Dordt College News

Dordt students gain online teaching experience at Alpha Omega Academy

November 7, 2013

To obtain experience in online education, five students from Dordt College are participating in online student teaching internships this semester at Alpha Omega Academy (AOA), an accredited distance learning school for K-12 students in more than 40 countries.

Dordt students include secondary education and history major Ben Sytsma of Jenison, Michigan; elementary education major Natalie Lock of Sheboygan, Wisconsin; secondary education and English/language arts major Jahn Kuiper of Sioux Center; elementary education major Lindsay Hakes of Milaca, Minnesota; and secondary education and social science major Austin Van Staalduinen of Pantego, North Carolina.

Headquartered in Rock Rapids, Iowa, AOA is a virtual academy that serves as a hybrid between traditional schooling and homeschooling. Now in its third year, the internship program pairs Dordt students with AOA teachers who mentor interns throughout their student teaching experience.

“This internship program has great benefits for both Alpha Omega Academy and the interns,” said Joseph Bakker, the principal of Alpha Omega Academy and a 2007 graduate of Dordt College. “It helps AOA by providing extra resources for students and additional help with curriculum improvement projects. It also allows the interns to learn about Christian distance education.”

Dr. Timothy Van Soelen, associate professor of education at Dordt College, sees the AOA internship as a way to expose his students to a fairly new branch of education.

“Educational delivery systems are changing at a very rapid rate,” Van Soelen said. “The opportunity to participate in a high-quality system like AOA on Dordt’s campus is fantastic.”

When the program began, student teachers commuted to AOA’s office in Rock Rapids. This fall, the interns can gain practical, online teaching experience by working from Dordt’s campus.

Sytsma began interning last March and recently made the transition from working in Rock Rapids to teaching from Dordt.
“Whether you work from campus or in Rock Rapids, this experience will help you grow in your teaching ability and your teaching philosophy,” Sytsma said.

The responsibilities of student teacher interns include teaching online classes, grading coursework, and working directly with students. Sytsma says that fulfilling these roles in an online setting has enhanced his ability to connect with and challenge students through well-planned lessons and stimulating questions.

“Through my teaching at AOA, I have definitely gained confidence, and I have gained classroom management skills, which statistically are the toughest parts of teaching for new teachers,” Sytsma said.

A total of 10 Dordt students have participated as AOA interns since the program began two years ago. Van Soelen said he looks forward to continued collaboration as his students have consistently expressed positive feedback about the internship program.

“I would recommend this experience to all of our education majors,” Van Soelen said. “We don’t know how or where God is going to use their gifts of teaching. This experience opens up another avenue for students to explore.”

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