This week’s IVS Teacher Spotlight is Pam Shaw. Pam has been IVS’ Music Appreciation teacher since 2012. Pam holds a Bachelor of Music in Instrumental Music from Trinity University and is currently working on a Master of Education in Special Education with an emphasis on Gifted Education through the University of Missouri.
Pam is a music teacher and violinist by training. She has multiple part-time jobs working with students which allow her the flexibility to manage the ups and downs that come with parenting two twice exceptional kids. She works with students of all ages as a substitute teacher, homebound tutor, private music teacher, virtual school teacher, and online course reviewer. Her Illinois teaching endorsements include music, language arts, general science, and gifted education. Pam has a special interest in gifted and twice exceptional students. She served on the Illinois State Board of Education’s Gifted Advisory Council and is currently a board member of the Chicago Gifted Community Center. She also serves as a book reviewer for MiddleWeb.
Pam recently spent some time answering a few questions for IVS:
IVS: Why did you decide to begin teaching online?
PS: I moved from Connecticut to Illinois in 2011 and spent my first year here getting my Illinois teaching endorsements. In 2012, I started looking for a part-time job teaching music, and ran across a job posting for Illinois Virtual School. I had never considered teaching online, but I thought, “Why not? I can do that.” I took the online teacher training courses offered by IVS that summer and started teaching my Music Appreciation course that fall.
IVS:What aspects about the online teaching and learning environment do you appreciate the most and why?
PS: I appreciate the flexibility of teaching and learning online. I find that it is actually easier to provide personalized feedback and communication to students virtually, because I naturally focus on one student at a time, rather than having to manage an entire class of students all at the same like in a traditional classroom.
IVS: What benefits exist for students when taking an online course?
PS: In the past several years, I have had first-hand experience taking online courses, both to add additional endorsements on my teaching license as well as to pursue a fully online Master’s degree. The primary benefit of taking an online course are the flexibility of having anytime, anywhere access to the course. Students are able to work around their schedule as needed. This does make it especially important to get into the habit of checking in and doing work for the online course on a regular basis!
IVS: What strategies do you use to keep your students motivated and engaged?
PS: One thing I really enjoy is putting up interesting weekly news items on my course home page that are related to current events or our current unit of study. I tend to include interesting videos, news articles, or classical music jokes and memes. I’m always on the lookout for things that my students might find interesting!
Another thing I do to keep students motivated is giving them the opportunity to edit or redo assignments based on my feedback. For me, student learning is my primary focus, so if a student is willing to spend the time improving their work, I am excited for the additional opportunity for them to master the material and adjust their grade accordingly.
IVS: What advice may you offer to students who are not sure if the online environment is a proper fit for them?
PS: My advice to students would be that it can be a great experience to take an online course, and it is worth trying. Online college classes and work training will almost certainly be a part of their future, so an experience now will get them a head start on adapting to the online learning environment. To be successful, they should be sure to follow the suggested pacing schedule as much as they can, and don’t be afraid to reach out to teachers whenever they have a question or concern. That’s what we are here for, and we love to hear from our students!
IVS: How have you grown professionally through your online teaching experience?
PS: Teaching online has given a me new perspective on teaching and learning. I have become especially aware of the importance of making connections with students and being present in my course. The focus at IVS on continuous improvement through the Quality Matters (QM) program also presented me with additional opportunities for training, leading to my becoming a K-12 Master Reviewer for the Quality Matters organization.
I help IVS with internal quality initiatives to prepare courses for official QM reviews, as well as lead review teams for QM that certify course quality for course publishers and virtual schools throughout the country. I have also become interested in the use of educational technology and blended learning in the brick-and-mortar classroom, which led me to apply to become a judge for the CODiE Education Technology awards this year. I was able to review three different Ed Tech products in the Best Solution for Exceptional Students category. Being able to view other online courses through doing QM reviews and educational technology solutions through CODiE judging have led to even deeper knowledge and focus on what a quality course looks like.
IVS: Why is IVS a special place to be part of?
PS: I appreciate that the IVS team is extremely supportive, even though we don’t see each other face-to-face very often. Our Professional Learning Communities and Educational Coaches help to facilitate relationships between the faculty and staff. Students might be surprised that our teachers also engage in our own discussion board assignments!
Thanks for all you do, Pam!