Get to Know iForward - Andrea Konrath, Teacher
Hello students and parents! Welcome to our next installment of Get to Know iForward, where we introduce you to the teachers and staff of our online school.
We want you to know that we take the responsibility of educating your children incredibly seriously. For that reason, we strive to hire only the most skilled and compassionate educators that we can.
In this post, you’ll be introduced to Andrea Konrath, who teaches Social Studies, Math, and SSEP Lab at iForward. As a middle school teacher, Andrea has the joy of coming alongside our students as they grow, mature, and prepare for high school. As you can see from Andrea's responses below, she is on fire with a passion for her students and eager to help them grow into caring and competent young adults. She lives our mission of "Students Matter" each and every day. We hope you'll enjoy meeting her as much as she enjoys meeting her students and helping them succeed!
Tell us about your background.
I grew up in a very small town in Southeastern Wisconsin, graduating with only 34 students in my class. Right after high school, I attended technical college to earn a Licensed Practical Nursing degree. I worked as an LPN for a few years on the medical/surgical floor at a local hospital and later I was the head nurse for a family practice physician.
I decided to go back to college to earn my teaching degree and so attended St. Norbert College in DePere, WI. I graduated at the top of my class and was offered a job as an At-Risk Teacher for 7th and 8th graders at Berlin Middle School. During my 13 years with the school, I worked as a 4th-grade classroom teacher, 6th-grade math and science teacher, and 7th-grade geography teacher. More recently I earned an MBA at the University of the People in Pasadena, California.
What experiences first got you interested in education?
I have always had a passion for helping others. I was a well-respected babysitter as a teenager and often never had a weekend that I did not have a babysitting job. After working as a nurse, I realized that my real passion was working with children. Furthermore, my dad was an educator and I saw firsthand how involved with his school he was. I know my love for helping others comes from him.
What intrigued you about the opportunity to work at an online school like iForward?
The opportunity for working at iForward came at just the right time. I had just quit my brick-and-mortar job in order to pursue my MBA degree and I couldn’t do both. I am a person who needs to be challenged and is always seeking the next big adventure. Just when I was ready to give up education completely, the iForward opportunity unfolded. The job appealed to me because it allowed me to continue teaching part-time, which is what I was good at, and continue to earn my degree. Furthermore, it was something different and what I considered a sizeable learning opportunity and an opportunity for growth.
Describe your day-to-day as a middle school teacher at iForward.
Every day is different! At iForward, we hold live lessons. Each course has one hour of live class every day of the week. During this hour, I am expected to teach the daily objectives in an engaging way. Students are highly engaged and have the opportunity to interact with me and other students also enrolled in the course.
After live lessons, teachers are responsible for connecting with individual students and families as well as grading, prepping email communications, and all-around being available to my students with whatever help they need. Teaching at iForward is not an 8-4 job. It is a job that means you are available when your students need you, even if that is after hours.
What have you enjoyed the most about being at iForward?
There are so many things I love about working at iForward. Primarily, the fact that students matter here is very important to me. I can convey this message to all my students with all my daily interactions with them. The students are our first priority. The staff at iForward is remarkable. We all put our students’ needs first. They are the kindest and most loyal people I have ever met.
What has been the most rewarding part of your job?
The relationships I have made with my students have been the most rewarding part of this job. Even though being virtual means not seeing the kids face to face, I know my students much more in this setting than in any other brick-and-mortar school I have worked in. I teach so many different classes and have many of the same students in various courses, I know their learning styles, their hobbies, their family life, etc. Usually after a course ends, my students keep in touch with me and keep me posted on how they are doing in their new courses. I know the families well, as we talk on the phone and email regularly.
And the most challenging?
The most challenging part of working for iForward is never being able to turn your computer off! Or maybe I choose not to! Students need help at all hours of the day, including weekends. Our mission is clearly conveyed when we say, “Students Matter at iForward”. In order to fulfill that mission, I never want to miss an opportunity to help a student with their school work. But because of this, I am constantly connected. However, the relationships are a blessing!
Talk a bit about how iForward has been able to help middle school students and families during the last year with all its challenges.
iForward has been and continues to be a safe place where kids can continue to learn and grow. At the beginning of quarantine when other schools were scrambling with plans to go virtual, we kept a constant routine for our kids and always put their learning and needs first, which we still do today. The education at iForward has been the silver lining for most students as they were dealing with COVID shutdowns, as they could always count on their teachers always providing a high quality education from the comfort of their own homes, no matter what was happening elsewhere.
During the first quarter of each school year, all of our middle and high school students enrolled in a science class participate in the Student Spaceflight Experiment Program or SSEP. It is a program that has kids working on real science and acting as real scientists. It is authentic learning at its best. Students compete to have their group experiments flown to the International Space Station to be tested in microgravity. Last year, the group of students that won the competition worked under my direction studying killifish. It was an amazing experience as the students and I learned so much about the process and about science. Not only did the students have their experiment flown to the ISS, but the students involved grew into scientists, public speakers and experts on microgravity. It was an amazing process to go through and most fulfilling to be a part of. Again, this school year, I am working with another group of students who had their experiment chosen to fly. Their experiment is testing grape seeds in microgravity. Every day I work with them, I am astounded at how impactful this amazing program is. I am so appreciative to be apart of it.
Please check back soon for our next entry in this series, where you will get to know another iForward teacher. In the meantime, feel free to check out iForward's staff page.
iForward is an online elementary, middle, and high school serving students in grades K-12 across the state of Wisconsin.