Check out stories from our students and teachers and read about their recent achievements.
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Sydney Johnson, a parent, shared her family’s experience with Vista Virtual School (VVS) in an interview with us on June 23. Her son and daughter began attending VVS a few years ago when her son was in grade 7 and her daughter was in grade 9.
Their journey with VVS began when Sydney began researching home-schooling options for her son. After calling various online schools, she connected with our associate principal, Treena Bradbury, who listened to her concerns as a parent, provided solutions, and made her feel comfortable. Around this same time, the pandemic began to take hold, so Sydney and her husband decided to enroll their daughter with VVS as well. They were pleased that VVS was an established online learning school and did not have to work out kinks for online learning as brick-and-mortar schools did during the pandemic.
Sydney was impressed with the support that VVS staff provided to her children with medical conditions. She found that our teachers were always willing to help them achieve their goals. Ms. Johnson wanted to highlight many of the staff who made a difference in her children’s education, including, Mr. Frechette, Ms. Blagdon, Mr. Pethybridge, Ms. Miller, Mr. Brobrosky, and Ms. Klemmer. These teachers understood that Sydney’s children could succeed, but they had to do so in a way that fit their needs. Sydney wanted to give a special shoutout to Ms. Watchel, who implemented oral testing for her daughter after one discussion. With oral testing, her daughter’s exam mark increased substantially from her initial writing of the exam. Sydney’s daughter gained confidence and has achieved marks ranging from the 70s to 90s in her courses ever since.
Sydney’s children were able to smoothly adapt to online learning. They appreciated the flexibility in pace and also the course timeline to follow so they were not left to flounder. A secret to their success is that they would often create a calendar for the month to ensure they followed their course deadlines.
We thank Sydney for her kind words and are elated at the success her children have had with us.
Noor Shaheen is a curious and self-motivated learner who is currently enrolled at Vista Virtual School as a non-primary student. She has a keen interest in various fields of biology, such as physiology and anatomy. In response to the pandemic, Noor opted for a blended learning program, which allowed her to take some classes online at Vista Virtual School and some in-person at her high school. Besides her academic pursuits, Noor is actively involved in extracurricular activities, volunteering, and spending quality time with loved ones. Her passion for building relationships and contributing to the well-being of those around her is a testament to her character. Noor values the importance of being open-minded, curious, and always learning.
Continue reading for Noor’s full interview where she shares her recent acceptance into medical school, her experience balancing her studies and personal life, and her love for the sciences!
What inspired you to pursue a career in medicine? Have you thought about what field of medicine you might want to specialize in?
I’ve always been fascinated by the human body and the intricate systems that make it work, especially the science behind illness and disease. In my case, seeing my grandmother go through her cancer journey made me aware of the importance of compassionate and comprehensive medical care. The medical care that my grandmother received resulted in a T10 vertebrae thoracic spinal cord injury which left her paralyzed from the waist down. To me, this experience highlighted the critical role that doctors play in advocating for their patients and ensuring that they receive the best possible treatment options and support. This curiosity and my desire to advocate for future patients like my grandmother have inspired me to pursue a career in medicine.
While I haven’t decided on a specific field yet, I’m interested in so many different medical specialties! A recent shadowing experience has piqued my interest in Ophthalmology.
What are you most excited about in starting medical school?
Meeting new friends and living far from home! I’m excited to be able to explore on my own and create new memories and experiences in a new environment.
Are you involved in any extracurricular activities?
Yes! I am involved in a few different leadership clubs and volunteering positions at various healthcare facilities.
How do you balance school and personal life? What would be your advice to other students looking to do the same?
One thing that helped me balance school and personal life was doing a blended learning program and always taking summer school. I highly recommend summer school for people who like to speed through difficult classes to “get it over with”. Working hard during my high school summers allowed me to have multiple spares during my grade 11 and 12 years, which helped me balance school and personal life during the semester. Doing a blended learning program was also helpful because I was able to complete assignments anywhere, anytime, and work through my course at my own pace.
How did you hear about Vista Virtual School? Why did you decide on online learning?
I heard about Vista Virtual in Grade 10 from my guidance counsellor who recommended I complete the course CALM online. After completing CALM, I loved the flexibility of online learning so I decided to do a blended program for grades 11 and 12.
Do you have any tips or advice for students to be successful in online learning?
Time management skills! You are responsible for keeping yourself on track in the course, and because it’s online, it’s extremely easy to fall behind. It is not fun having to cram months of content into the last two weeks before the course deadline. Also, ask for help! Like many students, I was under the impression that online learning meant teaching myself, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. Your teacher is available to help you through difficult concepts and answer your questions, so make sure you are emailing/calling when you get stuck.
