Teaching and Learning Something New Every Day
From the journal of: Camille Arcuri
Position: First-Grade Teacher
Years in the Agora family: Two
Home base: Lower Burrell, PA
For as far back as she can remember, Camille wanted to be a teacher—and as a child, playing school with chalk in hand and a blackboard full of “lessons” topped her list of favorite activities. Camille’s parents, neither of whom had a formal college education, also instilled the work ethic that motivated her to pursue her love of teaching.
“They wanted me to go to school, and there was no debate about it,” said Camille. “But I knew that was what I wanted too. I would work hard, get good grades, go to college and keep on working hard to progress along the journey of teaching that I knew was meant for me.”
With her parents’ influence starting to shape her future early on, Camille found an equally powerful influence as an elementary school student. She was especially inspired by her second- and fifth-grade teachers, who took their craft to a whole new level. These teachers brought their classrooms to life and gave learning all kinds of dimensions beyond what was written in the textbooks lit a spark in Camille as a student—and as a teacher-to-be.
“To this day, bringing new life to my lessons takes priority for me as a teacher. Whether it is reading blogs for new ideas to enliven the classroom for my first graders or collaborating with other teachers at Agora to discover what is working for them and how that can translate into excitement about learning, I am constantly looking for new ways to reach and make an impression on my students.”
The journey to Agora
Camille received her undergraduate and graduate degree in elementary and special education from Clarion University, and she took her first teaching job at the same school where she was a student teacher. After her first year of teaching, she pursued her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction, bringing to fruition another passion she found along her journey—writing curriculum and literacy. Camille taught for 15 years at the brick-and-mortar school she joined right out of college, and she very much felt fulfilled, inspired and “at home” there. In fact, she was fairly sure she’d work there until she retired. Clearly, a force that would change this had to be a significant one, and changing course would require her to make a bold move. These things did, of course, happen and guided Camille’s path to Agora.
The significant influence for Camille was her innate drive to be family centric. As a mother of three with her oldest daughter approaching kindergarten age, Camille realized being a working mom at a brick-and-mortar school would present challenges to her involvement in her children’s lives. As she started to explore cyber school options for her daughter, Camille also started to consider cyber options for herself.
“I considered taking time off to raise our family and oversee their education. But I genuinely love being a teacher too. I discovered cyber school teaching presented me with unique opportunities to do both.”
It was at this point that Camille really leaned on her husband for guidance, whose support and encouragement allowed her to continue down the path of a potential career switch. As she continued to do research, Agora rose higher and higher on Camille’s list. She engaged in several in-depth conversations with the Agora team to help her explore her options and opportunities. Agora staff members were open and personal with Camille, and helped her envision the ways being an Agora teacher would impact her family life. It took courage to leave her school of 15 years and embrace a completely new format as a teacher, but true to everything along her journey, once Camille set her sights on Agora, she stayed the course and never looked back.
“I knew I would end up at Agora. I made the change because I needed more time for my family, and Agora has given me all I wanted and more. I put my kids on the bus every morning and do lunches. I do not miss anything as they develop and grow, and I still get to do what I love—teach. It is amazing.”
Being the difference
In her relatively short time with a cyber charter school, Camille has discovered what Agora offers her in addition to ensuring she maintains her family-centric dedication as a mom. While she respects that there are similarities between Agora’s virtual model and the type of education delivered in a brick-and-mortar school, she also appreciates the ways Agora enhances these shared qualities with resources, benefits and opportunities a traditional school cannot offer. One example Camille will reference is the fact that Agora encourages students, parents and teachers all to be more responsible for their unique roles in the educational process. She also loves the resources Agora provides to communicate anywhere and anytime with parents of her students as well as the opportunity this offers her to form closer relationships with them—benefits she did not have during her 15 years at a brick-and-mortar school. Also on her list is the diversity you’ll find at Agora, both schoolwide and within every classroom.
“Agora classrooms are so diverse, and it is wonderful to have a classroom environment where everyone can share anything they want. Students post their experiences on our blog. Kids can comment on it. The diversity is great and has opened a whole new door to me as well, because I have the opportunity to pass down a robust cultural knowledge to my students as well as my own kids.”
It is clear that Camille dedicates herself to upholding the attributes she defines as the Agora difference. You will see it in her lessons, her classroom teaching and activities, her collaboration with other Agora faculty and her interaction with parents. She is also “being the difference” at Agora by being true to herself and creating an environment full of positivity and excitement.
“Throughout my life, I have learned that surrounding myself with people who build you up is huge. I carry that into the classroom with me. If I am excited to teach, my first graders will be excited to learn. I teach in hopes that students remember me for my smile, my encouragement and that they wanted to come to class.”
There is no question that Camille is remembered and appreciated by her students for her positive energy, the fun activities she integrates into learning and her sincere love of teaching. The consistently high attendance and engagement levels for all her classes prove this!
The next chapter
The next chapter for Camille at Agora is nearly impossible to define. This is because of her belief that there is always something new to discover and bring to the classroom experience, as well as her commitment to unearthing those exciting opportunities constantly. This puts Camille’s activities as a teacher in a continual state of evolution and growth—so there is no telling what lies ahead for her students, their parents, and her fellow teachers and staff at Agora.
“I truly feel Agora is ahead of the curve with cyber learning. It is groundbreaking. Agora has been a gift for me in many ways too. My first graders teach me something new every day. My plan is to be open to learning from them. By doing this, I can help do for others what Agora has done for me—open eyes, expand horizons and have a positive effect on Agora families.”