Florida Virtual School Puts Students First

Needless to say, working in an online environment is far different from working in a classic brick and mortar building. Jennifer Gaulier, a former educator, lacked access to resources outside of her district or school and was tired of classroom politics. When she switched to teaching online at Florida Virtual School (FLVS), she experienced a positive shift in classroom dynamics and accessibility to students, families, and leadership.

She recalls, “When I taught the FLVS eighth grade United States History curriculum, one of my very introverted students had a true passion for learning and helping her peers. She really enjoyed one of the key features of the FLVS curriculum, which is our online sessions where students work together and collaborate on lessons in real time. My student really wanted to become an assistant in these sessions but did not have the confidence to do so. I had the opportunity to coach her into becoming comfortable with becoming an assistant and eventually leading live online sessions on her own. My proudest moment as a teacher was helping that student blossom and grow in confidence.”

Florida Virtual School prioritizes its relationships with districts, schools, and students above anything else. Jennifer still meets with her former student on a regular basis because of the relationship they formed. The main purpose of this organization is to serve students and place them at the center of every decision made. This becomes evident in the many stories of helping students, forming lasting relationships and providing alternative access to superior education for students of all types.

The dedication of the FLVS teaching staff far exceeds any other online program. As an online teacher, Jennifer strived to be accessible to her students in all time zones and to ensure their success. Florida Virtual School engrained a high level of communication between themselves and their students in order to keep relationships strong.

This amount of care and compassion is clearly reciprocated by participating schools and districts that they work with. Jennifer recalls that, “during Hurricane Irma in September of 2017, we got many calls and emails from clients from all over the country concerning the well-being and safety of our staff because we are based in Florida. People just wanted to know we were okay.”

Now as the Digital Education Consultant for the West territory, Jennifer interacts with districts, schools and students alike. Jennifer says, “I listen to the schools/districts needs and draw from my own experiences as an educator to provide them the best online educational solutions possible.” She loves traveling throughout her territory, seeing how education functions differently across the country, and applying the constant changes as education initiatives shift. 

Jennifer stresses that Florida Virtual School is growing fast as students and families become much more receptive to online learning. Florida Virtual School experienced 400,000 enrollments in the last year alone, despite ongoing skepticism about online education. Because Florida Virtual School is a nonprofit organization, students and families feel like they are attending a regular school. Jennifer feels that, “It’s great to have pride in the company that I work for. We are very team oriented and are always putting the students first.”

Lights beaming down, audience roaring, the Show is About to Begin.

This is not live theatre. This is Autzen Stadium on a fall Saturday filled with football, entertainment and good times. The experience for a fan is quite the opposite for a team of 10 interns who breathlessly await orders through a busy ear piece.

Vigorously prepared for the production of a football game months in advance, the pre-production jitters never fade. Though the interns modestly refer to themselves as “glorified babysitters,” the interns control the camera operators, who the duck makes laugh, when the cheerleaders dance and manage appearances all to the beat and rhythm of live television.

Few realize how much preparation goes into the flow of a game. Similar to a bustling stage crew, the Fan Experience interns prepare long before football season starts. One of the interns, Kerissa Sheley, details that, “before football season even starts, we write down each game on a note card and lay it out on a big table. From there, as we get closer to each game, we will write down the order of events on the white board. We supplement each time out and pause in the game with every type of media possible.”

These interns create all of the promos, videos and music played in the stadium at every game. They also create activities for the fans on the field as well as activities set up around the stadium to make “the Autzen Experience” unforgettable. The team is a blend of university students with diverse talents in pre- and post-production of video. Kerissa states that, “everyone’s friends. We didn’t know each other before starting the internship but it’s a remarkable team that blends together really well.”

Kerissa says that even with all of the preparation, “the timeout schedule from what network is covering the game arrives about three days in advance. Then we make edits and shuffle things around until morning of the game. That is when we finalize the script detailing when everything happens during the game.” It’s different from any other job because, “no one knows exactly what’s going to happen on game day until about an hour before kickoff which has taught me a lot of patience.”

There are many lessons to be learned from an internship like this. Kerissa says that she’s “learned when people are drunk they will do just about anything. During the Umpqua ice cream challenge, a girl ate an entire pint in one bite. All kidding aside, I’ve learned many important lessons. Like don’t freak out or get overwhelmed in high pressure situations. Most importantly, it’s all about timing. Feeling the flow of the game and falling into a routine establishes a sort of feng shui. I think these lessons have transitioned into my life really well.”