Bullied student finds solace in online learning

One of the reason Angel Chapman enjoys learning at home is getting to spend time with her little sister. Photo provided.
One of the reasons Angel Chapman enjoys learning at home is getting to spend time with her little sister. Photo provided.

As a sixth-grader, Oxford student Angel Chapman dreaded going to school.
She had a few teachers she enjoyed, but she spent much of her day being bullied by peers when she could have been learning.
School counselors recommended she seek mental health treatment, but Angel and her mother, Shannon Chapman, knew there had to be a better solution.
Angel consulted her favorite teacher about what was going on and how it was harming her mental and emotional health.
That teacher suggested Angel try online schooling as an alternative to physically attending public school. So, Angel enrolled in Great Lakes Cyber Academy and never looked back.
“It’s a really good experience,” she said. “I really like that we get to go on field trips too, they’re a lot of fun.”
Aside from being away from a less-than-healthy environment, Angel also enjoys her teachers and how much one-on-one attention she gets throughout the day, especially when it comes to learning things she doesn’t understand. Her favorite class is language arts because her teacher is laid back, teaches well and enjoys Taco Bell as much as she does.
“I really like how caring all of the teachers are and that they’re really there for the kids if they need anything,” Angel said.
Angel’s mother, Shannon, also enjoys how attentive the teachers are. Shannon said while she might struggle with a subject like math and cannot help Angel when she needs it, a teacher is available throughout the day to help Angel learn at her own pace.
Great Lakes Cyber Academy Superintendent Heather Ballien said her teachers enjoy being able to work directly with a single student instead of having to focus on a classroom full of students who all have different learning needs.
“We’re not tied to a time limit, and those can make it difficult to focus on individual needs or individual interests,” Ballien said. “That level of help can be a difference-maker.”
Ballien said Great Lakes Cyber Academy has students come its way for a variety of reasons, but one of the most popular reasons is being in an unhealthy classroom environment, whether it’s created by teachers or other students.
Angel had four friends who died of suicide and another friend who self-harmed.
With depression and suicide among young people seeming to be on the rise without any sign of slowing down, schooling at home through an online platform has become a refuge for students in Angel’s situation.
“Our public school system in general, not just any one school, has a bit of an issue with making all students feel included and welcome,” Ballien said.
“I think that doesn’t speak well for our future as a society. So, I’m happy to be able to provide an alternative kind of environment where students (feel) included, welcome and they are free from that kind of negative treatment.”
But aside from the mental and emotional health improvements Shannon has seen in her daughter, she also enjoys having Angel around during the day to help out if needed. Shannon recently gave birth to her youngest daughter, Liliana, so having an extra hand during the day has been a pleasantly surprising benefit for their family.
“The flexibility of (online schooling) is great to me because I can take a little time off when I need it,” Angel said. “If my sister is crying and my mom is trying to take a nap, I can just tell my teacher, ‘Hey, I need to go help my sister, I’ll be right back,’ and it’s totally fine.”
Ballien added that many of her students enjoy the possibility of stepping away from their work for a few minutes to help around the house and that, in some instances, it can save a student from the learning they would have missed out on if they were called to the office in a public school.
Though Angel and Shannon agree that online schooling may not be the best option for every student, they say it’s worth considering if a family is dealing with a bullying situation or is in need of some extra help at home.
“It definitely depends on the situation and how the child learns,” Shannon said. “It benefited Angel because I’m home during the day, so I can be around while she’s doing school (work). If a parent is working all the time, I think that might be more frustrating for the student. It just depends.”

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