Are you happy with the course selection at Vista Virtual School? What other courses would you like to see?
As a non-primary student, I was very happy with the course selection at VVS. They offer a wide range of core subjects and electives, allowing students to explore their interests.
Are you happy with the course structure/format at Vista Virtual School?
Yes! I was quite impressed with the course structure at VVS. It’s easy to follow along and there are plenty of resources to guide your success. For example, Chemistry 20 included 5 units, and each unit was divided into 2-4 smaller sections. Each section was then broken down into multiple individual lessons which consisted of a variety of learning resources such as written information, teacher videos (explaining a concept, performing an experiment, or solving a question step-by-step), realistic online lab simulations, practice questions to prepare you for the assignments and exams, with in-depth, step-by-step, typed solutions, at-home experiments you can try on your own, resources that relate the topic to real-life examples (for example, online articles about current events) etc!
What has been your favourite course at Vista Virtual School?
My favourite courses at VVS were Chemistry 20 and Physics 20.
Why would you recommend Vista Virtual School to others?
Overall, I personally found learning through VVS to be engaging and fun because it wasn’t repetitive. Many students think that online learning only consists of reading your textbook and clicking through slides, but VVS provided me with multiple ways to learn and engage with the content being taught, similar to that of an in-person classroom setting. The course was also extremely flexible in terms of working at your own pace and submitting assignments and exams at any time even if it’s outside of school hours. This meant that I could work ahead in my course or even finish it early which freed up time in my schedule to focus on other things. Most of my teachers at VVS were very friendly and eager to support me as a student.
We wish Noor continued success in her future and are proud of her amazing accomplishments!
Spur Cottingham is an accomplished high school student who is passionate about rodeo. Currently in grade 11 at Vista Virtual School, Spur resides in Onoway, AB, and competes in Bareback Riding, Tie Down Roping, and Team Roping. Despite his young age, Spur has already qualified twice for the National High School Finals Rodeo, finishing 21st in the world in 2022.
We sent him some questions to answer to learn more about his experience as a rodeo competitor, and how he manages to balance this with his academic pursuits.
1. Tell us about yourself
2. How did you get started participating in rodeos?
I started my bareback career when I was about 11 years old, at first, I wanted to ride bulls. I didn’t start riding bulls right away though, I started riding bucking ponies first to get the feel of rodeo. After my first time getting on and… falling off… I was hooked, I wanted to continue to ride and always looked forward to the next time I was able to get back on. After a while, I started riding a couple of bulls here and there, but I found myself liking the ponies more, so I stuck with it. Years went by and I went from the ponies up to horses. I joined the AHSRA and started my roping career. I started Team Roping for a year then started Tie Down Roping.
3. Are you involved in other extracurricular activities?
Other activities I am involved in are,
· I am currently working for a horse trainer out of Onoway.
· I do quite a bit of mechanical work on not only my vehicle, but also my parents.
· Also, I continue to ride my horses, whether it’s doing obstacle races or just keeping them fit and healthy.
4. How do you balance school work and participating in rodeos?
I am fortunate enough that most of my rodeos are Saturday and Sunday which gives me the opportunity to do school Monday through Friday. I also keep a physical calendar in front of myself so I can plan out my day, and the next few days, to keep me on top of my school but still have time for other activities like riding horses, or training for my rodeo events. Another thing I have found to help me is speaking to the Academic Counsellors, as they were always understanding and found ways for me to continue doing what I love but also keep up with my schooling.
5. Are you happy with the course selection at Vista Virtual School? What other courses would you like to see?
Throughout the years of being part of Vista Virtual School, I have been very happy with the course selection. A course I feel would be good to include and feel it would get some attention would be an Advanced Animal Husbandry course, especially for animal lovers or people who are thinking of taking similar courses in post-secondary.
6. What is your favourite course you have taken (or are currently taking) at Vista Virtual School?
There have been many courses that I have taken that I have really enjoyed, and maybe there were some I didn’t enjoy as much, but my favorite course I have taken has to be Biology. I surprised myself when I came to realize how much I enjoyed learning how plant and animal lives work. I enjoyed Biology 20 so much that I am more than excited to start Biology 30 next year.
7. What advice do you have for other students trying to balance school and extracurricular activities?
Some advice to someone who is trying to balance school and other activities that I could give would probably be to plan ahead. Plan how you want to see your day go, maybe you’ll wake up early and do school till lunch, then go participate in extracurricular activities. Or you could even plan days for yourself, like on Monday I am going to do my schoolwork until supper and take a break for lunch, then Tuesday I am going to maybe do a little school in the morning then go have some fun with other activities. One tool that I found to be super helpful in planning my days has been having a calendar, and not one that is just on your phone or your computer, but one that will be in front of you, one that you can look at in the morning and say to yourself, “Ok, this is what has to get done for me to do this”. This is also why I enjoy being part of Vista Virtual School, your time is flexible too and as long as you are in good standing with school and getting things done effectively; Then you can go do all these fun activities with your friends and family.
