Christina Heaton-Little and Arthur Little, of Grindstone, PA, are the parents of two teenage students. Their son Daniel attends PA Distance, and their daughter attends their local school district. Now, as current middle school and high school students, they are both excelling at their respective learning environments and value the option to choose what works best for them.
Starting out as a kindergartener, Mrs. Heaton-Little knew Daniel needed an online environment where he would learn at home due to some emotional problems.
“I researched to see what cyber school Daniel would benefit from. PA Distance met those qualifications,” she explained. “We tried having him go back to his local school to see if he would succeed there but ended up coming back to PA Distance.”
“I called quite a few cyber schools in the state, but what made me pick PA Distance was that there was a physical building where teachers are very involved with each other and their students,” she added.
Daniel enrolled at PA Distance when he was in kindergarten and returned to his local district as a 2nd-grader. After several unfruitful school years, and finding out Daniel needed an Individualized Education Program (IEP) and individualized attention, they decided to re-enroll him as a 6th-grader at PA Distance.
“Daniel is a student that needs one-on-one support. They give that to him at PA Distance. However, my daughter does not do well learning at home. She thrives in an in-person environment,” she explained. “You just have to evaluate your child to understand what they need and where they will succeed. I want my children to do the best they can and learn how they want to learn.”
Two years later, and now an 8th-grader, Daniel has gained independence, developed relationships with his teachers, caught back up to his cohort year, no longer has an IEP, and looks forward to remaining at PA Distance until he graduates from high school.
“Daniel is doing absolutely wonderful now,” she said. “His teachers call me every week. If he or I need anything, all we have to do is email them. They email me back or call me right away,” she said.
“PA Distance is a blessing to my family because the teachers worked so hard to get him back on track to get to his grade level of learning. Now, he doesn't have to have an IEP,” she added.
“The best part is the teachers,” Daniel explained.
“If he doesn’t understand an assignment, they immediately set up office hours and one-on-one time with him to help,” his mom added. “Daniel is very independent. More so than my daughter. He does a lot on his own and PA Distance has helped him realize that.”
The Heaton-Little children are thriving in their own environments that cater to their individual needs and as parents, Christina and Arthur hope to keep it that way. Mrs. Heaton-Little worries about the ramifications of state legislation and if more regulations are passed making it harder for cyber charter schools to function.
“We talked about it already, Daniel definitely wants to stay with PA Distance until he graduates,” Mrs. Heaton-Little explained. “If the state takes this choice for us away, I’m not sure what we would do.”
“When people ask me why I chose to enroll my child at PA Distance, I tell them that it’s because I want my child to be successful,” she said. “PA Distance is the best. I would recommend this school to everyone. I’ve had nothing but good experiences.”
Mrs. Heaton-Little also notes that PA Distance offers a number of extracurricular opportunities that are unavailable to her daughter.
“Daniel is already excited about learning to drive,” she said. “PA Distance offers a virtual Driver’s Education class which is amazing. Our local district does not.”
Since he was a young child, Daniel has known that he aspires to pursue post-secondary education to be a professional chef one day.
“He is ambitious and holds himself accountable in school and in life. I’m here to support him in any way that I can,” she said. “I know that I won’t worry about him making it in the real world.”
Overall, the Heaton-Little family appreciates the communication and dedication shown to them, and Daniel, by teachers and staff members at PA Distance.
“The communication between PA Distance and parents is phenomenal,” she noted. “The teachers care and work with each parent. They check in with him and make sure he’s on track, even after he no longer has an IEP. That is amazing to me.”
“I’m just glad to be able to share our story to help ensure that this educational option is available to him down the road,” she explained. “If we don’t speak up now it could be taken away.”
About PA Distance Learning Charter School
Since 2004, PA Distance has been providing a welcoming virtual learning environment for students in grades K-12 across Pennsylvania. Students at PA Distance engage in a blended environment that combines “synchronous” and “asynchronous” learning. PA Distance’s mission is to blend proven classroom teaching techniques with educational technologies to promote academic growth for all students.