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Teacher Success Stories

Fostering Connections and Developing Interpersonal Skills Through Digital Curriculum

January 26, 2023

Making a Class Connection

A Story of Teacher & Student Success

Featured Educator

Natalie O’Meara
Career and Technical Education (CTE) and Electives Teacher
Orange County Virtual Schools (OCVS), FL

No two classrooms are the same- an element that makes teaching fun and exciting but also challenging. Year to year and class to class, there are changes in classroom makeup, students’ interests, abilities, and needs. Educators take on the large task to adapt to these changes and find new ways to support their students and help them thrive. It takes special teachers to accept this challenge, connect with their different students, and differentiate instruction to support the differing needs of their students. One of those special teachers who has accepted the challenge and is making a difference in the lives of her students is Natalie O’Meara.

Natalie O’Meara is a Career and Technical Education (CTE) and electives teacher with Orange County Virtual Schools (OCVS) in Orange County, Florida. Natalie has been in the field of education for 20 years, most of which have been spent in the traditional classroom; however, two years ago, she made the switch from a brick-and-mortar classroom to a virtual classroom. After spending 18 years in a traditional teaching space, the online setting took a little getting used to as many teachers can attest to.

The Importance of Connecting Remains Throughout Changes

“The transition to the virtual classroom was definitely different. Our online classes are more self-paced, so there isn’t a bell schedule to follow and that took some getting used to. That transition was a challenging one, but when I got into it, it was really cool to see how everything worked and how you’re able to work with students in new ways and tailor learning.”

Even though her delivery, interaction with students, and her routine was different, Natalie was up for the challenge and quickly identified that it was a space she could excel in.

“My big thing is encouraging my students to step out of their comfort zones and take some risks. ‘Accept the challenge.’ That’s always my mantra with my kids, and I have to be willing to do that with myself.”

It has always been very important to Natalie to be able to connect with her students and to differentiate her instruction based on her students’ needs. With the shift to a virtual teaching environment, new opportunities to connect were made possible, including the implementation of eDynamic Learning’s flexible, comprehensive curriculum.

Rising To Meet the Needs of a Vast Array of Students

Orange County Virtual School resides within the Orange County School District, the 4th largest school district in the state of Florida and the 9th largest district in the nation, which opens the door for over 200,000 students to enroll in OCVS courses.

“In a district our size, we see a wide range of students: different socio-economic backgrounds, all types of families from varying communities, and all ranges of needs as well. We have gifted students, students who wish to learn online, students with special need, and hospital and homebound students. We also have a large population of English Language Learners.”

As an elective and CTE teacher, Natalie teaches different grade levels and multiple courses simultaneously using the eDynamic Learning curriculum including: Middle School Coding 1a, Network Security Fundamentals 1a, Network Security Fundamentals 1b, and Real-World Parenting. Averaging 140 students at a timeacross her classes, Natalie works with students who are a true sampling of the community she described, and she has many differing needs to support. To ensure her students’ continued success, Natalie needs courses that provide flexible delivery options, allow students to progress at their own pace, engage students with their content, and provide adequate teacher resources to support multiple implementations and content differentiation. eDynamic Learning has provided Natalie with a curriculum that offers all the features she needs to help her students achieve success.

Starting with a Personal Touch

For Natalie to best support the needs of her students, she first establishes a relationship to cultivate an understanding of those needs and begin connecting with them. While this can be difficult in a virtual environment, Natalie has put a best practice in place that helps bridge the distance: a welcome call with every student.

“When students enroll in my class, I host a welcome call with each one of them and include a parent or guardian. This is so important because it is how I start the relationship-building process. It helps me get to know a little about them since I can’t do a ‘Meet the Teacher’ night like I would in a traditional classroom.”

