Cary Biega recognized as April 2015 Teacher of the Month
Apr 14, 2015
The Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School Teacher of the Month for April is Cary Biega, a Blended Classroom kindergarten teacher. She has taught at PA Cyber since graduating from Robert Morris University in 2006 with a Bachelor of Science degree in K-6 Elementary Education. She also holds a Special Education Certificate from Slippery Rock University.
Q. What does that mean, teaching kindergarten kids in a “blended classroom?”
A. With students age 5, working on the computer is supplemental for on-pace students. Typically, most of the instruction is from their at home-learning guide or parent. It is not that different from traditional home schooling. My role is to support the at-home teacher through emails, phone calls, and through the blended classes. With the Blended Classroom, we’re trying to get our youngest students to be interactive with the computer at an early age. The ones that participate regularly do very well later in the Virtual Classroom.
Q. How do you get a child who is just learning letters and numbers to use a computer?
A. It can be a challenge. We must differentiate our instruction a lot to keep their attention. Things like colorful PowerPoint presentations and videos help. We also use the moveable whiteboard in Collaborate. I put use a lot of pictures and they learn how to move them around to answer questions or solve problems. They could pick up the letter “A” and drag it to the picture of an apple, for example. This keeps them actively involved in their learning.
Q. And the parent is there to help them?
A. A parent should always be nearby, especially with new students, but with practice the better students learn to manipulate the virtual classroom tools without the parent’s help. I find I have to repeat myself a lot. They forget or can’t find something. You can’t speak in a quiet or monotone voice either. I am very boisterous and use my voice to gain their attention. Sometimes I think I sound like a game show host.
Q. How long have PA Cyber elementary teachers been doing this?
A. We started five years ago with a very early blended program we called RAMP, Reading and Math Practice. I am in my eighth year at PA Cyber as a kindergarten teacher. Initially I was an elementary teacher facilitator with Calvert Learning curriculum and then piloted the Little Lincoln curriculum.
Q. How many students do you have?
A. I have 45 students in four classes. Because Blended is supplemental and optional for on-pace students, not more than 8 or 12 will be in an online meeting room at one time. I can put small groups in breakout rooms, and the more advanced kids will help the others. I’m really proud of what they’re able to do in the virtual classroom for only being 5-6 years old.
Q. What might people be surprised to learn about you?
A. I was a track star at Deer Lakes High School, in the North Hills area of Pittsburgh. It’s out in the country. I ran the 100 meter and the 200 meter, and the four-by-100 relay. My husband Doug is an athlete and coach as well. Last year we coached our son’s T-ball team, and I’d like to help coach him in soccer this fall.
Q. Do you teach from Midland?
A. I did until our son Jack was born five years ago. I’ve taught from home since then. I love it at home. Next to being a mother, being a teacher is the most rewarding job I could ever ask for. I get to do both.
David Atkins / 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.