Posted on May 15, 2014 Updated on May 15, 2014
Rita Veszpremi, ESL teacher at the Dubai Learning Center, tells us how the course provides an English-language learning vocabulary, and how the blended learning model works in language instruction. English courses are also offered online.
As an online school, nearly every week, K¹² International Academy students have the opportunity to go on virtual trips, and learn about new people and places. Just recently, however, two fantastic teachers, along with some adventurous students embarked on K¹² International Academy’s first ever student trip.
Mrs. April Murnane has “been teaching middle school French for two years atK¹² International Academy and she is one of the advisors of Explorer’s Club.” She is “originally from Cleveland, Ohio, but currently lives in Columbus, Ohio.” She earned her Bachelor of Science in French in 2004 from Capital University. “In 2006, she graduated with her M.A. in French language and literature from The Ohio State University.” In 2011, she “finished a graduate program at Ashland University earning her French Pre-K-12 Licensure.” She has also “taught French to university students for two years, and has taught French to middle and high school students for the last eight years.
Mr. Charlie Meehan is “originally from Warwick, Rhode Island, but now lives in Miami Florida.” He is “the World Languages Department Chair and teaches English Electives courses” at K¹² International Academy. Mr. Meehan has “a Bachelor’s Degree in English from Rhode Island College and a Master of Fine Arts in poetry from University of Miami.” He is also certified to teach English in the state of Florida.
This year, K¹² International Academy decided to offer a student trip, for the first time ever. Mrs. Murnane and Mr. Meehan incredibly organized and chaperoned this one-week long trip, from London, England to Paris, France. Considering this was a trip with students from all around the globe, whom they never met before, across multiple countries, and for such a long duration, it absolutely was a huge responsibility to execute the trip appropriately, safely, and joyfully. When I mentioned this point to Mr. Meehan, he responded “there is always a degree of stress involved when traveling abroad,” and that he, Mrs. Murnane, and the students “spent the better part of a year getting to know” each other through Blackboard sessions. By the time the trip rolled around, they all “were pretty knowledgeable of each other.” In fact, Mr. Meehan said ecstatically, “Ms. Murnane and I have been working together for a few years atK¹² International Academy, but this was the first time we got to meet in person, too!”
Mrs. Murnane continued, “There were certainly stressful moments during the planning stages of this endeavor!” The trip was actually planned and organized over the course of a year, to ensure it would be the best and safest possible for students. “As a World Language teacher,” Mrs. Murnane, “loves being able to share her passion for experiencing the world with students.” She enthusiastically continued that her first abroad student trip “was a school trip to France her junior year of high school,” and, “it was an absolutely unforgettable time.” In fact, her roommate from the trip is her best friend, today!
Ultimately, Mrs. Murnane emphasized that “a trip like this really can open one’s eyes to a new world of experiences and spark a desire to become a life-long learner through exploration and adventure.”
And, then, the journey began when Mr. Meehan, Mrs. Murnane, and the students all met each other for the first time ever at Heathrow Airport, in London, England.
I asked Mrs. Murnane about the challenges and techniques needed for organizing this trip, and she stressed the need to be “hyper organized and communicating frequently with the students and their families.” Her previous experience “working and traveling with international students and organizing similar trips truly helped put together a plan for this trip.” She mentioned specifically, that she has “worked and lived in both France as a Resident Director of The Ohio State University’s Study Abroad Program and Switzerland as a French teacher at The American School in Switzerland’s summer French immersion program.” I thought this extent of experience is honorable, and for students to have the opportunity to travel with such teachers is astounding!
Considering K¹² International Academy is a virtual school, it brought to my attention the likely differences between preparing for such a trip in a brick-and-mortar school, compared to a virtual school. The biggest difference in planning for the trip lay mainly in mediums of communication. Mrs. Murnane and Mr. Meehan wouldn’t see participating students in classes, hallways, or the cafeteria “to remind them to turn something in, or log-in to their trip account or ask their parents this or that.” Instead, they “had to make a more concerted effort to keep contact with one another and to update one another about trip details.” There were constant “Skype calls and messages, phone calls, and Kmails in addition to…monthly meetings,” which helped in guiding students through the preparatory process of the trip.
