that showed them the value of in-person education.

For others, such as Malana Kress, learning from home opened new doors. The Norwin student has continued it through Westmoreland Online Academy, a collaboration between the Norwin, Franklin Regional and Hempfield school districts.

“It has made me more confident to raise my hand or to share my writing,” Kress said. “When I have questions, I ask the teacher now, where I didn’t always ask before in school.”

Formed in response to the pandemic, WOA is made up of more than 100 students from the three districts in kindergarten through fifth grade.

“Coming out of the pandemic, we knew a number of our students wanted a different format for education,” said Franklin Regional Superintendent Gennaro Piraino. “We knew FR alone could not provide that. So to be economic, efficient and to provide a quality education, we partnered with Norwin and Hempfield.”

Program officials said they are aiming to expand into middle and possibly high school grades in the coming school year.

Megan Melucci, who teaches fourth grade in WOA, said it has been a “powerful choice” for students — an extension of the feeling she got as she began exploring the possibilities for online education.

“I trained for three years with Discovery Education to become one of their digital ambassadors,” said Melucci, who has been a teacher at Franklin Regional for more than three decades. “It was the most monumental decision I’ve made in my life.”

Discovery’s Digital Ambassador program, which was already in place well before the pandemic, helped train Melucci and others to take their lessons and plan them in a digital format.

“It changed the way I taught, it gave me tools I didn’t know existed, and it allowed me to continue learning,” Melucci said.

It also allowed Franklin Regional’s Discovery Ambassadors to pass their knowledge on to colleagues in 2020, after learning from home became the norm for a sizable number of students.

“It’s amazing how well prepared FR was because of you and your leadership,” school board director Traci Eshelman Ramey told Melucci this month at a meeting.

Now, with the creation of WOA, Melucci has a group of students who aren’t learning online by necessity — they want to be there.

“I’m very energetic and learn best when I’m moving,” said Wesley Harper, an elementary student from Hempfield. “I can move around while the teacher is teaching, we have breakout rooms where we can conference with our teachers, and I have had a lot more success with my writing.”

WOA students work with volunteers from the Franklin Regional National Honors Society once a week, Melucci worked with a high school senior intern who supported and assisted students, and this year WOA will field a virtual team for the annual Science Olympiad to compete alongside Franklin Regional’s team of in-person students.

“For me, it has been an incredible experience,” Melucci said. “We really love what we’re doing, and it shows.”

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter .

Next Post

School, community effort creates memorable prom for Ukranian exchange student | Local News

Fri Apr 29 , 2022
Mykola “Nick” Prokhorenko, a foreign exchange student at Genesee Central School, arrived in style to celebrate prom on Saturday following a school and community effort to help the Ukranian student have an experience he won’t likely forget. Prokhorenko reached out to Dave Kozlowski, a teacher at Geneseo, about what he […]