In school, I was an exceptional math student. And outside mathematics, I enjoyed my time in the classroom, in extracurriculars and in sports. When I look back on my K-12 experience, I know that it sparked my journey and passion with mathematics, and set me on a path for success. Today, I teach students all around the state. Some of them, like me, really love and succeed at math - but for many, it's a huge challenge. But in my role at Michigan International Prep School (MIPS), I have the tools, and the time, to help kids overcome those challenges every day.
When I first began teaching, I worked in traditional public classrooms across Oakland, Genessee and Wayne counties. While I loved the in-person interactions I got with students, and appreciated the classroom management the roles taught me, I found it difficult to connect with students one-on-one. As a math teacher, that was frustrating, because I knew many students needed extra support to fully understand the concepts.
As I made the switch to MIPS, and to the blended virtual model, I was really nervous. I worried about connecting with students, about being able to tell when they were stressing. But as I grew in my role as a virtual teacher and mentor, I realized all those anxieties were fading away. In the MIPS model, I have the ability to individualize learning for every student. Right from the beginning, students are evaluated to uncover what learning style and platform fits them best - then, I'm assigned as their math teacher, regardless which platform they select. As a teacher, this allows me to use really specific tools and teaching strategies to get the concepts across.
And for the students, I feel that this model makes a world of difference for learners who desperately need that personalization. At MIPS, we have some students who are traveling athletes, some who struggle in the structure of a traditional classroom, and some who face serious socio-economic struggles. During my live lessons, it's not just my job to ensure students are on track with lessons, but also to grow my student relationships and assess if there are other needs going beyond the classroom.
"At MIPS, we send a lot of socio-economic support to our families," said Superintendent, Andrew Hulbert, "We know that if a student is worried about food, they can't reasonably worry about learning, and while we don't have all the answers, we strive to support those extra needs, so they can put the focus back on school."
Not only has MIPS proven to be the perfect environment to grow my skills as an educator, but it's also been a place where I've thrived in my professional satisfaction. I love to share with my friends who are entering the teaching world, or who may be considering a virtual or blended model, that I feel so supported and comfortable where I work. I have the type of flexibility where I feel like I can work from anywhere, even though I have an office I travel to five days a week. Our four Drop In Learning Labs give me autonomy to meet with students from across the state, and provide a change of scenery when necessary. Overall, MIPS has been a place where I have grown so much as a teacher.
"Ashley is an outstanding educator," said MIPS Elementary Teacher, Emily Sauer, "She has this patience with students that just creates this calming effect during her live lessons. Math can be such a challenging subject, but she finds a way to put her students at ease."
Looking back on my K-12 and college education, I had really positive experiences in the traditional classroom - but if there's one thing I've learned as a teacher, it's that students don't come in a one-size-fits-all box. Having the ability to personalize my lessons for every single student, meeting them where they're at, has given me autonomy as a teacher that I simply didn't have before. At MIPS, we're providing more than a virtual class - it's a virtual experience, with real educators, creating real success, for real families.