Meet the students who took advantage of this fantastic opportunity offered by K¹² International Academy, and shared their thoughts and experiences: Amelia W, Brittany L, Caitlin L, Danny S, Eden M, and Fatimah S.
In response to which city, between London, England and Paris, France, was their favorite, most claimed London, because of “it’s nice blend of old preserved historical sites, and modern buildings and culture,” as Danny said, and “because of the busy, fast-paced lifestyle there,” as Fatimah said. On the other hand, Caitlin chose Paris, because she “enjoyed the French culture and being able to practice [speaking] French…the food, the architecture, and the people were all amazing!” Mrs. Murnane also chose Paris, and, smiling, admitted to being “a little biased since she absolutely loves the French language and culture,” as well.
When I asked about their favorite attractions, a couple students and Mr. Meehan chose the Eiffel Tower as their favorite, “especially being at the top,” mentioned Amelia, and especially seeing it “all lit up at night,” added Mr. Meehan, describing the sight as “spectacular.” Brittany favored the day in London, when they “went to Big Ben and the Tower of London.” Eden said she preferred the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, “because the area outside of it was busy and full of entertainment.” Fatimah was torn “between Trafalgar Square in London and Montmartre in Paris.” She also excitedly noted that, “the Nutella crepes in Paris are to die for!” And, on the note of food, Mrs. Murnane joked that “if you asked the students what my favorite attraction/cuisine was, they would answer: the French pastries.”
In addition to the mentioned locations, Mrs. Murnane, Mr. Meehan, and the students visited the Louvre museum, saw the Crown Jewels, and toured the Windsor Castle.
Then, I asked if this was the first time any of the students traveled abroad without parents and for this duration. For a few students, this trip was actually the “first time away from home without my parents,” as Caitlin said. As for Amelia, “it was not her first time being away from her parents for a long time, but this was by far the longest distance.” Everyone believed that they would definitely go on another trip like this one; as Eden said, “I’ve shown myself that I am capable of doing it. Traveling alone gave me a liberating feeling that I loved.” Caitlin elaborated that “it was a challenge and took a lot of responsibility but it was exciting to be able to do it on my own and to take care of myself. I would definitely do it again, it was a wonderful experience.”
As this was the first time traveling such a long distance and duration, and even the first time visiting England and France for students, of course, despite all the assistance and preparation provided by Mrs. Murnane and Mr. Meehan, there is always the chance for noticing things that could have been improved. Mr. Meehan and Brittany would have preferred the trip be longer. Amelia said she “would have packed a few warmer clothes for London,” and Fatimah said she, surprisingly, “would’ve definitely brought a little less clothes.” Brittany laughed and said she “could have packed more clothes to wear because by the end of the week all of [her] clothes were kind of stinky, but it was okay,” she joked, “because everyone stunk by the end of the week!” Meanwhile, Danny, like a few other students, regretfully recalled not being as social as they hoped to be.
Mrs. Murnane stated one of her initial concerns was possible delayed flights, about which she said, “the best thing you can do is plan for the worst and hope for the best.” She said she “was also nervous about how the students would relate to one another….or if personalities would clash.” Gladly, she “was so overjoyed that the students instantly connected. It was as if they’d known each other for years!” she exclaimed. In fact, “a teacher from one of the other school groups on [their] tour even asked if they were family because of the way they interacted with one another. They were inseparable during (and even now!) the entire trip.”
Conclusively, Mrs. Murnane said “there were small details here and there,” that she would have altered, “from an organizational standpoint, but overall, despite all of [her] worrying, the trip was an unforgettable experience for us all,” and “a great success,” as Mr. Meehan added.
To conclude the interview with the students, I asked what the most memorable aspect was through the entire trip. They all emphasized befriending others from iCademy that they had never met before, and befriending other people from other schools. Eden said, “although the trip was only a week long, I made life-long friends whom I will cherish for the rest of my life.” Caitlin said, “One of my most memorable memories was the first night in Paris. The rest of the tour group went back to the hotel and we didn’t want to go back. So Mr. Meehan and Mrs. Murnane took us out and we walked through Paris at night for hours. We walked about six miles from Notre Dame along the Seine River all the way to l’Arc de Triomphe. We just walked and talked and ate food and saw the beautiful city of Paris at night.” Danny mentioned a very interesting instance where he and a few other students were in a hall in the Louvre, and “farmers [came] storming in with their sheep.” He said, enthusiastically, “I definitely would if I could go on this or a similar trip once or ten times more.”