8. What are your goals for the future?
I have been making goals continuously since I started rodeo. My future goals are to,
· Qualify for the National High School Finals Rodeo, held in Gillette, Wyoming, in Bareback Riding this year.
· Make provincial finals in either Team Roping or Tie Down Roping.
· Get a scholarship to a college or university in the United States or Canada.
9. Why would you recommend Vista Virtual School to others?
Introducing VVS alumni Murray Huck! Murray graduated from Vista Virtual School in 2016. During his time with us, he enjoyed the flexible environment, fair deadlines, and constant support from his teachers, which allowed him to successfully balance his educational requirements and sports schedule as a high-performing athlete.
Murray notes that balancing school and sports also requires a lot of self-discipline, diligence, time-management skills and a strong work ethic. One thing that kept Murray so driven was setting a goal for himself to obtain an athletic scholarship and a degree from a post-secondary school. Working towards this goal allowed Murray to reach his highest potential in his education and athletics.
He has since graduated from Brock University with a media and communications degree while being the captain and MVP of the Brock University squash team in his last two years. He now works for Bell Media as a sales representative.
We are so proud of Murray and all he has achieved during his time with and since graduating from Vista Virtual School!
“Without the assistance and support from Vista Virtual, I wouldn’t have received the opportunity I did to attend University on an athletic scholarship and reach my ultimate goal of graduating both High School and receiving a University degree. I’m very thankful for the time and education from Vista Virtual, and I highly recommend it to any future High School students.”
– Murray Huck
Shandelle is a 15 year old VVS student. She is an inspiration to many students as she juggles schoolwork and the firewood business that she has been running with her mother since she was 7 or 8 years old!
Shandelle’s words of wisdom for other students looking to juggle school with their own businesses are to try to always stay ahead in their courses. She also encourages students to take that jump out of their comfort zone to pursue their dreams!
Interview with Shandelle:
1. Tell us a bit about yourself
My name is Shandelle and I am 15 years old.
I have always been taught that if you want something; you have to work for it. I am pretty stubborn, straightforward, independent, and most of the time, I say what’s on my mind. This is how I was taught to be growing up and even now.
2. When did you start your firewood business? How did it start?
My mother started the firewood business for me when I was 7 or 8 (we had a wood burning fireplace so we needed the wood anyways), it started with just the local gas station and campground in Irricana.
As I got older and knew how to run everything we moved out to Acme. When we got to the campground in Acme, there were a lot of customers that found our ad on Facebook, plus the locals that knew me and my mom as the, “firewood ladies”, helped spread the word.
3. How do you balance your firewood business and school?
Balancing the firewood business and school used to be a lot harder, I used to have to go all the way out to Sundre 3-5 times over the weekend depending on how busy I’d get. Now, we get a semi load in from Sundre which saves me time on the weekend and on truck repair costs.
The biggest thing that helps me balance everything with school is I try to get ahead and stay that way so I am not as worried about falling behind or not finishing my semesters.
4. Are you happy with the course selection offered at VVS?
The courses that VVS offers are exactly what I’m looking for with work experience, green certificates, agriculture courses and all the main ones I take. I have no complaints.
5. Do you have any tips or advice for other students out there who want to start a business?
Starting your own business isn’t easy and requires a lot of patience, work and time. I can say that what I do definitely requires some help but, I work my own hours and I work for myself which is a lovely thing to be able to say.
If anyone has something they want to pursue, I’d say take the jump because you won’t get there by staying in your comfort zone.
6. Why would you recommend VVS to others?
VVS is a great school if you don’t like sitting in a classroom for 8ish hours a day, 5 days a week. You can finish school a month early if you want as there is lots of flexibility in hours for doing your school work and I personally find it a lot less stressful. Plus, the teachers are always there if you need them.
Crystal is a married mom of 3 (ages 18, 16, and 12) that works full time and has been out of high school for 20 years. She completed the GED and was issued the Alberta Equivalency Diploma when she moved away from home when she was 16 years old. She ended up with 87 credits and didn’t have the option to fill in the remaining.
Her journey with Vista Virtual started when she was upgrading Social and Biology so that she could apply to Grant MacEwan in Edmonton. Once she completed those courses, she took Forensics 25 and Forensics 35 to fill all the requirements for her Alberta High School Diploma!
