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Meet a BVA Teacher: Mr. Aragona
Mr. Bryant Aragona, or Mr. A. as his students call him, loves his job. “It’s just a great job. I’m not going to lie,” he says. Mr. A. has been teaching for four years, but this is his first year with the Brandywine Virtual Academy (BVA). He has an undergraduate degree from Widener University and a master’s degree from Neumann University; he always wanted to be a teacher.
For BVA, Mr. Aragona has a wide scope of classes. He teaches U.S. government, American history, World history and World Geography to high school students. The online classroom has the content and assignments built in. Students have their own schedules and can work on the assignments at their own pace. Mr. A. encourages students to contact him with questions as they work through the content. He notes there is a video chat feature in the online classroom, but most students don’t want to see themselves in the chat. “They will gladly see me and make fun of my baldness,” he jokes, “but most students prefer calling on the telephone.” He is very open and receptive with communicating to students in whatever format they prefer.
Many of the questions he fields are about the online environment. Students will ask him, “Mr. A., how do I do this?” He says, “Most of our kids aren’t physically in school. They are at home. If they wake up at 10:00 a.m. and only do an hour’s worth of work a day, they aren’t staying on pace. It’s my job as a teacher to help them get into a positive routine.”
Getting to know students on an individual basis is one of his favorite parts of teaching. “In a classroom of 33 kids, it can be hard to know the quiet ones,” he says. “In the online classroom it’s really one-on-one and you get to know even the shyest of kids.” Mr. Aragona employs the same teaching techniques that he did when he was teaching in a brick and mortar classroom. He breaks things down and helps students make real-life connections to the content by supplementing the online curriculum with games or other interactives. He gives one example from his world geography class: The FIFA World Cup was a big deal among his students, and he used the matches to help teach geography. “It’s about knowing what student interests are. You get to know which students are interested in soccer, art and debate. I try to relate content to that,” he says.
Right now, many of his students are from Philadelphia as part of the Philadelphia Virtual Academy (PVA). Mr. Aragona loves working with those students. “I grew up in Philadelphia. I went to West Philly High School, so I can relate to them,” he says. “The one-on-one interaction online helps ensure students don’t fall through the cracks.”
He explains that for students to be successful, they need to ask a lot of questions. They need to be forward with their issues or problems. For parents, he advises that they must continue to advocate for their children. “All of the teachers here are very supportive of students. We want them to succeed. We’re not here to have them fall behind.” He continues, “I got into this business to make kids succeed. Knowing their interests and helping them to do well and just shine – this is why I’m here.”