By DAVID DUPONT
BG Independent News
Globally 800,000 teachers use IXL personalized educational software. Recently the company honored its Elite 100 from among those teachers.
Caitlyn Butterfield, of Bowling Green, a teacher Ohio Virtual Academy, was one of those Elite 100.
“Following a year of pandemic-related disrupted learning, Caitlyn used IXL to accurately identify students’ knowledge levels, personalize instruction to meet their individual needs, and recover unfinished learning,” the company wrote in a press release.
To be selected for the honor “was a shock,” Butterfield said.
Butterfield teaches English to a class of 40 high school students, all with Individual Educational Plans. The virtual school has been using the program for about three years with its students with IEPs.
The software “allows them to access the curriculum at their instructional level,” Butterfield said.
It was during this period that the high school teachers started to each specialize in a discipline. Butterfield is “an avid reader” and has strengths in English, so that’s what she wanted to teach.
She meets with her students at a specified time twice a week. They then work on their own either during that class period other days of the week or at other times for a prescribed set of hours.
Butterfield makes a point of staying closely in touch, and letting students know she is available either during her set office hours or by text and email.
She keeps close tabs on their academic progress and whether they are logging the number of hours required. “One thing I am always doing with my students is consistently looking at their progress. They may hear from me three, four times a week.”
That constant contact helps keep them on track. “I try to be very individualized with my communications with my students,” she said. “It’s specific to them so they know I’m looking at them as a person not just a member in the classroom.”
Last semester for its novel study the class read “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” the first book in the popular series. They liked it so much, they asked if they could read “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” the second in the series this semester.
“I was able to hit the standards I was needing them to achieve, but doing it with a text they are extremely engaged with,” she said.
And she’s not afraid to laugh at herself on occasion as when a student pointed out a spelling error on a Power Point slide. “They want to do their best. Sometimes we make mistakes. It’s OK to be human.”
That attitude helps in a format where students may not always be able to read her facial expressions.
Butterfield said she went into education “because as a high schooler I struggled and I wanted to make a difference.”
She graduated from the University of Toledo with a license in special education.
That pleased both her parents. Her father is a UT graduate, and her mother works with adults with disabilities.
Butterfield graduated and earned her license 12 years ago. She was a long-term substitute, and then as a full-time teacher at a charter school in inner city Toledo.
Butterfield took a job with the Ohio Virtual Academy six years ago.
“I love the benefits to working online,” she said. “I love being at home. Brick and mortar and online have their advantages. Personally, I love working in the online environment.”
When the pandemic set in, “it really didn’t affect how we operated at all,” Butterfield said. “It was business as usual.”
Still some students were struggling because they go sick, and COVID took a toll on teachers. “It wasn’t throwing us for the loop.”
She continued to encourage her students to keep her informed about their progress and challenges.
Some teachers who were suddenly moved from face-to-face to virtual instruction did reach out to Butterfield for advice. Mostly they wanted to know how to adjust to virtual teaching.
Butterfield was encouraging: “It just takes time.”