Mr. Murnane concluded:
Right from the beginning, despite the diversity of our group, no one was ever left out, cliques were never formed, but instead, each student welcomed the other with open arms. No matter the student’s gender, ethnic background, first language, religion, or style of dress, these students were without fail always inclusive and accepting of others. Our students were outgoing, enthusiastic, energetic and ready for anything. This trip certainly broke the stereotype of the introverted home-school student who lacks social skills! They were an absolute joy to be around and the fun they had everywhere we went was totally infectious. I couldn’t have been more proud of the way they represented our school, and it was very difficult to say goodbye to them.
Finally, I ended the teacher interviews by asking if Mr. Meehan and Mrs. Murnane would be interested in offering and chaperoning for another one of these trips, to the same locations, or others. Mr. Meehan said they, “hope to be able to offer K¹² International Academy students the opportunity to participate in trips every year,” and that, “it would be fun to experience different cities each year.”
Mrs. Murnane said, “this type of trip offers students at our virtual school the opportunity to physically meet, interact and engage with one another in a very unique, fun, and exciting environment. When you put all of this together, the hope is that something magical might happen, that students will create lifelong bonds and friendships with their classmates from all across the globe and that they will create memories that will last a lifetime.” She said passionately that, “It fills my heart with great joy to say that I believe that is exactly what happened on this trip.”
I would like to thank Mrs. Murnane and Mr. Meehan, as well as Amelia, Brittany, Caitlin, Danny, Eden, and Fatimah, for participating in this interview, and providing all of their insight and experiences on this first-ever K¹² International Academy trip.
The fact that K¹² International Academy, a virtual school in which students come from all over the globe and are rarely in the same vicinity, offers these types of joyous and educational travel opportunities is absolutely marvelous.
If such an experience has gauged your interest, as Mrs. Murnane said, “please watch k-mail and K¹² International Academy social media sites very closely for information coming soon about next spring’s Europe trip!”
This story and more student stories can also be found at our student News iGlobe
Check out more about this story brought to you by the Teachers & Check out the European photo album HERE
Amira Abdul Moati is as bright and exuberant as you would expect a 14-year-old to be. She loves ice creams and waltzing across an ice rink. She also has a way with numbers that has seen her completing Grades nine and 10 in maths even while studying in Grade eight at the K12 International Academy. But for now, the UAE’s best junior figure skater is focused on the upcoming Desert Open Figure Skating Championship to be held at Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi this Friday and Saturday.
“I aim to perform all three programmes without any mistakes, including double axel,” she told XPRESS ahead of the event.
On March 22nd, nine students and two teachers set off from 6 different countries to meet in Europe for the very first time. They’d been meeting for months virtually, in order to prepare for a week-long trip to London and Paris. Nothing may have truly prepared them for what an unforgettable experience it would be and that they’d form such strong bonds with one another…
Once we had all arrived in London and all of the students had been introduced, it was as if they’d known each other for years. A teacher from another school on the tour even commented that you’d think the students were all family the way they interacted with one another. The students were friendly, inclusive, outgoing and perhaps not what others may have expected from the “homeschool group.” They took every opportunity to soak in the culture, sights, sounds, and tastes of each city. Unfortunately, we did not have the opportunity to try escargot (snails). However, there was no shortage of French chocolate in everyone’s suitcases by the end of the trip!
The students’ first day in London began the moment they set foot off the plane. We took the “tube” to Trafalgar square and visited the National Gallery. Then, we had a traditional dinner of Fish n’ Chips.
The second day in London, we took a bus tour of all the major sites in the morning. In the afternoon, we set off for the countryside to visit Windsor Castle, the Queen’s primary residence. To our surprise, she was actually present during the first part of our visit, but sadly, none of us were invited for tea.
Our last day in London was spent exploring the Tower of London, an old prison. We even got a glimpse of the Crown Jewels!
