Editor’s Note: Flex ED is such a great program, in part, because of the phenomenal teachers who stand behind it. That’s why we’ve created a three-part series to help you get to know the instructors at Flex ED. You’ll meet Christina MacPherson and Lisa Hennessey, and get their take on teacher-student relationships and life with Flex ED.
Part 3: Meet high school teacher Lisa Hennessey, who teaches Wellness 10, History 10, History 20, Psychology 30, Science 10, Health Science 20, Environmental Science 20, and Biology 30 at Flex ED. Lisa is also the Department Head for Sciences and Social Sciences.
What’s your background?
Hennessey: I have a degree in Secondary Education from the University of Saskatchewan, and a lot of experience working with students from Kindergarten to grade 12. For fifteen years, I owned and operated a private enrichment school in Vancouver and the focus was on individual learning. When my family moved to Kelowna, I began working with Flex ED.
What has been your experience with Flex ED so far?
Hennessey: It’s been fantastic both personally and professionally. As a wife and mother, I have three kids and a busy family life. This opportunity has enabled me to work both as a mom and a teacher. Work-wise, there wasn’t a big transition: I was already accustomed to one-to-one teaching and knew that students tend to make huge leaps and bounds with more personalized learning.
What can students get from Flex ED that they can’t from a traditional school?
Hennessey: Flexibility. With Flex ED, students have the opportunity to do their lessons whenever they want, at whatever time of day that works best for them. We have some high-level athletes that take our online program, and it allows them to maneuver their learning times around practice. Some students are ill, some students travel often with their families, and some suffer from anxiety and depression. These students also need the flexibility traditional schools aren’t able to offer.
How does Flex ED work with students who might need modifications?
Hennessey: We don’t compromise on content and learning outcomes. Students have to learn the material as set out in Ministry of Education curriculum expectations so that they can successfully move forward. At the high school level, when dealing with prerequisite material, this is particularly important. But we can modify assignments or timelines for students in unique situations on a case-by-case basis. For example, I could modify a two-page essay assignment into a one-page essay assignment for a struggling student.
I do anything I can to guide my students through their courses and help them achieve their goals. That is my job.
Can you share some student success stories?
Hennessey: Last year, I had a student with very little family support who was working a full-time job and going to school. Of course, she fell behind in her studies and wanted to quit. She was very overwhelmed: the number of assignments she had to complete in a tight time frame before graduation was overwhelming. I got on the phone with her and really tried to instill in her that her education was her freedom. We made a plan together on what she could do, and she did it. I spoke with her afterward and she said she felt energized, that she could do anything now. She graduated, and I thought it was amazing. With encouragement and flexibility, she was able to be successful. In a traditional school setting, she probably wouldn’t have been able to catch up.
There was another young lady, too, who had very low confidence. But through positive feedback—via supportive emails and comments on her assignments—she completely turned around. She began to believe in herself. The power of encouragement amazes me.
Can you tell me more about the student-teacher relationships at Flex ED?
Hennessey: The relationships I have with my students are open and based on respect. My students know that I’m compassionate, and that if they’re in a situation that warrants an extension or a modification, I will make the adjustment. My job is to guide them to success.
As their teacher, I try to develop a relationship with students from the very beginning. I let them know they can reach out to me whenever they need to—and they do. We communicate a lot via email, over the phone and Facetime. Of course, I’m limited in the sense that I don’t see them every day; I can’t observe their expressions or reactions to see if they appear stressed or anxious. On the flip side, though, many students are more open about their concerns because I’m not there in person. They’re truthful and honest with me.
What do you say to parents who question whether or not an online education is right for their kids?
Hennessey: I feel so passionate that this is a personal choice for each individual and family. It’s their life, their future. I also feel there’s no one right way, and that there are pros and cons to every option. I do know that this learning environment can really make a difference in a student’s life.
Flex ED offers a unique education alternative that embraces a “school without walls” approach to learning. The program is flexible to meet the growing needs of students and their families in the greater global community. Flex ED’s empowerment model for teaching and learning is on the cutting edge of educational trends, upholding the philosophy that school occurs wherever learning takes place. Through technology, social media, and teacher support, students learn and grow in a safe, supportive online environment.
Flex ED provides the complete Saskatchewan curriculum of education, supervised and marked by a Saskatchewan certified teacher.
Whether students are looking for an online school or need help supplementing a homeschool curriculum, Flex ED can help to facilitate those needs. Learn more at: http://www.flexed.ca