We sat down with Dr. Jon Marsh, the new CEO of Esperanza Cyber Charter School (ECCS) and discussed the future of cyber education and what it has done for students in the community.
Dr. Marsh came to Esperanza with over 18 years of charter school leadership experience. He served 11 of those years as Chief Executive Officer of the highest performing cyber school in the Commonwealth of PA. He now oversees the expanding K-12 ECCS, which offers online education for a wide range of students in Philadelphia.
Our students learn in different ways.
Our students have made the choice to learn in a different way than their parents. This requires them to develop technical skills, as well as self-motivation and self-discipline to be successful in this environment. During back to school week I met a number of new cyber students who were excited, and maybe a little apprehensive, to get their computers and get the new school year started. It was clear that the returning students knew what to do. They were already looking for their teachers from last year and introducing themselves to some of the new teachers and staff.
Our teachers develop a plan for each learner
My perception of the teachers and staff at ECCS is nothing short of amazing. The teachers I met certainly love the subject they teach, but they know that is not enough. The teachers know that often the students attracted to cyber programs, including at ECCS, are behind in credits and can not afford to focus on extra learning for the sake of learning. These students need to accomplish what is necessary to get caught up. For this to happen, our teachers identify where their students are, determine their gaps and styles as early as possible and come up with a plan for each learner.
ECCS meets the needs of our students
Our students range from kindergarten through 12th grade, and the majority of them come from the Philadelphia area. The reason our students come to us is not always that obvious. The first reason I have seen is the flexibility of our program. Most, if not all, of our students, come to us because their home school was not meeting their needs. Sometimes that is due to overcrowding, bullying or kids just not feeling safe. The reasons may vary for leaving their previous school, but what I am most interested in is ensuring that our school meets and exceeds their needs and we deliver on our promise to provide public education excellence to our community.
ECCS students develop resourcefulness
Our students know or will quickly learn that they need to be resourceful and not just wait to be called on. When working online, away from the traditional classroom, students quickly learn that sitting on their hands and not responding to the discussion going on in the virtual classroom often leaves them out of the conversation. Our students learn to insert themselves in the discussion and are not afraid to ask questions.
What do you envision for ECCS students and graduates, especially now in an era when the cyberlearning space is expanding?
Online learning is expanding all over the country, and not just the K-12 arena. Today, the vast majority of colleges and universities offer online classes and degrees. Trade schools and career training programs are moving their programs online as well. The beauty for our students is once they learn how to succeed at ECCS, the transition to further their education online is a natural fit. Our graduates go into their futures ready to take on the challenges because they have the technical skills and habits that transfer to careers and future educational paths. Habits such as planning and scheduling the work to be done, as well as knowing when to ask for help before it is too late are things that make our students stand out. Online learning is not for everyone, but for those that choose this path, I think ECCS is the right choice. In my short tenure, I have been fortunate enough to meet a few of our previous graduates that were on their way to class at Esperanza College. What I saw were young adults that were already starting the next chapters of their lives.
For more information on ECCS programs visit esperanzacyber.org or call (215) 967-9703.
*Edited by Denise McMillan