“They told me 20 students will be [in each class], and we’ll only be switching between two teachers. We’ll really be getting to know them and our classmates,” she explained. “We’ll be learning a lot more with our peers and communicating more with our teachers. That really interested me a lot because it’s not something you see a lot.”
Jeremy Tell will be one of those two 9th grade teachers. He is also excited for the new approach after spending several years teaching in towns around Tulsa.
“In the schools I have been in, I lost touch of why I got into education and that was to help kids. In this program, it is focused very heavily in helping kids not be a statistic. We want them to learn every time they come in the classroom,” he said. “We want them to learn science and math and English. We want them to be as smart of a person as we can, but also how to be a great person at the end of the day. To me, sometimes us teachers lose focus on how to make a great human and not just a great algebra I student.”
To help work towards this goal, every TLA teacher, whether they teach online or in person, attended specialized training to prepare for the school year.
“We’re doing the life coaching training which is basically helping us help them with life,” said Jeremy. “We’re also doing a brain science training program where we learn what chemicals in their brain are triggering these responses. If they’ve built walls keeping people from building relationships, well, why do they do that and how do we overcome that.”
Tulsa Beyond students will have the advantage of an abbreviated school day and shorter week, giving them the opportunity to get real-world work experience outside of the school. They will also be able to take part in concurrent enrollment at TCC or Tulsa Tech – something Kimberly is already planning on as she pursues her nursing degree.
The Tulsa Learning Academy approach has already shown great success with their online students. For ten years, TLA has offered personalized learning opportunities to Tulsa Public School students who need a flexible schedule, while maintaining academic rigor and accountability.
“I believe this takes a lot of stress off of some of our students. They don’t have to choose,” said online teacher Christina Sommers. “They don’t have to drop out because they need to work. They don’t have to drop out because they have a child. The flexibility of the program allows them to work 24/7 around their schedule. These students are able to continue to earn credits while still contributing to their family, as needed.”
Their teachers are highly trained for the specific subject and grade level they teach and monitor student progress closely. Last year, TLA students completed 97.5% of the courses taken. This success rate benefits all students, whether they need to catch up, stay on track, or want to graduate early. The school counselor, Kay Dennis, also helps students by making sure they have both the credits and life skills needed to graduate and be successful in the job market.
“The first thing I always let my students and parents know is that our TLA staff is like a family. We want to get to know our students and parents and have relationships with them. I still get messages from previous parents and students that just want to check in and say 'hi' or send me pictures,” said Christina. “When we form these kinds of relationships, we gain more parental support and student motivation.”
There are still a few spots open for 9th graders in the TLA Beyond program for the 2019-2020 school year. If you would like to enroll your child in the program or for online learning, please follow the links below.