Agora Family Coaches: Prepared to Support all Journeys
All of us know, or are, someone for whom a coach has been incredibly influential in bettering, changing and, perhaps even saving, their lives. The word coach embodies a great deal. Friend. Confidante. Mentor. Role model. Educator. Parental figure. Nurturer. Connection to more people, places and resources. A navigator through current challenges. A trusted and experienced support. A champion of dreams. A believer in the person who calls them coach. When Agora first defined the role of its family coaches, it was based on all of these attributes and goals.
When a family enrolls at Agora, the family coach is one of their first connections. From day one the student, family and coach commit to a journey of goals, exploration, and growth that, ultimately, prepares a student to embark on Agora’s academic journey. As an integral part of each family’s Agora team, the coach is regionally assigned to facilitate ongoing communications that last throughout—and often beyond—the student’s entire time at Agora. The rapport a family coach builds with the student and family sets each student up for even greater success.
Embarking on the journey
As a first point of contact, the family coach plays a critical role in assisting in the transition to cyber learning. Because each coach’s approach is customized to the student and family, the transition support can run the gamut—from supporting parents and students about learning in a home environment, to preparing to utilize new technology, to walking the family through a typical day of learning in a virtual classroom.
“We do everything and anything,” said Chris Moser, Lead Family Coach for the Northeast region of Pennsylvania. “We are the face of Agora. We are the ones the families see first, and we help to bridge any gap between the school and families.”
Not only is a family coach the key connection to the family, but they serve as the liaison between every student and the services and features that set Agora apart for its educational excellence. Moreover, family coaches take pride in keeping families on track, even when, for example, there is a family with students in elementary, middle and high school. The coach is an additional layer of support to help keep everything in terms of education and personal support running smoothly. Lastly, family coaches enrich the Agora experience by connecting students outside of the classroom. Coaches organize social events and plan Agora Days Out, offering opportunities for families to meet and experience what their region has to offer.
The Family Coach Network
The family coach network supporting Agora students starts with four Family Coach Coordinators and four Lead Family Coaches: Gina Sczepkowski, Family Coach Coordinator and Chris Moser, Lead Family Coach for the Northeast Region of Pennsylvania; Susan Detwiler, Family Coach Coordinator and Cathy Stabilito, Lead Family Coach for the Southeast Region; Laura Goldman, Family Coach Coordinator and Jeff Bunn, Lead Coach from Philadelphia; and Pam Keth, Family Coordinator and Michelle George, Lead Coach from the West. Together, these eight assist the full team of 83 family coaches across Pennsylvania.
Family coaches provide stability, assistance and many times friendship. Philadelphia-area family coach Michael Reaves has been a coach at Agora for ten years and has seen his relationships with families continue to flourish, especially throughout the pandemic. “I have had some of the same families for a decade and have watched my students grow up,” said Reaves. “Before COVID we’d call families and see how they’re doing while also discussing school. With less in-person travel time it has presented the opportunity to call families ‘just to talk’ and we’ve seen more of a willingness to share on their end. The types and nature of our interactions are even more personal now.”
In fact, Michael recently ran into a student on the street who had just lost their legal guardian. They had a very positive conversation that lasted over an hour, and it ended with the student telling Michael, “I should thank you more often.”
With literacy as a major Agora initiative, Michael offered a monthly reading buddy program which included virtual read aloud sessions. High school students read to younger Agora students from the same geographic area, and everyone involved grew from the experience. Agora Family coaches offer an important sense of stability, and the holistic approach they take has come into even sharper focus throughout the pandemic.
The coaches are also indispensable to the comprehensive support system at Agora that works with hundreds of students each year through Agora’s Student Assistance Program. This system includes guidance counselors, social workers and trauma-trained staff members who work tirelessly to uphold the integrity of Agora’s distinction of being the first cyber charter school to be declared a trauma-informed school.
Tim Kreider, Director of Student Services at Agora, leads the family coach team and oversees a wide variety of different departments. Tim is extremely proud of what Agora offers families and how family coaches build relationships that add value to their experience. “If a family runs into a personal crisis, our student services provide support and are equipped to help remove obstacles to learning,” said Kreider. “We help set up services and work to ensure our students are set up for success, ultimately getting them engaged in their own learning.”
Time and again Agora hears from families whose years-long relationships with their family coach continues to help shape their growth, long after they became Agora graduates.