When she was younger, Natalie Miller found herself helping people with homework, so becoming a teacher was a natural extension. The ninth-grade Algebra I teacher is in her fifth year with University View Academy. She’s taught a total of seven years and sets a milestone of her teaching online longer than in a brick-and-mortar school. When it was pointed out to her, she didn’t pay much attention to the significance. “I don’t think I do anything special. I’m just a mom and a teacher,” she stated. Her parents pushed her to concentrate on math at an early age because they saw something. Mrs. Miller admits math comes easy to her. “I really understand it and can put it into words,” she said excitedly.
Her explanations help her students get a better understanding of math concepts. “I think it’s a growth mindset. We’ll learn it together,” she offered as part of her teaching philosophy. She also leans on lots of student participation during her live sessions, which she said: “… definitely makes it more interesting.” Part of the participation comes at the end of the live sessions when she allows any student to share a unique talent via the computer screen. Although the students are not in an individual classroom, it helps them come together as if they are. Some play the piano, share pets, bake cakes, and even show their roller-skating skills. “They love to learn more about each other,” Mrs. Miller explained.
Another tool she uses to promote a feeling of physically being together in a classroom in the virtual world is a computer program called Nearpod. It provides real-time insights into student understanding through interactive lessons, videos, gamified learning, formative assessment, and activities. “It’s the closest I’ve seen to the classroom,” Mrs. Miller stated. She also looks forward to interacting one-on-one with students struggling to understand concepts during her office hours period Monday through Thursday. It’s time to individually instruct a student while getting to know them better as a person. “I really enjoy it,” she declared.
Mrs. Miller said the COVID-19 pandemic showed online teaching and learning is successful if done the right way. She glowed at last year’s UVA LEAP2025 test scores that went up while most other scores fell in Louisiana. “UVA does it. We’re the best at it,” she said excitedly. She credited the teamwork environment at UVA that gives teachers the tools to ensure their students succeed. It made Mrs. Miller a strong advocate of online education. “Crazy, I didn’t even know it existed when I was in college. I’m glad I found it.”