Ms. Marisa Petraglia has been a teacher for almost five years, beginning her career as a long-term substitute teacher at Bethel Park High School.
Now, after four years at PA Distance, she still knows that teaching was the right path for her.
“It’s really the only thing I ever wanted to do in life,” she explained. “I love connecting with students and teaching them new things.”
At PA Distance, she teaches a variety of social studies electives, including Psychology, AP Psychology, Family and Consumer Science, and Child Development.
Specifically, though, Psychology is her passion and notes that students enjoy her psychology class because the content is applicable to their every day lives.
“Psychology matters in their lives besides getting a grade in my class,” she said. “No matter what you’re doing in life, Psychology plays a large role.”
The same goes for her Child Development class, where she focuses on applicable lessons and content. Originally, PA Distance didn’t have a Child Development class. So when Ms. Petraglia arrived, she decided she would change that.
“I wrote the content for the child development class because I saw a need and it’s something that interests me,” she explained.
“The Child Development class is a little different from [the other] classes,” she said. “I teach my students about the intellectual, physical, and social/emotional development of children from birth to age twelve I even touch some on prenatal development, too.”
Ms. Petraglia’s passion starts at her class content but only grows each time she interacts with a student.
“I love that moment when they really get it and see how it applies to their real life,” she described. “I like helping kids who haven't gotten that one-on-one attention before.”
“When I talk to parents and they say that their child is really enjoying my class or that they want to pursue Psychology in their future, that really makes me feel like I’m really making a difference,” she explained.
Ms. Petraglia also notes that PA Distance helps to build confidence in each student and instill life-long skills.
“The cyber setting forces them to work independently to self-advocate, ask for help when they need it, and be organized,” she explained.
While PA Distance students are at home during their school day, they have the opportunity to neglect work to do other things that are unavailable to a student in a brick-and-mortar school, Ms. Petraglia remarks.
“Every time they log in to their computer and do their schoolwork, they choose to do that. That’s a huge skill that our students have that students in a brick-and-mortar setting don’t,” she said.
At PA Distance, skills like these are part the “Core Four”. The Core Four is made up of four behaviors PA Distance feel students need in order to be successful in life as well as school. Students are instructed and rewarded for organization, self-advocacy, working independently, and attending school.
The Core Four skills are taught and encouraged at an early age and continued throughout all grade levels. Once students graduate and reach begin their journey into adulthood, the skills they learned at PA Distance will remain with them as they find their place in life.
She admits that cyber schools aren’t for everyone, but the same goes for a traditional school, too. Students who don’t succeed in brick-and-mortar schools often do well in a cyber school setting.
“Being online, I see a lot of kids come out of their shell without having the pressure of being in a classroom. As a cyber school, we have the advantage of connecting with the kids who feel they can’t connect with people in a brick-and-mortar setting,” she described.
Without the choice of coming to learn at a cyber school, she fears thousands of students across the state will be displaced.
“I might have to modify a lesson and change the way the content is delivered but, for the most part, the teaching and learning experience is the same as in a traditional brick-and-mortar school,” she explained.
The difference is, PA Distance has exceptional teachers that care deeply AND the technology necessary for students to learn just as well as they would at a traditional school.
“We are doing something that is really necessary. We may not see their faces, but we are constantly in contact and work with them daily to help them succeed,” she said. “Our teachers are fantastic. They will go above and beyond for their students and you don’t see that everywhere.
Ms. Petraglia was also recently interviewed for the Podcast, “Humans of Teaching”, where PA Distance social studies teacher, Mr. Peter Mysels, sits down with educators of all types to explore the unique and amazing ways that humans, of all walks of life, teach others.
You can listen to her episode online here.