The eLearning Podcast — Julie MacGregor and Gina Mallon, Pennsylvania Virtual Charter Schools

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I hope you find my two very special guest for today as lovely as I have all my life. Julie MacGregor and Gina Mallon have been teachers at different schools in the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School system for more than 10 years each.

Full disclosure: they also both happen to be my aunts.

I thought to invite them over for the podcast, not only because of their life stories and wisdom, but because of their tenured experience in 2 very critical issues in education today. One, naturally, is their transition from old fashion Catholic schools into fully virtual experiences. We take a fast paced tour of all the issues involved in transitioning to online learning, including the fascinating approach they’ve taken to offer differentiated teaching for a broad variety of students: Special Ed, gifted children, low-income, adult learners… Sometimes all in the same classroom!

The other issue is a bit more complicated. What could be more complicated than COVID-19? Try charter schools. But since this is a family conversation, I’ll just let you know that we touch on issues of diversity, access and the importance of school choice for teachers who’ve been at it for most of their lives.

In this “family affair” conversation we talk about:

  • What it’s like to be in online and distance learning… for over a decade! From their decision to become online teachers, to getting comfortable and finding support, to the answers for the perennial question of student engagement.
  • What it’s like to be a Special Ed online teacher, where the same questions on engagement and effectiveness apply, but on a broader scale. Hint: it involves the students’ families.
  • Why, despite their experience and skillset, the pandemic also affected virtual education teachers in particular ways, like socialization. But how COVID has also validated many of their lessons and has turned them into informal advisors and counselors among their peers.

Finally, the interesting ways in which cyber or virtual charter schools address issues like equity and diversity when, by law, “you simply have to take everyone in”; and     the many benefits that school choice has given students and families as seen from the vantage point of teachers, over the years.

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