Mrs. Tanya Contos earned her B.A. in History at the University of Pittsburgh and later pursued an M.S. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Scranton. With Pennsylvania certifications in K-6th grades, 7-9th grade english, and 7-9th grade social studies, Mrs. Contos’ drive and qualifications made her a perfect addition to the PA Distance family.
Mrs. Contos began working at PA Distance as a teacher, switching roles between the elementary school and middle school. Starting as a Title 1 math teacher for grades 3-6, she later taught middle school language arts and social studies and ended with eighth-grade social studies where she did the bulk of her teaching.
After being a teacher at PA Distance for 11 years, she made a switch to a new position as the Curriculum and Instruction Coordinator. In this role, newly created last school year, Mrs. Contos is responsible for the school-wide curriculum maps and making sure everything aligns with state standards. At the same time, she is also in charge of onboarding new teachers, walking them through their first few weeks, and assigning and coordinating staff mentors.
Her job is two-pronged, maintaining the school’s curriculum plan and guiding new teachers as they begin their work at PA Distance.
“My job involves coordination with different groups to make sure we are up-to-date with new practices while remaining compliant,” she explained. “I make sure to keep up with federal, state, and local legislation and stay up-to-date with the PA Department of Education to stay informed about changes that could be coming down the road,” Mrs. Contos explained.
“We pilot new programs and test new initiatives frequently. The goal is to continuously improve the way we do things with the help of new technology,” she said.
Before a new teacher starts teaching at PA Distance, they begin a formal 1-year induction process to learn about the school and what teaching is like in a cyber environment. New teachers are matched up with a staff mentor whom they work with throughout the induction year to shadow classes, watch lessons, view curriculum mapping, the blended model and vision, and learn the ropes.
“Mentors are designed to be a support system for new teachers, along with myself, administration, and the other instructional coaches we have here at PA Distance,” Mrs. Contos explained. “Our coaching model is meant to be continuous support for seasoned staff, new staff, and anyone who needs it.”
Each month during the induction process, new teachers focus on a specific topic that corresponds with the school calendar. For example, if someone starts in August when the school year begins, they will follow along with new students for an orientation about the basics of a cyber environment.
“Every teacher is different. They have different strengths and bring different things to the table, whether they just graduated from college or have experience in a brick-and-mortar school. We teach them how to take their instructional practices and translate them into a cyber education,” she explained.
“We spend a lot of time educating newly hired staff about our mission, vision, and blended learning model,” she noted. “We take the standards, curriculum, and proven instructional practices and combine that with technology.”
“I love the instructional role that I’m in,” she said. “I get to help teachers and learn from them at the same time.”
While Mrs. Contos is now invested in her new job as the Curriculum and Instruction Coordinator, she still reference’s her time as a teacher (but for students), too.
“There are PA Distance students that I taught early in my career who will be graduating soon,” she said. “I’m excited to see them take that next step after knowing them for so long.”
Mrs. Contos notes that cyber school education is unique and beneficial for students in many ways. Students gain a valuable and quality education while expanding their proficiency in equipment being used around the world every day.
“I think that our students are at an advantage. They’re on the cutting edge of technology right now and know how to use a lot of programs that some of their peers may not,” she said. “They are going to be way ahead of the curve down the road.”