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Curriculum Update

Online lessons bring Spanish to remote Texas schools

Schools couldn’t afford to hire a full-time certified teacher

A virtual school has helped remote Texas towns overcome the challenges of teaching Spanish.

Guthrie Virtual School was founded in 2011 to provide state-mandated Spanish instruction to about a half-dozen remote Texas towns that couldn’t afford to hire a full-time certified teacher.

Guthrie Common School District is in West Texas where “you’re more likely to come across a horse than a person,” says Summer Reel, a Guthrie Virtual School lead teacher who developed the original Spanish 1 and 2 curriculum.

“When I was building the course, I wanted to take the best parts of the classroom experience and smash them together with the flexibility and accessibility of an online format,” Reel says.

The biggest challenge was to design a series of digital lessons to foster Spanish conversational skills that students wouldn’t simply click through, says Reel. “If a kid has the option to skip a video of a teacher talking into a camera, they’re not watching that stuff,” she says.

Each student devotes a daily class period to the virtual school. In addition to online courses, supported by the Rosetta Stone Classroom platform, students have to complete cultural projects, speaking and writing activities, and quizzes. Teachers connect with students through messaging systems, gradebooks and texting.

The virtual school, which serves serves hundreds of students, evolved into a blended learning program that also offers courses in math, English and health sciences. Students can use these virtual lessons to augment classroom instruction.

“It busts the doors wide open,” says Reel. “Watching the schools and kids leverage the flexibility has been really exciting—how they take the tools and the opportunities presented and make a customized learning experience for themselves.”