A Leader in Cyber Academics
Feb 14, 2022
As Chief Academic Officer (CAO), Francie Spigelmyer ensures that PA Cyber implements best practices in online education and meets the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s standards. PA Cyber educates more than 11,500 students in grades K-12 from nearly every school district throughout the Commonwealth. Spigelmyer, who holds a doctorate in instructional management and leadership, oversees thirteen departments that comprise the school’s academic staff.
“My greatest joy at PA Cyber is working with a very talented group of people who are clearly driven to commend and improve the teaching and learning environment for all students,” she says. She works directly with the principals, attendance directors, school nurses, teacher evaluators, the guidance director, and the data and assessment director.
Spigelmyer acknowledges that educators and administrators at PA Cyber hold unique positions because they make every decision looking through a cyber lens. They pay close attention to evolving technologies that are aligned with the school’s dynamic pedagogical strategies to ensure students succeed in the classroom and in life.
Prior to joining PA Cyber in 2018 as CAO, she held several positions at Butler County Community College (BCCC) over two decades, notably Vice President for Academic Affairs. In this role, she served as chief advisor to the college’s president and guided nearly 270 employees. Previously, she held the roles of Interim Vice President for Student Services, full-time assistant professor, and coordinator for the College in High School program.
In 2000, she was one of BCCC’s original faculty members who created and taught the first online classes for the college, back when the technology was new. She worked extensively with Blackboard and created five online courses for BCCC.
Spigelmyer carries a torch for pedagogy. She believes that teaching methods are just as important as (if not more than) what is taught, in both K-12 and higher education. This principle continues to guide her decisions as PA Cyber’s CAO.
A Teacher to the Core
Spigelmyer wanted to be a teacher since she was in third grade. “My neighborhood friends would avoid me at times because I always wanted to play school in the summer,” she laughs. Through all high school, she never lost interest in becoming a teacher. In her early career, she taught high school in both Pennsylvania and New York, covering subjects like history, global studies, civics, practical law, psychology, sociology, and English. Her first teaching job was at Dubois Central Catholic High School, her alma mater.
“Education is and always will be a deep passion for me,” she says. “It is the bridge that opens doors for our students’ future success.”
During her teaching career, Spigelmyer has worked with diverse groups of students. She taught Seneca Nation students in Silver Creek, New York. She taught at a private girl’s school in Buffalo, New York. She taught inmates at the Greensburg Correctional Institute as part of her adjunct faculty role at Westmoreland County Community College. (While there, she could press the big red button behind her desk if a problem arose with the inmates. She never needed to press it.) She taught for the National Young Leaders Conference (NYLC) in Washington, DC, where Spigelmyer, a self-proclaimed country bumpkin, found herself teaching students from all over the nation, using the Supreme Court, White House, and foreign embassies as a classroom. She took on her first administrative role for the NYLC.
Teachers have a ripple effect. One of Spigelmyer’s former teachers sparked her passion for social studies, history, and political science, and she has no doubt had that effect on her own students as well. She tells a story of a student named John Foradora from her first year of teaching, which happened to be at her high school alma mater. Foradora was very interested in political science, the subject Spigelmyer was teaching. She saw him years later in her hometown’s Fourth of July celebration in Brockway, Pennsylvania. She was watching the parade with her family when she saw her former student in the parade—Foradora was riding in a convertible to promote his candidacy for judge! He jumped out of the car and then gave her a big hug. He told her that she was the reason why he was doing what he was doing. He now holds a position on the Court of Judicial Discipline in Pennsylvania. Spigelmyer didn’t believe she could have had a big impact in her first year of teaching, but Foradora proved otherwise.
Leading with Heart
Spigelmyer is an academic for life—and she has a basement full of books to prove it. She collects all types of books, but she is especially interested in nonfiction and educational research. She leans on research and her extensive experience as an educator and administrator to make informed decisions and to advise and support colleagues. She is the kind of person you want to write a research paper or join a committee with because she is just as nice to be around as she is knowledgeable.
Mark Iannini, PA Cyber’s Director of Special Education, says of Spigelmyer: “I have been continually impressed with her impactful leadership and positive attitude. She brings her heart to every conversation that she has with teachers, staff, parents, and the students we serve. Her commitment and passion for the PA Cyber community is incredible. She ensures that what we are doing as a school today will help us get closer to the school we want to be tomorrow!”
In 2020, she received the Outstanding Alumni Award from Penn State DuBois in recognition for her professional success and for supporting the campus by way of a scholarship that she and her husband, Dave, created to memorialize her sister, Janice Erickson, a tragic victim of domestic violence. The annual scholarship goes to a graduate of Brockway Area High School. Ten scholarships have been awarded so far.
She lives in a Pittsburgh suburb with her husband and her many books. She has a daughter and son, both of whom are grown. She enjoys the outdoors, and her favorite place to kayak is in Montana. She brings her Pomeranian-sheltie mix named CJ everywhere—even when kayaking!
Spigelmyer is a prime example of the drive that the PA Cyber faculty and staff bring to making the classroom an enriching experience for its students. She notes that PA Cyber is deeply rooted in resilience. “The 20-year ride as a cyber charter, however bumpy, has been and will continue to be successful since the teachers and staff are anchored with the formidable goal of student accomplishment.”
Jennie Harris / email@example.com
About PA Cyber
Serving students in kindergarten through 12th grade, the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School (PA Cyber) is one of the largest, most experienced, and most successful online public schools in the nation. PA Cyber's online learning environments, personalized instruction methods, and choices of curricula connect Pennsylvania students and their families with state-certified and highly-qualified teachers and rich academic content that is aligned to state standards. Founded in 2000, PA Cyber is headquartered in Midland (Beaver County) and maintains a network of support offices throughout the state. As a public school, PA Cyber is open for enrollment by any school-age child residing in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and does not charge tuition to students or families.