IVS Teacher Spotlight – Marianna DeBolt


Illinois Virtual School’s Teacher Spotlight of the week is Marianna DeBolt. Marianna has been with IVS since 2016, and currently teaches Advanced Digital Photography and American Art History (Honors). Ms. DeBolt attended Johnston Community College, Barton College, and Olivet Nazarene University. Her hobbies include: making art, photography, trains, computer games, and reading. You can follow Marianna on Twitter @mariannadebolt.

Marianna recently provided us with her thoughts about online learning.

IVS: Tell us about yourself.

MD: I love learning new things and sharing my findings/experiences with others. I am an art teacher of k-5 Art Education at Princeville Grade School, IVS, and I give private art classes for children, teens, and adults.


IVS: Why did you decide to start teaching online?

MD: I did my whole Master’s Degree online and I loved the experience. I was able to work during the day, and study at night with convenience. I do most of my professional development online for the same reasons. I like the variety of attending various colleges with choices of classes I am most interested in taking. With all the technology in the world, I knew that online learning was going to be a big part of our future and I wanted to be a part of this new way of learning.


IVS: What aspects about the online teaching and learning environment do you appreciate the most, and why?

MD: The aspects I appreciate about online teaching and learning is how online learning environments give students the opportunity to choose courses that their schools may not offer and/or ways to make-up or advance in classes they need to graduate. I have had IVS students graduate early from their high schools because of the online courses they have taken alongside their face-to-face classes or during the summer.


IVS: In what ways do you interact and get to know your students? How does this compare to your experience teaching a face-to-face course?

MD: I love the News Item on our course page. I share personal photos and videos of myself and how they relate to our curriculum. I want my online students to know that I am a real person on the other side of their course page. I feel teaching online encourages more communication through emails, and bits like News and Feedback. Compared to my face-to-face students, I don’t feel like I am doing more or less, it’s just in a different way.


IVS: What benefits exist for students when taking an online course?

MD: Students benefit from online courses through working on their own time, not a set time of day. Online courses teach time management, a benefit we all need in our lives. This kind of learning allows students to take extra courses that may not be offered, they may not have time to take at school, they need to make-up or apply to advance in their high school careers. Many classes have pacing charts to follow, which ensures a steady flow through the course. However, students can work on assignments at their own pace while meeting these due dates.


IVS: What strategies do you use to keep your students motivated and engaged?

MD: I feel communication is a big key to keeping students motivated and engaged. As I said earlier; I use my New Items more than once a week. I feels it’s exciting to see something new when you log in; whether it’s a fun photo, an introduction to a unit, a contest, trivia, or reminders of due dates. I like to think of it as opening a surprise at each login. Positive feedback that is helpful to future successes, emails making connections that show interest and fund surprises helps students stay engaged; creating a classroom relationship.


IVS: What advice would you offer to students who are not sure if the online environment is a proper fit for them?

MD: My advice would be to try an online course. Don’t hesitate; you will gain so much in so many ways. You can take a course that interests you on your own time. Online classes allow for you to schedule a course around your favorite pastimes, jobs, face-to-face school, or during the summer. You might meet new friends, from around the state, through collaboration activities. You don’t have to leave your house; come to class in comfort…bunny slippers permitted!


IVS: How have you grown professionally through your online teaching experience?

MD: I feel I have grown professionally through my online teaching experience from my interactions with each student in my courses. I have met several different kinds of learners; from those who need lots of reminders to those who are self-disciplined and go above and beyond. Communication is a big part of teaching in an online environment.

When considering professional development; I am more aware of seek strategies for both my face-to-face students and online students. I have found online forums and social media to network with other online instructors to bring engaging experiences to students.


IVS: Why is IVS a special place for you?

MD: I feel that the IVS administrative team, mentors, and instructors have played positive roles in my online teaching. Everyone is open to support and collaboration. Each team member sincerely cares for each others’ student success and co-workers’ support. I feel we have a positive, high-expectation, motivating culture at IVS.





IVS Teacher Spotlight – Susan Conlon


IVS’ Teacher Spotlight of the week is Susan Conlon. Susan has been teaching AP Psychology at IVS for four years. Susan attended college at Western Illinois University and has recently retired from her role as a local school counselor. Susan’s hobbies include kayaking and reading. Additionally, she enjoys hiking the Ozark Trail with her dogs and volunteering with the Missouri Stream Team to keep our rivers clean for future generations. When she’s not teaching for IVS, Susan works as an equestrian trail guide in the Ozark National Scenic Waterway.


Susan recently provided us with her thoughts on online learning.


IVS: Why did you decide to begin teaching online?

SC: As a school counselor, I researched the pros and cons of online learning and compared multiple providers for my rural high school. To be honest, I was skeptical about online classes because:

  1. I believe in relationships between students and teachers, and
  2. I feared that most high school students lack the maturity, independence, time management, and perseverance to succeed online.

When I learned that IVS has real, live, highly qualified teachers, I decided to take the IVS online professional development classes and learn more. I was impressed with the Standards for Online Learning and the body of evidence that supports its effectiveness.

I enjoyed my online experience and knew that the teacher support provided by IVS was exactly what my students needed to be successful online. I worked with my administration to increase IVS offerings and move away from providers that don’t offer such a high level of service.

It was a coincidence that IVS needed an AP Psychology teacher and I was honored to apply. Fast forward 4 years – I am grateful I remained open minded about online learning. I love the relationships I have with my IVS students from all over the state.


IVS: What aspects about the online teaching and learning environment do you appreciate the most and why?

SC: This is a no brainer! The flexibility. I can work in the middle of the night if I choose. I can work wherever I travel. I love out of state, but I continue to be a proud Illinois teacher.


IVS:  What benefits exist for students when taking an online course?

SC: For many students, IVS offers courses that are not available at their school. So, IVS enhances the home school’s curriculum.

IVS also meets the needs of students with special circumstances. I have had students with medical and/or mental health reasons they could not attend school; Olympic athletes who travelled most of the year; and students who took my class while they travelled abroad.