ST. MARYS — Bryan Householder teaches Spanish to approximately 200 students located all over Ohio at the same time.
He is a teacher for Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) and teaches his students in an online environment.
After completing his master’s degree online, Householder, a St. Marys resident, said he was intrigued by teaching online classes because of his interests in teaching, Spanish and web design.
“As I was looking into it, I found Ohio has numerous online high schools, so I sent my resume out to each one,” Householder said. “I thought it would be fun for me. It kind of combined all three of my interests into one.”
Householder was hired as a middle school Spanish teacher for ECOT. The school, now in its 11th year, has more than 11,000 students enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade. When he was hired, Householder was assigned to a teacher mentor.
“Her job was to help me with the new technology and understand how everything was working,” Householder said.
Students enrolled at ECOT are recommended to spend 25 hours per week doing schoolwork. Despite a common misconception, Householder said that students taking online classes are required to do a lot of work.
“The students I work with work just as hard as kids that go to the brick and mortar,” Householder said.
They work on assignments and do lessons online and can also attend an Illuminate lesson, which gives students a classroom-like experience.
“The students come in twice per week through a program called Illuminate,” Householder said. “It’s kind of like our online classroom. They can talk on a microphone and they can hear me talking. It’s really interactive. They can flash emoticons. If they have a question, they can type it.”
To students learning Spanish, the online platform can be beneficial when learning how to pronounce words.
“When they’re not in the classroom, they have audio files that they can listen to as many times as they need,” Householder said.
Householder said if students need additional help, they can call him and he will go over the problems over the phone or by going into Illuminate and working through the lesson again. Students can also communicate with Householder through messages similar to e-mail.
“I have a lot of students who have anxiety and they can send me a message and we can communicate through messages,” Householder said.
Householder said he stays connected to his students by having casual conversations with them and asking them about their lives.
“I feel like I’m connected with them as well as I would in a brick and mortar classroom,” Householder said.
Householder said making sure students feel engaged is the most difficult part of his job. He tries to keep students involved by talking with them, calling them and giving out prizes.
“I offer a lot of prizes,” he said.
“If they attend Illuminate, they get a ticket and their name gets put in a hat. Every other week I have a drawing for a gift card. I have students of the week as well. If they’ve been attending Illuminate, getting good grades on assignments, or working really hard I’ll award them as students of the week and give them a gift card or some candy, something easy to send through the mail.”
Householder also connects with students through parent-teacher conferences and family day. Parent-teacher conferences offer students and their parents an opportunity to meet with their teachers in person and discuss the student’s progress. ECOT also offers students and their families a family day.
“Parents and students can come to these and meet their teachers,” Householder said.
“It is really rewarding because you get to see them and you get to talk to them.”
Householder said he is inspired by his students.
“I’ve heard a lot of different stories about what they’ve had to go through and how they have to persevere to get where they are,” he said. “It’s really inspirational. Each student has a story and you wonder about what their story is. I can’t imagine what all of these students have been through.”
This year, Householder participated in ECOT’s graduation ceremony, held in Columbus at the Schottenstein Center. The school graduated approximately 2,000 students and 1,000 attended the ceremony. Householder worked backstage and kept the students in order.
“It was really rewarding to see these kids so excited,” he said. “There were a lot of kids there. I was impressed. I couldn’t believe it.”