Los Alamos Online Learning Academy staff pose outside the LAOLA Roadrunner office near the LAPS district office. Staff members include, left to right, Christine Monteith, Kate Hovey, Eva Abeyta, Kati Steinberg, Sarah Rose Sanchez, Becky Littleton, Jacque Griego and Colleen Goddard. Courtesy/LAPS
Los Alamos Public Schools (LAPS) offers families not only physical options for educating students, but also an online option.
Los Alamos Online Learning Academy (LAOLA) is the school of choice for K-8 students within LAPS. Although the Online Academy was created in 2020 in response to the Covid pandemic, it has become a permanent entity among the many structures put in place by LAPS to meet the unique and varied learning needs of LAPS students.
Forty-seven students are enrolled at LAOLA for the 2022-2023 school year. They kicked off the school year with in-person classes at Ashley Pond. The LAOLA Roadrunners, as they are known, met with their teachers and classmates, talked about classroom expectations and computer safety, reviewed materials and schedules, and learned how to log in for their first lessons on the following day.
Becky Littleton, Colleen Goddard, Eva Abeyta and Kati Steinberg have taught for LAPS for many years and seized the opportunity to join LAOLA when it was established in 2020. This year, Littleton is the K-2 teacher with fourteen students. Goddard, humanities, and Abeyta, math and science, teach twenty-one students in grades 5 through 8. Jacque Griego teaches twelve students in grades 3 and 4. Teaching Assistant for K-2 Christine Monteith joined the team this year after experiencing online learning as one of the LAOLA families.
Steinberg went from 2nd grade online teacher to LAOLA director last year. Sarah Rose Sanchez returned this year as a teaching assistant.
LAOLA students also benefit from all necessary student services provided by resource and auxiliary teachers at their partner school, Chamisa Elementary, as well as physical education, art, music, and library with Chamisa Specials teachers.
“This year, our 5th and 6th graders will partner with our K-2nd graders, online and in person, for weekly critical thinking activities and cross-curricular crafts and projects,” Steinberg said. “And our 7th and 8th graders will meet the 3rd and 4th graders from the middle team as math buddies.”
On the first day of school, the buddies came together to internalize the school theme “We Are Stronger Together” by creating a web of interlocking handprints. There was also a school-wide standoff that included all Roadrunner teachers, students, siblings, and adults. The morning ended with school cheer which is, of course, “Meep Meep!”
Online learning offers a variety of benefits and opportunities for student growth and success. Students attend online classes from 8:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. daily. In partnership with families, teachers are able to provide individualized instruction to meet students’ learning needs. Teachers use explicit whole-group and small-group teaching strategies, giving students time to practice their skills in a synchronized learning environment. Students complete their work independently and meet with their professors in the afternoon for questions, tutoring, and enrichment.
“Our asynchronous afternoon schedule allows students to pursue outside interests and passions such as sports, the arts, or 4H,” Steinberg said. “Our online families can travel and have children attend their regular daily classes from anywhere with internet access. This kind of flexibility helps students grow in responsibility for attending class, responsibility to complete homework and time management to get everything done.
“These are skills needed to be successful adults,” she added.
In 2020, LAOLA offered a rigorous full-time online learning option for families who preferred to have their students attend school from home. This year, as more opportunities for in-person student engagement and enrichment become available within the community, the Online Academy plans to expand student learning experiences by collaborating with community members and leveraging local resources.
“Some of the big changes this year include our combined grade-level classes, which allow for greater differentiation to meet the academic and socio-emotional needs of our students,” Steinberg said. “We anticipate that our Roadrunner Adventure Fridays will coincide with the monthly Materials Pickup. Students will be able to participate in hands-on science, math, and literacy activities as an extension of classroom instruction. They will meet in our Resource Space with their buddies or visit community members such as the Mesa Public Library, 4-H, Los Alamos Historical Museum, White Rock Visitor Center and many more.
“In September, 7th and 8th graders visit reporters at the Los Alamos Daily Post to learn about journalism and the craft of writing. 5th and 6th graders will visit the Bradbury Museum as well as the Los Alamos Historical Museum to learn about our community’s impact and influence on New Mexico history. Our primary team of K-2 students will do hands-on life science work with their 3rd and 4th grade pals to learn more about the human brain. »
Students add their handprints to a blank canvas to highlight this year’s theme, “We Are Stronger Together.” Courtesy/LAPS
LAOLA teachers and staff value online learning and small class sizes, allowing them to get to know their students as individuals with unique strengths and learning styles. They appreciate the confidence that comes from being with their students every day and the relationships and partnerships created with the whole family.
“Our families tell us they like the flexibility to travel and pursue their interests while taking classes from anywhere in the world,” Steinberg said. “They feel that our teachers are available to work with them and their children in a safe, confident and nurturing educational environment.”
Parents report that they sometimes enjoy going to class to observe the exciting learning that is happening daily. Some students reported having stronger relationships with their online classmates than with their in-person classmates. They also report that they feel safe from bullying, that they have good relationships with their teachers, such as the emphasis on explicit teaching, and that they often feel they have a good understanding of the contents.
“As a former teacher, educational coach and online teacher, I have the privilege of bringing all that I have learned and experienced to the role of Director of the Online Academy,” said Steinberg. “I know, I work with and I support all the students of our Academy. We see each other in class and at our weekly school assembly. Our teachers have built relationships with our students that allow us to “dissolve the screen” to the point where we feel like we are physically present with each other.
She continued: “We need to have high expectations for student engagement and behavior for online learning to work. We do this by helping students connect and build strong relationships with each other, their teachers, and their community. We guide our students to develop responsibility and accountability to ensure their learning is meaningful. Teachers strive for a high degree of student engagement and allow students to have a higher degree of agency in their learning. This year, the top team students are planning and running their own online cooking club. The students of the intermediate team will organize their book club. We want to see what our students can accomplish and help them achieve their goals. Roadrunners show us time and time again that they defy expectations every day!”
LAOLA Open Days
The Online Learning Academy Open House takes place virtually from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, September 6.
LAOLA families are invited to join the meeting using their student’s laptop in the Google Roadrunner Rally classroom:
- 5:30-5:48 p.m. (Meeting link: Roadrunner Rally Google Classroom)
-Chat with the principal in the Roadrunner class meeting
-Introduce some community partners- Chamisa PTO, Boy and Girl Scouting, YMCA After School Program;
- 5:50 p.m. – 6:10 p.m.
-Meeting with parents from kindergarten to 2nd grade;
- 6:15 p.m.- 6:35 p.m.
-3rd – 5th grade meeting with parents; and
- 6:40 p.m. – 7 p.m.
-6th – 8th grade meeting with parents.
From 5:50 p.m. to 7 p.m., join community members in separate get-togethers to ask questions about participating in extracurricular activities:
- Dating link – Girl Scouts hosts Host Grace Wiele, Stephanie Haaser
Phone numbers: (US)+1 573.746.2028; PIN: 766 195 586#;
- Meet the link – Tracking welcomes Kate Hovey and Chris Monteith
Phone numbers: (US)+1 209.837.3174; PIN: 786 614 489#;
- Dating link- Chamisa PTO Host Alison Watkins
Phone numbers: (US)+1 443.429.0929; PIN: 729 879 406#;
- Dating link- YMCA After School Program host Jamie Allbach
Phone numbers: (US)+1 828.515.4860; PIN: 200 764 525#.