Teacher Appreciation

With such an amazing student body, RVA Weekly wanted to take a peek behind the scenes at some of the hardworking ladies and gentlemen that keep things on track. Not only do we want to hear the success stories of all of you, but we also want to know how the RVA has impacted the lives of our teachers. I asked some of our wonderful teachers a few questions to get to know just that!


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Alison Reilly:

  1. How has the RVA changed your life?

    Every day I teach and work with my amazing students and families, I grow more and more thankful for the RVA. Just as families feel supported and guided by their RVA teacher, we teachers feel this same support and guidance from our colleagues and administration. The RVA staff is the best of the best, and I am so grateful to grow as an educator as I work alongside my team. Not only has the RVA given me so many ways to evolve as an educator, but it has also been such an amazing blessing for my family. Working from home allows me to be more present with my husband and children. To be able to stay so connected and invested in my family, to be able to provide my families all of the support that they need, to feel so supported in a role that I love so deeply - I truly have the best job!

  2. What is your favorite part of the RVA experience?
    My favorite part of the RVA is my connection with my students and families, especially when it comes to working with the same students and families multiple years in a row. By retaining families year to year,  I get to know them on such an amazing level. I am able to hear about their successes during their school day and in their personal lives, and I am able to celebrate these successes with them! I am able to witness each of my students' tremendous growth academically, socially and emotionally as they transform year to year. I am also able to support my students and families through trying times and provide them with all the flexibility that I can when they need it the most. That deep connection brings me such joy! We have the most amazing students and families in the RVA!

  3. What changes would you suggest and/or what are your hopes the RVA’s future?

    I hope the RVA continues to grow in a way that continues to support our families. I love when families express their desire for something, whether it be a new club, a new course, or a new approach to a current way. The RVA strives to be tailored for our families, and we value this input! As our students grow and change, the RVA must evolve as well. Each year, I love that we do more and more to meet the needs and wants of our students and families, so I hope that this continues moving forward.

  4. Do you have any stories, favorite experiences, or any words of wisdom you’d like to share?
    Since I began teaching (which started in a Kindergarten classroom), I have had the same quote displayed on my desk. "Wherever you are, be all there." - Jim Elliot. These six words constantly remind me to be present in every moment, to invest myself in what I am doing, and to truly experience life! I think we can all recall a day where time zoomed by, where we found ourselves so caught up in our mile-long to-do list, or focusing all of our attention and energy on the seemingly never-ending negatives. I am sure we can all also remember a day where we were sucked into the black hole that our technology devices can be. We are human, and this naturally happens! I love that this quote reminds me to put down the phone or camera, to forget about any worry or stress that I may have, and to just BE. Days come and go, and time can go so fast. It is important to live these moments as best as we can. To invest ourselves, to enjoy each day, and to live life in the moment. "Wherever you are, be all there."


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Katie Zander:

  1. How has the RVA changed your life?
    The RVA has given me a fresh take on virtual education. It's allowed me to meet wonderful new students and families and share my passion of education with them.

  2. What is your favorite part of the RVA experience?
    My favorite part of the RVA experience so far is getting to meet all of the wonderful RVA students and families. Starting a new job can be nerve wracking, but everyone at the RVA has made me feel so welcome. I also really like that I can share my hobby of photography with students who share that same interest during Activity Periods. Shameless plug coming up, but if you are interested in photography and haven't checked out Photography Enthusiasts on Thursdays in Blackboard Room #1 during Activity Period, make sure to do so! Here are some collections we made during first semester!

  3. What changes would you suggest and/or what are your hopes the RVA’s future?
    My hopes for the RVA is that the school continues to grow so we can welcome more amazing families into our community. Interacting with my students and families is the best part of my job!

  4. Do you have any stories, favorite experiences, or any words of wisdom you’d like to share?
    Even though I have only been at the RVA for six months, I am not a stranger to virtual education. I have actually been a virtual teacher since 2007! Over the last decade there is one thing that remains constant with success in virtual schooling and that is communication. Always communicate with your teachers when you are having a difficult time with a concept, plan on going on vacation, or just plain feel overwhelmed. Check your email daily to make sure you are seeing important updates from your teachers about class or assignments. Also make sure to maintain pace in your classes. I have seen students get behind and then it snowballs from there causing a lot of unwanted stress when progress checks or the end of the semester approaches.


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Leatha Hopperdietzel:

  1. How has the RVA changed your life?

    RVA has been my bigger and better that I never knew existed! What I mean by this, goes back almost 9 years when I made the difficult decision to leave my brick and mortar teaching job in special education, which I loved for seven years, in order to be home with my children to raise them during those early years. I LOVED teaching and honestly didn't know what or when or where I would be in future years again as a teacher when my own children started school. In my heart, I could feel that there was a bigger and better option out there, but I wouldn't come to know what that was for another two years. At the same time, I was struggling with the strong desire to home-school my own children to provide them with a strong, educational foundation and didn't even know where to begin as there are so many options out there! Through a random person on the internet a few years later, I came to find out about the RVA and knew that was the perfect option for schooling my children and then a year later, to once again begin the job of teaching again! I officially had the best of both worlds and am currently fulfilling my two dreams, schooling my own children at home and teaching students in the area of special education in the RVA. RVA was my bigger and better!

