Teachers Personalize Cyber Education Programs | Pittsburgh City Paper

Teachers Personalize Cyber Education Programs

PA Cyber’s teachers create customized learning paths that are unique to each student. As state-certified educators, they recognize the different developmental stages students typically follow while respecting the unique abilities of each child. This flexible-but-focused learning model allows our teachers to use a variety of teaching strategies and curriculum choices to create an education program that is deeply personal. Read on to learn about three of PA Cyber’s educators.

click to enlarge Teachers Personalize Cyber Education Programs
Peyton Baker reads her audience, both as an English teacher and on the Bucco Brigade.

English teacher Peyton Baker’s mission as an English teacher at PA Cyber is to enable her students to experience a world that they may have not imagined possible for them. “Giving my students a variety of ways to engage with literature outside of a standard textbook, and hopefully helping them find a passion for it, has been something that makes my job all the more rewarding,” she said.

Outside of work, Baker helps make Pirates games memorable in her role on the Bucco Brigade. Between innings, she launches T-shirts into the crowd and gets fans dancing. Her favorite part of the gig is making people smile.

She finds similarities in teaching middle schoolers and entertaining baseball goers. “I have to make sure my students are engaged just as much as the fans at a Pirates game,” she said. “For both, I have to create a safe and friendly environment, allowing for open expression and being willing to listen to the needs of those I support. Everything is on a schedule and based on your audience’s tempo. I have to be flexible, understand the outcome is not always what I wished for, and walk away with a positive attitude knowing that a win is just around the corner.”

Director of Gifted and Talented Mike Hissam oversees the academic and enrichment opportunities available to students in PA Cyber’s gifted and STAR programs. (STAR is an academic incentive program for students not identified as gifted.) He manages a team of staff who ensure gifted and talented students are continually challenged and engaged in their academics and extracurriculars. He supports students in all grades.

click to enlarge Teachers Personalize Cyber Education Programs
Mike Hissam ensures gifted students are challenged academically and through extracurriculars.
“I love working with my team to create new and exciting opportunities for students,” he says. “I also enjoy working with students and assisting them with their academics to nurture their education while at PA Cyber.”

Hissam oversees the Stock Market Challenge, the Battle of the Books program, Ever-Fi enrichment, weekly student discussions, Newzbrain, educational outings, and other activities and competitions. He initially joined PA Cyber in 2004 as an Instructional Supervisor (now known as Academic Advisor). Since then, he has held several positions before becoming the Director of Gifted and Talented in 2012.

As a virtual classroom teacher at PA Cyber, JoAnna Taylor teaches high school students American Sign Language as a second language. She has been in education as a teacher and coach for 15 years.

click to enlarge Teachers Personalize Cyber Education Programs
JoAnna Taylor teaches American Sign Language full time and hosts ASL clubs and workshops.
“Teaching has always been a huge part of my life and my identity. I believe students need positive connections to truly make learning meaningful, and I work to provide that connection for my students. We spend time in class not only on our content, but on each other—what’s new, what’s hard, what’s happening in everyone’s lives that they want to share. It really makes the students open up and feel comfortable making mistakes.”

Outside of the classroom, Taylor runs ASL Club, Maker Club, and DIY Agriculture Workshop, and she attends field trips and other school events. She has set up an ASL Workshop Series with some of PA Cyber’s regional offices so students in any grade can attend.

Outside of work, she is an ASL interpreter in the community. “This adds depth and experience that I can share with my students as I teach them ASL. … Being connected with the current Deaf Community allows me to share the newest relevant information with students. It also allows me to give them better advice on ways they can use ASL professionally in the future if they wish.”

Taylor is mayor in the borough where she lives. She shares her experiences with her students to remind them that no matter what they choose to do, they can always decide to serve their communities by running for local government and making a lasting impact on the future.

As a public school, PA Cyber is open for enrollment to any school-age child residing in Pennsylvania. Students receive all the technology they need to get fully connected. To discover customized learning opportunities for your child, visit pacyber.org or call 724-643-1180.