Calls start with an introduction of both teacher and student, and Natalie then invites the students to share why they enrolled in her course. Then she gives an overview of the course and weaves in the student’s interests based on information gathered during their conversation. She does this to keep students engaged and to help them connect with the content. Natalie also establishes expectations, explains what coursework may look like and how to complete it, and the schedule of live lessons she leads. The live lessons are another piece that helps build relationships with her students. The welcome calls last approximately 15 minutes and serve as a powerful tool to lay the groundwork for a connection and a road for communication. Natalie has witnessed how this simple interaction helps students feel comfortable when it comes to asking for help in the future. Also, through these conversations, Natalie comes to better understand the needs of her students and how instruction can be differentiated to support them.

Leveraging Innovative Solutions to Keep Students Engaged

As teachers, we understand the importance of differentiation, and with student loads of 200+ and multiple courses to concurrently prep for, it can often be a daunting and overwhelming task. Finding the right curriculum along with the right resources can make this undertaking more manageable. eDynamic Learning’s curriculum is adaptable and can easily be molded to fit the needs of students. Natalie has been able to modify and customize the content to help her students find success. She has also been able to tap into the built-in teacher resources offered through every eDynamic Learning course to bring in different instructional methodologies and to keep her students engaged.

“I’ve done a lot of the online learning platforms, and the eDynamic Learning curriculum and resources that I use to teach help me intervene when necessary and enrich student learning. I like the Blended Learning Guide and the Project-based Learning Guide. There are also the student resources in each course that give a good strong base for online instructions and allow me to better differentiate my instructions for my kids.”

Getting to know her students and developing a relationship with them has also helped Natalie steer her students in the right direction based on their interests…and their non-interests. Natalie recently had a student who enrolled in Coding Fundamentals 1a. He really wanted to like the course because he enjoyed having Natalie as his teacher, but he realized that pursuing computers wasn’t for him. Because Natalie had established a connection with this student, she was able to have conversations with him and further explore his interests. It turned out he was interested in culinary arts.

“I taught culinary arts at one point in time, so we made a connection through that. His mom reached out to me this past summer and was asking about any online resources to help him do cooking in high school. I suggested he pursue Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs at their high school which use the eDynamic Learning curriculum. I was blessed to have him take a CTE class with me and even though he discovered Coding Fundamentals was not what he liked, I was able to help him move in a direction of something he was truly interested in. So by building different connections with different students and parents I can help set students on the right path.”

If Natalie didn’t take the time to get to know her students, she never would have an established relationship on which she could best steer her student and help him towards a potential career path.

Emphasizing Interpersonal Skills for Future Success in School and Life

Through the strong connections she has made with her students, Natalie has also been able to help her students grow their interpersonal skills. Her initial welcome call, live sessions, and individualized feedback and instruction create a space for her students where they feel comfortable and safe. In turn, this safe environment validates and empowers her students to have a voice, promotes positivity, and gives them the confidence to make mistakes and turn them into lessons. In addition to the work Natalie already does- directly and indirectly- with interpersonal skills, she has also found the eDynamic Learning’s curriculum further enhances her efforts.

“eDynamic’s incorporation of interpersonal skills is huge. By incorporating these skills into the resources and curriculum, students’ success is measured in their creativity and knowledge in lessons, activities, and assessments. It helps them become more well-rounded individuals all while taking in the content.”

Natalie has mastered the integration of personal skills and curriculum and her students are thriving because of it.

No two classes are the same and it takes special teachers to take on the challenge of finding new ways to support their students from one year to the next. Teachers that are willing to face this challenge head-on and adapt their strategies benefit from the strong student relationships that are created during the process. Natalie O’Meara is one teacher who has taken on this challenge and succeeded beyond measure, and we are proud that she is making a difference with her students and that the eDynamic Learning curriculum can help support her.

Career Compass Teacher Award Recipient

eDynamic Learning was honored to be able to recognize Natalie recently as a 2022 Career Compass Award recipient for her incredible work with her CTE students in helping guide passion to purpose. We know she will continue to connect with students to foster engagement in learning and uncover future career options for years to come!


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