Three Generations of Illinois Virtual School Directors
Last week I attended the inaugural Digital Learning Conference, DLAC. It was a jammed-pack three days filled with the attendees exploring, disseminating research, news, and best practices in online learning including the effective use of technology in education.
When hundreds of professionals who share a similar passion toward a common interest gather under one roof, the level of excitement and desire to grow together is vastly profound. This was no different at the first ever DLAC Conference and an experience I encourage more professionals to attend.
While attending the conference, I had the privilege of collaborating with the past directors of Illinois Virtual–see the picture below. Mr. Matthew Wicks was the first director of Illinois Virtual including from 2001-2009 followed by Ms. Cindy Hamblin leading the program until her retirement in 2018. How special it was to stand with our past directors and reflect upon how much IL Virtual has accomplished on behalf of our students and virtual education as a whole across our great state! I thank Matt and Cindy for their leadership, vision, and unwavering support toward the advancement and growth of online learning.
Our conversation included differences, challenges, and opportunities related to the particular time and landscape that each director was leading the program. However, two constants existed which all three of us shared:
- The profound passion, commitment, genuine care, and exceptional quality of our instructors.
- The positive opportunities virtual schooling affords thousands of students across Illinois.
Expanding further on the two points above, at IL Virtual, we have near 70 part-time teachers including the majority who also serve full-time at their local middle or high school right here in our home state. They combine the value and experience gained from their face-to-face teaching experiences with an educational technology skill set that results in an innovative, enriching learning environment for kids.
We pride ourselves on delivering online options which meet the same level of rigor we all expect for students taking classes on-campus. Did you know over 90% of our teachers hold a Master’s Degree including 15% who are Nationally Board Certified? We pride ourselves on creating a family-like atmosphere where our teachers know one another as people first and share in a mutual desire to grow and learn together professionally. Did you know our teachers have been with us on average for eight years including some who have been with us since our inception in 2001? IL Virtual is a special place where teachers who reside across every geographic area of our state join together for a singular goal: To do what is best for our students who just happen to be online learners!
Whether a student desires the online experience for flexibility, accelerated learning, enhanced autonomy, access to a course not offered locally or a multitude of other reasons, our teams are ready and excited to serve students. We recognize each enrollment is unique and each learner has a different path traveling from their Point A to their Point B including their future college and career aspirations.
Personally, I get chills imagining the world of possibility for students when they are presented with such a vast array of educational choices–such as face-to-face, blended, or online. These options provide today’s students with the ability to choose the style of learning that best accommodates their needs at any given point in time.
Last year, IL Virtual served students across 215 districts spanning hundreds of schools. We look forward to continuing working with these districts, future new partners, students, and families by providing them with a virtual learning option. Together, we will pursue the positive difference we all aspire to achieve for our students.
Looking forward to DLAC 2020 and another conversation with Matt and Cindy!
Kip Pygman, Director