Agora Architects: Part 2

April 1, 2024 10:25 am


Celebrating the people whose legacy spans our history and continue to define our future.


We’re proud to continue to recognize and share the inspiration of Agora’s architects. In Part 2 of our series, we celebrate Judy Deemer, high school special education teacher and Liz McEwen, instructional coach. They proudly welcome you into their lives and share their stories.


“At Agora I can really connect with special education students who had so much trouble in brick-and-mortar school. I don’t feel I have any limitations here and can reach them in ways I wouldn’t be able to if I returned to traditional school. Making personal connections is what it’s all about.”



Judy was a teacher who had a great love for teaching and also wanted to be the best mom she could be to her three daughters who were all under the age of five, so she decided to teach from home so that she could balance both responsibilities. Judy learned about Agora when a neighbor who worked there took her to an event called Agora Days Out. At the event, Judy met Karol Canfield, head of special education, who asked if she would be interested in a position. Judy was interested, and she became one of Agora’s first three special education teachers. Even today, she is very proud of this achievement.


“What has inspired you to stay with Agora for such a long time?”

Initially, I appreciated the flexibility that Agora provided, as it allowed me to balance my roles as a wife, mother, and teacher. This aspect of the job has remained a constant source of satisfaction for me. However, over time, I have discovered that I have become more than just a teacher to the students I work with. Agora has given me the resources and support to form genuine connections with students who may have experienced difficulties in their previous schools, such as bullying or learning difficulties. At Agora, there are no limitations to how I can help my students, and I am able to reach them in meaningful and effective ways. If I were to return to a traditional brick-and-mortar school, I would not be able to provide the same level of support and assistance to my students as I can at Agora.


“What is your daily philosophy as an Agora architect?”

At Agora, we have put a lot of effort into designing our system so that each person can perform their job to the best of their abilities. It’s been amazing to witness the growth of our school and our staff. Every day, I strive to maintain connections and provide support to both my students and colleagues, helping us all to continue to grow.


What do you consider a notable growth point for Agora over the years?

In the early days, teachers like myself had to carry a lot more responsibility, and I even had to do home visits. However, today, the administration ensures that we have all the necessary support to teach effectively. This has allowed us to focus on delivering quality education to our students. Moreover, there are many opportunities for staff to grow and develop their professional skills. It’s inspiring to see individuals like Rich Jensen, who have evolved from being a teacher to becoming the CEO, changing roles and leading the way for others to follow suit. This speaks volumes to Agora’s commitment to investing in its people and creating a culture of growth and development.


What do you feel makes Agora stand out?

The protocols we have in place to connect, then stay connected, with students and parents from the very start. From the moment a child is enrolled they connect with a family coach, main advisory teacher and more. This support system stays with the child during their entire time with us. Making that immediate and lasting personal connection is what our difference is all about.


Do you have an #agoradifference story about impacting the lives of students?

“I have many #agoradifference stories about how I impacted the lives of my students, but one that stands out is about Collin. A student of mine for five years, he graduated two years ago and was honored with the Karol Canfield award which meant he had to give a speech at graduation. Because Collin was a student with autism, he was very scared and asked me to join him on stage to give him courage. On the day of graduation, I met him in person for the first time and stood on stage with him. It was such a magical moment, and many of my former students and I still stay in touch.



“We meet students where they are in all sorts of situations: students with disabilities, kids with stage careers, athletes and more. We can accommodate for so much and have a way of being able to provide whatever is needed. It’s a fun environment – and exciting that we can offer such a great opportunity for so many.”



Liz tells us that her decision to come on board with Agora eighteen years ago turned out to be “a real blessing.” While she loved being home and the flexibility and other benefits it offered, what really “sealed the deal” for her was discovering she was among a group of experts in a method of teaching that was impactful and sustainable. Through the years she’s seen other schools try to replicate Agora’s model, but there’s nothing quite like Agora. Along with this, she’s seen a growing respect for what the Agora team does.


What has inspired you to stay with Agora for such a long time?

Agora has consistently provided me with opportunities for myself personally and professionally—and most importantly, opportunities to help children who need a variety of supports. Moreover, the support system in place at Agora is tailored to validate the entire Agora family – students, families, staff – and anyone who is associated with us in our quest to serve our students.


What is your day-to-day philosophy as an Agora architect?

I remember how much the team here at Agora has learned over the years and how many challenges we have successfully addressed. Every day may bring new conundrums to be solved, but together we learn and grow from them.


What major areas of growth have you experienced from Agora over the years?

Early on, home visits revealed to us the incredible diversity amongst our families – some of whom were dealing with unimaginable challenges. These discoveries inspired the family coach position which enhances our school’s ability to meet the individualized needs of all families. Family coaches make connections that have made an incredible difference in building relationships. Families feel seen, heard, and supported.


What do you feel makes Agora stand out?

We’re way ahead of other cyber schools when it comes to synchronous learning – and we keep refining it.   While many others offer asynchronous learning as a flexibility benefit that caters to every schedule (and we do that also in special circumstances), the great benefit of synchronous instruction is that students can receive feedback from their teachers in real-time. For some students, this live feedback is critical, but it has also been proven to greatly accelerate achievement for all students.


Do you have an #agoradifference story about impacting the lives of students?

I remember fondly when I was a reading specialist and had the privilege of working with a new 8th grade student who had significant reading struggles. From the moment she arrived at Agora, she applied herself to learning, never missed a class, and started to make real progress. This young lady, who came in four years behind grade level in reading, made such gains that she managed to graduate on time with her grade cohort, and received several college offers; she even made the newspapers in her local area! Our model combined with her hard work and strong parental support proved to be a recipe for success. We were all so proud of her! This was a clear example of what a student can accomplish with the right support – and a superb school program.


Be sure to enjoy parts one and soon-to-be three in our Get to Know Your Agora Architects series, featuring five more Agora legacy staff members!