  2. What is your favorite part of the RVA experience?

    Overall, everything! I love being at the forefront of education in the virtual world and love that this RVA school provides an alternative, from the brick and mortar setting, to accessing a highly, educational schooling option for many families where the brick and mortar setting may not have been the greatest fit and/or parents, like me, who have that desire to want to teach their own children! I am in constant learning even six years later as a teacher with all the new advances in technology, programs, and curriculums and love the challenge of adapting my teaching to different learning styles and disabilities. I also love the personal connection and opportunities for interaction that teachers have with families, essentially becoming almost like another family member! Not only can we meet students virtually, but also in person at the various amazing field trips and events that are provided by the RVA, something that I feel no other virtual school could ever provide in the way that the RVA does.

  3. What changes would you suggest and/or what are your hopes the RVA’s future?

    I hope that the RVA continues to grow and that our various educational and online options continue to improve as technology evolves and changes more specifically just for virtual schooling!

  4. Do you have any stories, favorite experiences, or any words of wisdom you’d like to share?

    As a teacher, I LOVE when a student enrolls into the RVA and is a student who strongly dislikes schooling, has had previous schooling experience that was just not a good fit, and/or that may be struggling with self-esteem and confidence. While, this does break my heart, especially with some of these students being so young, I make it a person quest to change that around in the RVA! The reason I love these students enrolling into the RVA is because I know that one day, that student will log online ready to meet with me with a smile on his/her face, ready to work on school activities or on specific goals because they FINALLY see themselves in a positive light! They see themselves as able and perfectly capable of making his/her school experience a great one and are willing to step out and try! That's the best part!

    In addition, I like to tell parents that are considering the RVA, like I once was seven  years ago, that if you're uncertain and have doubts about what to do and are afraid of teaching your child at home, to really think about what have you got to lose?  If current schooling options are not a great fit for your child, then why not try something new? A child's educational years go by too fast to simply "wait" it out hoping for a better outcome! If you have the will and a way to make virtual schooling an option, then go for it!


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Leanna Oertel:

  1. How has the RVA changed your life?

    My life is ten billion percent better since I have started working for the RVA. I've taught at brick and mortar schools before but was looking for a new adventure. The students, staff, and administration at the RVA are the best I've ever worked with. I'm so excited to see how the RVA high school continues to grow.

  2. What is your favorite part of the RVA experience?

    Besides working with the wonderful students, you mean!? :D I love that the RVA allows students and staff flexibility. It brings me peace of mind knowing that students and their families don't have to stress about missing school if they have health issues, travel plans, etc.

  3. What changes would you suggest and/or what are your hopes the RVA’s future?

    We are continuing to add more staff members, which is great because it will open up new class electives for students!

  4. Do you have any stories, favorite experiences, or any words of wisdom you’d like to share?

    Yes, I have words of wisdom: Shakespeare is not an example of Old English. Shakespeare is Early Modern English. Beowulf is Old English.


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Jill Chasteen:

  1. How has the RVA changed your life?

    RVA really brought a whole new teaching perspective for me, from the traditional building to a virtual, at home approach.
    I have been able to really get to know my students as a whole - what they do outside of school, their family, their interests, personality, etc.  Not only that, but I also get to work with many of my students year after year! It allows for flexibility in both my day as well as how I teach each of my students to fit their learning needs.

  2. What is your favorite part of the RVA experience?

    The relationships I have developed with my students by far!  Some students I have had the pleasure of knowing and working with for over 6 years! :)

  3. What changes would you suggest and/or what are your hopes the RVA’s future?

    I can't think of any changes!  My hopes is to continue to see the RVA grow with amazing staff and students.  

  4. Do you have any stories, favorite experiences, or any words of wisdom you’d like to share?  

    I started as a Special Education teacher with the RVA with only 13 students when it was offered up to only grade 8.  I've had the pleasure of really watching this school grow and develop into a fantastic option for students! I still have students from when I first started and been able to see some graduate!  Our first graduation was a wonderful experience of mine; to be a part of students' accomplishments and witness them meet their goals is a great thing! Words of wisdom - reach out to your teachers!  Go to class, email, call...we are all here to help! All you have to do is ask! :)


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Josh Duwe:

  1. How has the RVA changed your life?

    RVA has shown me that there is always another way, a new perspective to consider, and that opportunity does not come looking for me.  Since being in the RVA I have learned that action precedes success. I have come to know people and have developed relationships that have been life-changing for me.    

  2. What is your favorite part of the RVA experience?

    My favorite part of the RVA is the fact that we get to do something completely different in education.  I love talking about the future of education and being part of a team that focuses on the transformation of education to best meet the needs of people.  I like being a change maker with the RVA.

  3. What changes would you suggest and/or what are your hopes the RVA’s future?

    My hopes are that every student in the RVA would actively participate in Events hosted by the RVA multiple times throughout their educational career.  I would love to see every student with a smile on their face, a new friend to study and laugh with and a proud sense of accomplishment upon graduation.  I would suggest to the students to get comfortable being uncomfortable because it is in taking action we overcome our fears and grow confidence. It is in challenge that we find the greatest change.

  4. Do you have any stories, favorite experiences, or any words of wisdom you’d like to share?

    The RVA offers each and every one of us a unique opportunity to influence change for future generations.  We are in a place to make a huge difference for others simply by doing what we do and doing it well. In the RVA we are the possibilities.  Let's never forget that and let it give way to doing our best in all we do because when we are 41 and 73 years old we will be able to say, "We started this."


A big thank you to all of the teachers who responded! A just as big thank you to all RVA teachers who have and will continue to work hard so we can succeed. Not only are they kind and helpful, but their dedication to the school as a whole also shines through each and every good grade, friendship made, and student success. The RVA wouldn’t be as bright a place without each and every one of you!