Online students prepare for graduation

Bethany Williford will meet many of her classmates and teachers for the first time when she graduates Wednesday in Nampa.

Bethany Williford
Bethany Williford

It isn’t because Bethany is shy or missed a lot of class. Instead, Bethany completed most of her schooling at home and online, and is one of 130 students graduating from Idaho Virtual Academy this spring.

For Bethany, the online environment allowed her to thrive. She was able to work at her church during the day and attend classes and study on her own schedule. She still connected with teachers through virtual classrooms and completed tests, quizzes and assignments on deadline like any other student.

“All the teachers make sure you stay on task and check on you,” Bethany said. “I can ask teachers questions and learn more in-depth in certain subjects going through different courses.”

Despite spending her days in virtual classrooms, Bethany also enjoyed social activities. She was active in taekwando, attended numerous science and engineering camps and loved the regular school dances, Nerf gun wars and ice skating outings IDVA offers  students.

Bethany excelled within the STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering and math. She will attend Boise State University in the fall, where she will study materials science engineering.

Thanks to Idaho’s dual enrollment program – and IDVA’s flexibility in allowing her to work ahead – Bethany accumulated enough college credits to enter BSU as a sophomore.

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IDVA and Boise State’s STEM camps also gave Bethany a boost of confidence.

“When I was younger I didn’t think I was smart enough to do anything engineering-related,” she said. “As I got older, I learned it was something I can do.”

Throughout her academic career, Bethany attended a private school, was home-schooled and attended iSucceed Virtual High School and IDVA.

Her mother, Marie, said online school was a good choice for her family. For home-school families, the class offerings and teachers give students an option if parents don’t have the confidence to teach an advanced course or a foreign language. The format also allowed Bethany to balance school at her own pace while working and scheduling family vacations on their own terms.

The Willifords recommend other families consider different school choices to find what might fit best for them.

“Many students do better in this kind of situation over a regular school,” Marie said. “It’s nice to have options today.”

IDVA is an accredited, tuition-free school staffed by licensed teachers working in virtual classrooms. The school uses curriculum from K12, a for-profit education company.

This year’s IDVA graduating class hails from 52 Idaho cities and 26 counties. Regional graduation ceremonies are being staged in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho Falls and Nampa.

“I’m looking forward to going to Nampa because it’s an actual (graduation) ceremony,” Bethany said. “It’s going to be a blast, and I don’t really know what to expect.”

Disclosure: Idaho Education News reporters are Boise State University employees.

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