PA Cyber School: A Blueprint for Success
When a traditional brick-and-mortar school couldn’t meet the needs of the Costanzo family, they turned to the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School and never looked back.
Sarah and Chris Costanzo knew that their family needed a change in education when issues arose like bullying, speech delays, and family health problems. Frustrated with the response from the brick-and-mortar school, the Costanzos instead decided to enroll their three children in the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School, or PA Cyber. “PA Cyber went to bat for us right away,” Sarah says. “They didn’t even know us yet.” First, the children, Morgana (now 20), Rhiannon (16) and Paden (14), were assigned academic advisors, all of whom are state-certified teachers themselves. “Our academic advisors are just incredible people and they feel more like family to us than advisors,” Sarah says. “And they pretty much do everything for you. Anytime there’s any kind of problem, you just contact your advisor.” Communication isn’t the only thing PA Cyber facilitates. Everything a student might need is provided by the school. “You get all your supplies right away,” Sarah explains. “You get a computer…you get a printer…books…even gym stuff…you get an entire phys-ed kit.” Even supplemental assistance is available to students with different needs. “At our previous school, our two younger kids had severe speech delays,” Sarah notes. “[At PA Cyber] immediately, they got put with a speech therapist and they both worked, and within a few years’ time, they were dismissed.”
New Way of Learning
The Costanzos soon realized that not only did PA Cyber set up their kids for success, but the self-paced learning environment allowed them to flourish. “They did a lot better having the work in front of them and having a more supportive environment,” Sarah says. “They were able to have a lot more options. So if there was something maybe they were struggling in, they were able to catch up in it. And then if there was something they were more ahead in, they could move ahead.” Morgana agrees. “They allow you to work at your own pace so that you can improve the quality of your learning and understand the material better,” she explains. Often in brick-and-mortar schools a subject is covered only briefly, but at PA Cyber, teachers will go back and forth with a student until the lesson is fully understood. Rhiannon points out, “I really had such a flexible curriculum that I was able to go back as many times as I needed to and really be able to learn it.” This flexibility paired with self-motivation led to Rhiannon being on-track to graduate a year early. “As I grew and as I got older, I really developed a love for learning,” she says. Morgana, now a junior at Penn State Scranton, shares that point-of-view. She adds, “Being able to learn at my own pace actually allowed me to accelerate more than I would’ve…in a brick-and-mortar school.” Paden, too, has thrived in the self-paced method of learning through PA Cyber. “The way it teaches is a lot better than normal school,” he says. “It’s a lot easier for me to learn.” Morgana puts it plainly, “I was able to take a break, go outside, enjoy my life a little bit instead of being at a desk the entire day, coming home, working on homework until I had to go to sleep.”
The Costanzos noticed that life beyond school improved as well. Quality family time has become easier to find. Sarah appreciates that PA Cyber allows them to travel or go to museums together. “Definitely we connected a lot more as a family through PA Cyber,” she says. “It’s changed the way we do everything.” Even socially, the children have blossomed. From field trips to proms to graduation ceremonies, multiple in-person activities through PA Cyber allow students from different regions to connect. Unlike in many brick-and-mortar schools, Rhiannon has found that “in PA Cyber everyone is just friends. Automatically. Everyone is just friends. And I think that’s something that’s really, really special about our school.” Sarah sees evidence of positive social relationships in all of her kids due to PA Cyber. “They got a lot of self-esteem from the school,” she says. “They went from being very shy to being very social. They’ve been around such diversity in all kinds of things, that they can deal with all kinds of people. They can deal with a lot of different situations. Just because they were cyber-schooled doesn’t mean they were sheltered. If anything, it’s kind of the opposite.”
Taking the Step
While cyber schools require a level of self-motivation, that skill can be developed along the way. Morgana points out, “As long as you want to do well academically and you want to be able to progress through your schoolwork and you want to be able to learn, you can do very well in it.” With all three kids achieving membership in the National Honor Society or the National Junior Honor Society while at PA Cyber, Sarah emphasizes that “education is very, very important to us.” Nevertheless, she adds, “We really just wanted them to be able to think for themselves and to be able to be very well-rounded…cultured, worldly kids.” For the Costanzos, the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School was the key to their children’s academic and social success where other schools had failed. “PA Cyber supported us a lot personally when maybe other people in our life didn’t,” Sarah says, “and because they supported us personally as a family, I think our kids succeeded academically.” She encourages families who are looking for a different method of learning for their children to give PA Cyber a try. “Be brave,” Sarah urges. “Take a chance on something different. Take a chance on it…I think you might be pleasantly surprised at the doors that could open if you decided to pursue it.”
This Sponsored Story for the Main Line Parent, Bucks County Parent, and the Philadelphia Family Communities was written by Kristin Walker.
Photography was supplied by the Costanzo Family