Former Middle/High School Principal Ms. Kelly Crooks has a new role after serving PA Distance for the last 13 school years. Well known to teachers, staff and students, Ms. Crooks has spent most of her time overseeing grades 7-12 and making sure that each student’s needs were met each and every school day. Beginning this coming school year, she will serve as the Chief Academic Officer (CAO) where she will manage all of the K-12 academic programs within PA Distance.
“I will be involved in all curriculum and academic decisions based on data,” she explained. “Instead of managing teachers and students, I will manage all K-12 academic programs.”
Ms. Crooks grew up in Pittsburgh, PA, and began her journey to becoming a teacher at LaRoche College where she majored in English Literature and Education.
“I liked writing and communicating with people,” she said. “As I went through high school I had some experiences that made me realize I wanted to work with young people.”
“Combining my love for writing and wanting to work with young adults, I decided that becoming an English teacher made the most sense.”
Shortly after graduation, she started work as a high school English teacher at PA Distance. During her time as a teacher, Ms. Crooks taught a variety of English subjects, including AP Language and Composition, Communications and Journalism. After teaching for a few years, Ms. Crooks decided to earn a master's degree from Point Park in Educational Leadership and Curriculum after realizing she wanted to pursue a leadership position.
After earning her degree, she became the Curriculum Coordinator for PA Distance. Shortly after that, she took on the leadership role as the 7-12 principal. Since becoming Principal, Ms. Crooks has worked with the rest of the administration team to expand PA Distance’s programs and offerings.
“We’ve really been working to expand our STEM, elective, and grant programs,” she said. “I think that we really stand out in comparison to other schools with our Career Education and Work program, Computer Science, and Graduation Recovery programs, too.”
Since PA Distance’s inception in 2004, the elective course offerings have grown exponentially. Growing from about ten elective classes to the current 40+ has given students the opportunity to study different subjects and explore potential career paths that interest them. From financial literacy to a variety of math courses and art classes, PA Distance gives students the tools they need to learn beyond the required curriculum.
“If it wasn’t for our amazing staff, we wouldn’t be able to offer a variety of classes to our students,” she said. “Each of our teachers is willing to jump in and try something new.”
Besides the many course offerings, students also have the opportunity to form relationships with their teachers during their face-to-face interactions each day.
“The relationships that we all form with our students are unique,” she said. “People may not realize how we can build strong relationships with students within a cyber setting. I still keep in touch with at least 20 former students to this day.”
“All of our teachers put their students' needs before their own,” she said. “When they start working at PA Distance they see a strong sense of community and want to be a part of that.”
Ms. Crooks is excited to be moving into a new position this coming school year and looks forward to her new responsibilities. Although she will miss interacting with students and teachers every day, she will still have a large hand in their work.
"I am excited to move into my new role as CAO where I will be able to help support all K-12 students, teachers, and principals on their journey to academic success."