Weekly Juice Scholarship Articles

Instructions

Please cast your vote below on which of the 2 following articles you choose for the winner of the Scholarship. This is the first part of the criteria. Second is the interview it self. Jill Smith was interviewed by both candidates and will cast her vote on which one was professional, had knowledge of the PTSO, and had done her research.

At bottom of this page, click the link and make your choice.

Coach Café’s Role in Cultivating Coaches (Choice 1)

The PTSO of Georgia Cyber Academy has many unique offerings. One in particular,
Coach Café, called to me, and I had the honor to interview the president of the PTSO,
Jill Smith, about this special Café.

Coach Café is a virtual place for learning coaches to eat and drink knowledge and
wisdom from other learning coaches. It’s a coach-to-coach help session where
questions are asked and answered. “As a new learning coach, you may be reluctant
to ask for help; it may feel more comfortable talking to other learning coaches in
similar situations, thus, the Coach Café came to fruition,” Ms. Smith said.
It has an interesting story behind its creation. It was formed based off of the
reluctance of learning coaches to ask for help. Ms. Smith expanded upon her own
experience as a learning coach, stating that she was “always worried about what
[she] said.” She tried not to offend anyone when she did reach out to GCA with a
question, but she said, “it seemed [easier] to talk to fellow learning coaches who had
been in the same spot.” As a result, according to Ms. Smith, the PTSO “agreed to give
the learning coaches the opportunity to ask questions without the stress, along with
a relaxed environment, and with nothing but fellow learning coaches.”

Coach Café has a renewing effect on learning coaches. It gives them more freedom to
be, well, learning coaches: in order to be a learning coach, they themselves have to
be in the process of learning. By Coach Café giving them the platform to open up to
one another, they are now able to increase their abilities as learning coaches. In the
words of Ms. Smith, “Answers have gotten answered which otherwise would have
The name behind this café’s formation is as interesting as the story. “While trying to
come up with a name, we tried to think of a place that people normally would meet
to talk,” Ms. Smith said. Their brainstorming led them to the idea of a café or a coffee
The PTSO president continued, “We also pictured people sitting back in their bed
with a cup of coffee, and it is for learning coaches, so it became the Coach Café.”

When it comes to questions and advice asked and given in the Coach Café sessions,
one of the most unique questions I came across was not a question at all, but one
single word which is a question in and of itself: “Math.” As a senior in high school, I
can understand a learning coach’s need to get their child caught up in this subject
that is feared by some and adored by others. I myself am in a love-hate relationship

However, the best advice for learning coaches, according to Ms. Smith, is not about
how to do the schoolwork but to not panic when the going gets rough. “Sit back,
relax, and realize that it will all work out,” Ms. Smith said.

If you’re a learning coach looking to cultivate yourself for your child’s development,
you can log on to Coach Café sessions on http://www.gcaptso.org/ and view
archives of past sessions.

Profile: GCA PTSO – of the people, by the people, and for the people of GCA. (Choice 2)

Despite being one of the most essential pillars supporting Georgia Cyber Academy,
the PTSO has largely remained hidden in the limelight and has virtually gone unnoticed until only recently. So what exactly is the GCA PTSO?

From its humble start just four years ago when it was established, the GCA PTSO,
which stands for the Georgia Cyber Academy Parent Teacher Student Organization, has
quickly grown to be one of the largest Parent Teacher Student Organizations in the state of Georgia – an impressive feat considering the fact that the GCA PTSO is, for the most part, a virtual PTSO. Its mission is “to support and enhance the Georgia educational experience for [the] children attending Georgia Cyber Academy ... [by] providing an avenue of communication, offering volunteer opportunities, and fundraising to assist with school related programs and projects.”

The PTSO is governed by the Executive Board, which, at the present time, consists of
a President, Vice President, Secretary, Vice Secretary, Treasurer, Vice Treasurer, and
Regional Chair. About this system of governing, current PTSO President Jill Smith says that “[GCA PTSO is] incorporated; we have to follow certain guidelines. We are not just a club. We have audits—we’re just like a government.” For general members of the PTSO, members stay informed on PTSO and get immediate updates on what PTSO is doing and what is going on, get different types of discounts, including discounts at restaurants and pizza places -- about which President Jill Smith says, “We’ve got the whole state covered” -- and, just as with the American government, can vote for members of the Executive Board or even run for the Board should they want: “You have voting rights. You have the right to vote; you have the right to run for office,” remarks President Jill Smith.

