by Amy Haggerty
Not every student is academically inclined, and since 1994, Stockbridge Community Schools has provided students different pathways to complete their graduation requirements. The new Stockbridge Community Virtual School, reborn of the former Alternative Education program, helps academically challenged students obtain the high school credits necessary to earn their high school diplomas. Leading the team are two devoted teachers, Cheryl Walsh and Nancy Wisman.
“Our program is supported by all of our staff and our remarkable virtual coordinators, Cheryl Walsh and Nancy Wisman,” Jeff Trapp, High School Principal and administrator of the program, said. “We are fortunate to have this opportunity for our students right here at our building.”
Located just behind the office and across from the media center at the Junior/Senior High School, SCVS offers all its classes online through the Michigan Virtual High School Program.
Cheryl Walsh has been a classroom teacher for SCSchools for 24 years, and Nancy Wisman has mentored students in the program for four years.
For classroom help, the current 20-plus students enrolled in SVCS, may attend classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. On average, five or six students complete the program each year and receive high school diplomas.
Students fall behind in credits due to many reasons. Many hold down a job and have adult responsibilities that don’t allow time to attend traditional classrooms every day. This program, available at no charge, offers students the opportunity to take care of personal needs while completing classes during their free time.
“It’s been a privilege to work with Cheryl,” Wisman said. “I began substitute teaching for her almost 20 years ago. We’ve seen many success stories, and other students who just couldn’t prevail.” She and Walsh encourage students to obtain their high school diploma, she said, and remind them of its long-term importance for securing employment. “Cheryl and I take a personal interest in all of our students and are very proud of their success stories,” Wisman added.
Walsh, the first teacher along with administrator Jane Clarke, developed the original curriculum to meet school district and state graduation requirements. The program was housed at the old middle school building and limited to a small class size, so the students had more personal attention. Over the years as technology developed, the program came to include computer classes contracted through Michigan Virtual.
Today, the classroom is open, allowing students to drop in for personalized assistance when they face challenges and would like a helping hand. Students must also take exams with an instructor present at the end of each course.
Helping students graduate who might otherwise have dropped out of school or fallen through the cracks is what Walsh considers her greatest accomplishment as a teacher.
“I love the small community and family feeling of the staff,” she said. “I have always felt supported by my peers and administration.”
Her advice to her students? “Put in the hard work to finish your classes and graduate. School is an accomplishment, not a gift!”