Agora Architects: Part 3

May 13, 2024 10:38 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 our third and final story in our series, we invite you to learn more about Denise Curry, instructional coach, Kathryn (Katey) Puskar and Carol Bryan, elementary school teachers. They proudly welcome you into their lives and share their stories.

 

“It has been an incredible journey to witness the growth of Agora from the very start. To know I was a part of the journey provides me with so much pride. It’s been an amazing eighteen years.”

DENISE CURRY—INSTRUCTIONAL COACH

 

An educator at heart, Denise was on maternity leave when the cyber learning model was introduced to the world of education. Denise “got the bug” to find a way to return to teaching while adjusting to being a new mother of 3.  In 2006, she joined the Agora team as a kindergarten teacher. Eighteen years later she remains with Agora as a member of the Leadership Team, serving as an instructional coach. She is an integral part of where we’ve been, how we’ve progressed, and how we will grow for generations to come.

 

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

I stay because I have found a home with the Agora family, and I have had the privilege of witnessing and being a part of the growth over the last eighteen years. I’m so proud of my own journey, and it’s been incredible to observe our origins and our evolution. I look forward to experiencing our future!

 

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

My goal is to support the teachers in creating a learning environment where the students are actively engaged and learning in a virtual classroom. I want to see growth in all our students!

 

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

At Agora, we are bringing our live, engaging lessons to our students’ homes. Our students are challenged every single day. When I first started with Agora, I was teaching via the telephone. I would call our students to assess how they are doing. That eventually evolved to virtual platforms where teaching at Agora is like teaching in a brick-and-mortar school. Our students are engaged with their teachers, classmates, and content, and they are challenged with higher level questions. Our students are learning, and it is all due to the growth that Agora has made over the years, providing them with a strong educational foundation.

 

What do you feel makes Agora stand out?

The strong support system that Agora has in place for both the staff and students. An example of this support is my current position as an instructional coach. I have the honor of providing an additional level of support to our teachers every day. We continue to work together at all levels to discover the best ways for our students to learn and grow.

 

Do you have an #agoradifference story about impacting new students?

During my first-year teaching at Agora, I found myself reflecting on how I could make the largest impact on my students in this new academic environment. I worked to find creative ways to educate all my students, but I would often ask myself if I was really having an impact. One story from that first academic year was a true validation of this new way of learning and of my own efforts. I had a kindergarten student who started in September, and he was not able to identify his letters. We met daily over the phone and practiced letters and sounds, and then by November of that same year, he was so excited to share a book with me that he was able to read on his own!  The one-on-one attention that the student received had certainly made an impact and validated all of our efforts. I remained in touch with him throughout the years, and I was so proud when I witnessed him graduate from Agora!!

 

 

“I have a math student who is so excited to share with me every time he earns a reward. It’s the seemingly little things over the years that show how we’re connecting and making a difference.”

KATHRYN PUSKAR—ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHER

 

A northeastern PA resident, Katey jumped on the cyber charter school bandwagon early, spending two years teaching at one of Pennsylvania’s other cyber charter schools before helping to launch Agora. With virtual experience already in hand, Katey brought her learnings to Agora and never looked back. Katey found it inspiring to be part of a revolutionary new educational model that very few people knew about, and she is proud to be a part of the growth and success that Agora has witnessed over the years.

 

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

Every one of those inspiring moments when I experience a child overcoming bullying or health issues that couldn’t be addressed in a brick-and-mortar school. When you see Agora as a perfect fit for a student, that is my “inspiration moment” and why I stay. Agora is not perfect for every child, family, or even teacher. But everyone should have the opportunity to find what is right for them and experience it. Agora allows for this.

 

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

To simply stay connected. With students, parents, coworkers. This is how we make it all work at Agora!

 

In what way has Agora grown over the years that is especially important to?

Compared to when we started, Agora offers a totally different environment and learning model. We started out with parents being the instructors and Agora staff doing, basically check-ins. We even utilized worksheets sent through “snail mail!” Now, we provide a full classroom setting with teachers doing the teaching—things happen in real time.

 

What do you feel makes Agora stand out?

Teachers and our involvement. I don’t think there’s any other cyber charter school quite like Agora in these aspects. We are so very heavily involved in the day-to-day with our students—the connections and engagement make all the difference.

 

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

It’s the everyday moments. I had a special education student this year join within the first few weeks. Her parents said she was so quiet in her old school, but she was the exact opposite with us and volunteers to do everything. She’s just so much more comfortable in our setting that she engages every day and is a totally different student from her brick-and-mortar experience. I have a math student who is so proud that every time he earns a reward he wants to tell me about it. It’s the little things over the years that show how we’re connecting and making a difference.

 

“We forged a whole new path for students at a time when it wasn’t even thought of. Back then we saw an opportunity to start something innovative in education. To this day, Agora has still has what it takes to be that ‘new education’ that leads kids into the whole new direction they need to have success in the real world.”

CAROL BRYAN—ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHER

 

After teaching for ten years in the School District of Philadelphia, Carol moved outside of the city where she met a neighbor whose child was enrolled at a cyber charter school. When Carol learned Agora was in need of teachers, she was intrigued by the idea of a cyber school, especially because her old school had very few computers in their classrooms. She was interested in seeing how the concept evolved, and excited to be part of an educational model that had no geographical boundaries.

 

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

In the beginning I stayed because I wanted to see this new concept through—at first, I wasn’t even sure it was real. But we all believed it could work and had the desire to make it happen. My reason for staying has evolved with Agora. I see myself playing a part in making sure this option remains for students who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to get a quality education.

 

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

When I first heard about Agora, I was drawn to the idea of no zip codes—no boundaries to a child receiving an education and equality in educational excellence from child to child. I am dedicated to helping make sure those boundaries never come into play at Agora, and that each student receives the same level of education regardless of where they live.

 

In what way has Agora grown over the years that is especially important to?

We started out serving a good number of homeschool families. Through time we evolved that educational model to something wholly unique from homeschooling and more instructional than we had been. Now we provide for families looking for an alternative to brick-and-mortar with a truly innovative educational model.

 

What do you feel makes Agora stand out?

Because we’ve been around for nearly two decades, we’ve had time to perfect our educational model. And, year after year, we put what we learn into play to improve on that model. We are always willing to make the changes necessary for the evolving needs and technology of today—and we have the resources and knowledge to adapt to the needs of our students and families.

 

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

The sheer number of students we impact is so great, there are many stories! One that always stands out for me is that of a third-grade special education student of mine who was afraid to let me see him on camera—so much so that if the camera was on and he saw me, he would hide. But at the end of the year, he went to PSSA testing because he knew I’d be there. Seeing him, and other students like him, overcome his anxiety because we build relationships gives a great feeling of success.