Very early the next morning, we rushed off to the train station. We took the Eurostar train to Paris (the one where you pass underneath the English Channel)! Surprisingly, our ears didn’t even pop, and it didn’t feel as if we were hundreds of feet underwater!
After arriving in Paris, we went right into the city center to explore. We saw some of the major monuments such as Notre Dame, Place de la Concorde, Champs-Elysees, and the Arc de Triomphe. During our walking tour, we even had glimpses of the Eiffel Tower lit up in the night sky.
The next morning we went on a bus tour to see some of the other famous monuments and sites spread across the immense city of Paris. Our afternoon was spent walking through the Palace of Versailles and its elaborate gardens. That evening we were treated to a traditional dinner of crêpes! Then we were off again and headed for the Eiffel Tower. Seeing it sparkle at night is really something special. A few of the students even got as far as the very top…by foot!
On our last day in Paris, we spent the morning discovering the thousands of ancient artifacts housed in the Louvre, the worlds largest and most visited museum. We saw works such as the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. In the afternoon, we hiked all the way to the highest point in Paris, Montmartre. We took pictures in front of the Roman-Byzantine style basilica Sacré Cœur, and then we took a stroll through the quaint, narrow streets full of artists, crafts and souvenir shops. That evening, we took a riverboat cruise on the Seine which topped off our amazing journey through two of the worlds most renowned cities.
What is most memorable about this trip, however, is likely not all the famous places we visited, but the strong relationships with one another that were formed. Right from the beginning, despite the diversity of our group, no one was ever left out, clicks were never formed, but instead, each student welcomed the other with open arms. No matter the students gender, ethnic background, first language, religion, or style of dress, these students were without fail always inclusive and accepting of others. Our students were outgoing, enthusiastic, energetic and ready for anything. This trip certainly broke the stereotype of the introverted home-school student who lacks social skills! As their teachers, we found them infectiously fun to be around.
As virtual learners, these students have learned how to be self-disciplined, and part of their success as virtual students is being punctual and responsible for themselves. This was proven time and time again over the course of our trip through London and Paris. They were always on-time and looked out for one another being conscious not to allow someone to feel left out, left behind or to feel that they didnt fit in. We couldnt have been more proud of the way they represented our school, and it was very difficult to say goodbye. Its very likely these students will stay in touch and find a way to visit each others home cities someday.
As online teachers, it sometimes is easy to feel disconnected to the students. One can feel isolated and “on an island” as the days and weeks pass by. However, we as online teachers should never forget that we interact each and every day with incredible students who each have their own stories, personalities, backgrounds, and interests. As teacher chaperones for the K12 International Academy 2014 Trip to London and Paris, our 9 student travelers reminded us why we log into our jobs every day. For six days in March, we witnessed young people, ages 14-18, interact with one another as if they had known each other for years, not hours. A trip that began as an excursion to learn about two very unique, diverse cities became a microcosm for what these 9 student travelers represented collectively. Even though they all live in different states and countries, they found commonalities in each other, formed bonds, genuinely cared for each other, and created life-long memories and friendships with each other that will live years beyond their classrooms experiences. I know that they have had an effect on us as teachers who were fortunate enough to spend time with them, get to know them, and return to our jobs Monday morning invigorated that what we do DOES make a difference, and that we are the luckiest teachers in the world because we get to interact and educate remarkable young people every day.
The National Honor Society (NHS) is an organization with chapters in schools all across the United States. Its purpose is to recognize students who are outstanding achievers and are willing to devote themselves to the Society’s core tenets:
Students should be enthusiastic about education, devote time and effort for community service, be effective leaders, and have the desire to build their characters, and encourage such character development in the students of their schools.
Students must be tenth graders, and to meet the expectations for the “Scholarship” tenet, they must have a GPA of at least 3.0 (3.3, for K12 International Academy’s NHS chapter), and must maintain such a GPA throughout their membership.
So, what are the benefits of applying to National Honor Society?
First, members have access to plenty of tools and project resources which allow the members to collectivity enhance service learning skills and leadership development in their chapters. These skills and development can be used in members’ own communities.
One specific project resource is the National Student Project Database. The database allows users to filter projects by categories, including appreciation, ceremonies, fundraising, and green projects, among many others. NHS Chapters can also enter their service projects into the Outstanding Service Project (OSP) awards.