Over the years since its inception, the GCA PTSO has achieved many remarkable
accomplishments. Just recently, the Georgia PTO – a statewide organization – awarded GCA a $1,500 grant in recognition of the passionate parental engagement and hard work of the GCA PTSO. Just this year, the PTSO opened up a Coach Café to aide learning coaches and foster a learning coach community, and sponsored The Weekly Juice, Georgia Cyber Academy’s online newspaper both written and run by the students. It was also able to give away scholarships. Not to mention, the PTSO, which used to only have 8 region leads, had over 25 this year.

When asked about what she considers to be some of the most significant
accomplishments PTSO has made, President Jill Smith responds, “I don’t know – I mean,
they’re all significant where we are today. This year has been the best so far. PTSO ... was
slow-growing until this year ... We raised more money this year; we’re giving away
scholarships this year. This is something we’ve never done – I’m excited!” She enthusiastically adds, “Learning coaches are getting involved; we’ve been here together all year! There are so many accomplishments this year, so I really don’t know how to pinpoint one, but I am excited we are able to give scholarships this year.”

Of course, these achievements did not come easily. When it comes to challenges that
the PTSO often faces, President Jill Smith says that “the biggest challenge is getting the word out, getting people involved. We have a lot of people that do not know we are here ... That’s been the hardest part – showing people what we’re here for and what we’ve done.” The PTSO does make use of technology like Blackboard Collaborate in order to make meetings with members, learning coaches, teachers, students and the like efficient and effective, but President Jill Smith says this sometimes comes with a downside: “We have parents all over the state of Georgia, but we can’t see them. All they hear is your voice; they can’t see your face.” As a result, many are unable to see exactly what PTSO does, how much PTSO is working, and just how much PTSO has accomplished.

Rather than staying discouraged, though, President Jill Smith and the PTSO meet the
challenges with positivity: “Well, of course you always have your downs with your ups. I
mean, there’re challenges with everything you do. But we’re an organization; we had to
realize what worked. Virtual PTSO is a lot harder than what people would imagine; we can’t fundraise ... we can’t deliver – fundraising is really hard, especially getting people involved.” Nonetheless, as President Jill Smith swiftly added, “... we have gotten to where we are now,” regardless of these obstacles. And perhaps nothing can support this statement more than the extreme jump in interest in the PTSO.

Much different from the days when even GCA teachers did not know that it existed,
the GCA PTSO of today seemingly has no shortage of those interested in it. The size of
PTSO has doubled – if not tripled – this year, compared to the previous years, and the
volunteers and donations have jumped. President Jill Smith attributes this to dedication: “I think it’s dedication ... [I]f you show you’re dedicated and put your heart—everything you have in you, then people will recognize you. We had support from our learning coaches. Even though I say it’s hard to show what [we, the PTSO] do, people have noticed. I just know that we have worked really hard to get people to recognize us and notice us, and realize how hard we’re working.”

But what inspired the PTSO to put so much dedication into an organization many
hadn’t even heard of at the beginning? What motivated the PTSO to persevere through the difficulties and always look to the finish line at the end? In spite of all of the hardships, President Jill Smith says, “Getting all the parents involved—being a virtual academy is very hard; running a virtual school, running a virtual PTSO is challenging. [But at] the end of the day, knowing that we helped students—we are here to help everyone, that’s our main goal of PTSO,” is perhaps the most satisfying and worthwhile aspect about running PTSO.

Well, it is quite evident that the PTSO loves to help everyone. The PTSO has done so
much for everyone; there is a lot of “PTSO gives back” everywhere. So, in a show of
appreciation, what can we – whether as students, parents, or even teachers – do to give back to the PTSO? President Jill Smith answers, “Support; we need support. Without everyone’s support, without everyone working together, we can’t do anything. Most people would say money and this and that, but support and everyone working together is really all [PTSO needs].”

One last thing to note about the GCA PTSO is its future. When asked about any hopes
and ambitions for the PTSO, as well as what she envisions the PTSO to be, President Jill
Smith says, “I picture it being bigger and better every year. We [have] the community built. We have the connections we have made with the outside groups and companies. I really believe that now that people know that we’re here, it’ll only be bigger and better. Hopefully we’ll have all of GCA ... all of the teachers and learning coaches. With our foundation, I really hope it can only get bigger and better [so that we can have] more scholarships and more assistance for students, get them out of the house, get them connected, do more events. My goal is to see it get bigger and better.”

This is our wonderful GCA PTSO!