“I think we are really providing a great opportunity, one unique from other offerings in the state, for students and families to access education on their terms while maintaining connections with their peers, extracurricular activities, and a high performing district,” says Stillwater Pioneer Virtual Academy Principal Kristy Self, “and, to my knowledge, we’re the only virtual learning program in the state with a cow in the building.”
The academy’s location, open daily to students in the program, isn’t what one might expect when they hear the term “virtual academy.” In addition to educator offices, testing space, and a computer lab, the space includes a fiberglass cow that can be milked, an interior tree house, slides, giant blocks to build forts, a puppet theater, and numerous stations for kids to play and learn. “The previous tenant of this building, the Stillwater Wondertorium, donated a lot of great materials here that our students now benefit from,” says Self.
“We’ve made quite a few additions too, a library and areas designated for our secondary students, who don’t play with the blocks quite as much as the littles do, but may want to kick back with a laptop and sip coffee while they study.”
Students, from PreK through twelfth grade, in Stillwater’s virtual school experience a focus on maintaining flexibility, a high quality student experience, and academic excellence.
The principal says, “For families that want a homeschool type experience with access to teacher support, special services like speech and occupational therapy, we have options.” Self also mentions the possibility of a high school student who might want to sleep late, work the lunch shift at a restaurant, stop by the academy for some tutoring before SHS soccer practice, and then head home to do their assignments at night.
The academy has been focusing on building new curriculum, especially for younger kids, created by Stillwater teachers, “We have some of the best educators and professional development in the state and nation,” says Self, “It’s exciting to be able to deliver content that’s created by our teachers specifically for our students, empowering a virtual curriculum that’s second to none, and, now, to be able to offer that option to any student in the state.”
Recent changes to state laws mean that Oklahoma students looking for a virtual learning experience, no longer have to choose between only their district, if that option is even available, and state-wide virtual charters. “Students anywhere in the state can enroll in any district’s virtual program now,” Self explains. “Whether you live in Stillwater, just outside the district, or in Boise City in the panhandle, you can attend Stillwater Pioneer Virtual Academy.”
Self says there are so many exciting paths virtual can open for students. “You could be an actor, attend out of state athletic performance camps regularly, maybe your parents travel a lot for work and you want to be with them more often. You can do that, and still come to a school dance and cheer on your classmates at our events.”
“Stillwater has robust offerings,” says Self. “I could easily see a family near Stillwater opting for a virtual learning experience, maybe their district doesn’t have PreK at all, but they’d like to join our virtual offering. Maybe older students are interested in Stillwater’s in-person electives like marching band, family and consumer sciences, our multi-award winning ag program, drama classes, or a sport that isn’t offered at their school.”
Self says, “I want to make it clear that we are not trying to entice students away from our brick and mortar schools,” she says. “For most students an in-person experience is the best form of education, but some students absolutely thrive in a virtual environment. It isn’t for everyone, but for those looking for a top-notch virtual experience, we are happy to be able to offer an option.”
Those interested in learning more should contact Stillwater Pioneer Virtual Academy at 405.533.6440 or firstname.lastname@example.org.