Interview with Crystal:
1.Why did you choose VVS for upgrading? How did you find out about us?
I found out about Vista Virtual School when I was researching University programs that I was interested in taking. I completed my core courses and GED in 2002, so of course I had to do some upgrading! When talking with an advisor at MacEwan University, it was then suggested to me that I should complete my upgrading through Vista Virtual School as they highly recommended VVS.
2. How did VVS help you with your educational goals?
Through the help of Vista Virtual School, I was able to successfully complete my upgrading (Social 30-2, Biology 30, Forensic Studies 25 & 35) within 5 months. I was also able to fill in the 13 credits that I was missing to be awarded my Alberta High School diploma. So, not only did I get to complete my upgrading, I was also able to get rid of the Alberta Equivalency Diploma and gain the Alberta High School diploma after 20 years!
3. Any advice for other students upgrading?
My advice is to find your reason and never give up! I can’t tell you how many times when things got hard or I started to doubt myself that I wanted to quit, and run in the other direction. It was tough and a lot of work, but I just kept pushing through. I remember working through Biology 30, I would tell my Husband, “if I don’t pass this test, I’m out, it’s obviously out of my capabilities”, or “it’s too hard and I don’t understand”. Well, I can tell you when that mark came in, I was always surprised, like how did that even happen?! You are more capable than you could ever imagine, so just keep going and you will continually amaze yourself!
4. How did you manage your time when upgrading?
Managing my time while upgrading was a bit challenging at first, as I work full time and I am also a Mom to 3 children – ages 18, 16, and 12. I enrolled in Social 30-2 and Biology 30 at the same time, so each day I had an assignment or test to complete. I worked on school in the evening and weekends and made sure that I was ahead on deadlines (some days things were a bit hairier than others). My assignments usually worked out perfectly as I was pretty much rotating between the two courses without falling behind. I did sacrifice some free time, but I really enjoyed the challenge and learning something new each day!
5. Are you happy with the courses offered at VVS?
I’m extremely happy with the courses that are offered at Vista Virtual School. There’s a wide variety to choose from, but I especially enjoyed Forensic Studies!
6. Why would you recommend VVS to others?
I would recommend VVS to other individuals as the teachers are supportive and approachable when you have any questions big or small, there’s a variety of courses to take, course materials are very detailed and thorough, the deadlines are easily managed, and the tuition is reasonably priced.
Former VVS grade 12 student Tate McRae is reaching for the stars!
Congratulations to Sarah G. for being selected as a Third Prize Winner in Polar Expressions Publishing’s 2019/2020 National Student Poetry Contest!
Congratulations VVS grade 12 student Maria A. on winning the Kermet Archibald & Jacob Van den Brink Entrance Bursary!
Finn, Nico and Milo are part of the Colebrook 5, exploring the world while learning through home education and Vista Virtual School. Check out the family’s blog at https://www.bigbluedot.xyz/.
The McFerrin family took an epic year-long cycling trip across 18 countries, all while continuing with their education with Vista Virtual School: Globetrotting Calgarians Back Home After Pedalling Their Way Through 18 Countries in 12 Months.
The family also took year-long trips through Mexico and Japan, and are not done yet.
As a former student with Vista Virtual School (VVS), Sakariye Mohamed is using the skills he learned with VVS as he pursues a science degree at the University of Calgary. In addition to this, he’s part of Let’s Talk Science, a national program aimed at engaging students (children and youth) and educators in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Locally with the University of Calgary, Sakariye volunteers his time to help educate students across the region.
“Vista Virtual School prepared me for my post-secondary career (I’m in my second year right now),” says Sakariye. “I took all three sciences with the school and it gave me the opportunity to explore my options.
“I was able to talk with our academic counsellors and the other teachers, and they helped me learn what I might be interested in based on how I was doing and from the classes I liked and was interested in.”
And he uses those skills to help when he presents to students interested in learning more about science.
“Let’s Talk Science helps expose students to the things that they really don’t see.”
Working with DNA, he was able to present challenging concepts and hands-on experiments to current VVS students through the Let’s Talk Science program.
Prepared for University
“Going to university was a shift,” he says. “I was well-prepared to engage in independent learning, and the kind of lifestyle of what I needed to do to stay on top of things.
“Because it (learning through VVS) goes more into an independent study than in a conventional classroom, it is more about me and how I can better study. (For example, one of my classes has over 400 students right now and you are not really studying with 400 students.)”
How to Study
It is those study skills that have helped in his learning at the University of Calgary.
“Vista Virtual helped me, in that it gave me the sense of what works for me in terms of studying and what doesn’t. And that helped me transcend into what is this next chapter in my life.”