The chapters of NHS are generally great mediums of motivation, inspiration, and support for thriving fresh ideas on how to contribute to their schools and own communities. Students can form networks with community leaders, faculty, and local business leaders, all of whom may provide future references and recommendations, and even provide future internships and jobs. Through NHS, all the continuous required service work and achievement necessary for membership help students build up portfolios of all their accomplishments “that can be featured on applications for college and careers, as well as cover letters and resumes.”
Members also have access to conferences and workshops at both the state and national level. An example of this is Leadership Experience and Development (LEAD) Conferences. LEAD Conferences are weekend meetings that gather student leaders and advisers from across the nation to improve leadership and prepare attendees for leadership roles spanning from local, state, and regional levels. Common topics covered in LEAD Conferences include; combating issues such as bullying, drugs, alcohol, and teen mental illness, project planning, fundraising, idea-sharing, networking, community service, teambuilding, and healthy lifestyles.
A major benefit of membership with NHS is access to the NHS scholarship program, which will award up to $250,000 every year to NHS high school seniors, nationwide. The NHS Scholarship Program has been “providing more than $10 million in scholarship funds to outstanding NHS members.” The program has a few great categories. If you are interested, the categories are outlined on their website.
Identify any work experience, recognition, and awards
Provide a Letter of Reference
Write a short essay answering how being a member of NHS will contribute to your future goals
Here, at K12 International Academy, as a virtual school, student service work is somewhat ‘decentralized,’ and has greater focus on students’ own individual communities. Nonetheless, the iCademy NHS chapter still creates a (virtual) environment that promotes enthusiasm for scholarship, stimulating the desire to give back to communities, development of character, and advancement of leadership.
K¹² International Academy’s chapter of NHS, like others, also elects members for being President, Vice President, Secretary, and Editor.
Lastly, K¹² International Academy’s chapter of NHS also has its own newsletter. Members contribute to it by writing about their own service activities, providing advice and helpful quotes to other (non-member) students, and shedding light on various current events. This newsletter is k-mailed out to all students every month. Be sure to look for it in your k-mails!
This post is also featured in the K¹² International School Student News (iGlobe)
Introducing our first student blogger–Kimia Pourali, she is a 15-year-old junior at K¹² International Academy. Kimia resides in the state of North Carolina in the United States. She is greatly interested in computer science/programming, political science, and international relations. Her hobbies include playing cello and piano. She is also fond of learning about various languages and cultures. She is a Staff Writer and the Assistant Editor for iCademy’s school newspaper (iGlobe). She enjoys contributing thought-provoking article and presentation topics. She is the Chairperson of iCademy’s Model United Nations club, and an active member in Mu Alpha Theta (MATH) and National Honor Society (NHS). She serves her community as a Certified Reading Tutor with American Youth Literacy Foundation. She is enthusiastic about, and adores all of her activities with iCademy, which provide opportunities to strengthen her abilities in scholastics, character, leadership, and camaraderie, which all benefit her future, in college and later career. Welcome Kimia, to our K¹² International Academy School blog!
The distinct musty smell of the Hayden Burns Library in downtown Jacksonville takes me back to my middle school days when I was homeschooling. Indeed, my mom, and teacher, gave me an assignment to research Arthurian Legend. I remember driving up to that super mod 1960’s building that held me captive for so many hours of my childhood and youth, and knowing that I would learn so much while reading, researching, and devouring books about King Arthur. Those books helped me create replicas of castles to scale, write historical folklore research reports and become engrossed in the ideas of kings, swords and round tables. These days, the good news is, you don’t have to live in amazing cities with amazing libraries to have access to books from around the globe! Libraries are at your fingertips!
Have you had a chance to check out Google Books? Yes, Google has an amazing collection of books that are available for download or your on-screen viewing pleasure. I know they are a company, but Google is offering full length books that are in the public domain and other library search services for free! By simple pressing a few keys on your computer you too can have the stories of King Arthur.
Just so you know, you don’t have to only search for books about King Arthur. Many of your “select a novel” choices in the K12 curriculum and your other favorite novels can be found by simply searching digital library sites.