Career Online High School Names 2020 Academic Coach of the Year

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WITH EXPERIENCE IN NONTRADITIONAL EDUCATION, COACH HELPS STUDENTS THRIVE

Expertise in career placement and teaching gives Alanna Taylor a special ability to guide students onto the right path.

Career Online High School Academic Coach Alanna Taylor has dedicated her life to helping students who have faced various types of struggles. Her career, education, and personal background make her the perfect fit to help nontraditional learners, many of whom have experienced educational trauma.

Alanna possesses both a bachelor of science in Exceptional Student Education K–12 and an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) endorsement. Most recently, she worked as an online teacher, but she began her education career in a position helping those who had experienced traumatic past events, health issues, or injuries find their career path. As a vocational evaluator, she used various aptitude tests to evaluate, support, prepare, and place people with disabilities into alternative employment and training opportunities.

“Helping those with disabilities or past traumas find a career that gave them not only a paycheck but a purpose was challenging and rewarding,” Alanna said. “Many of them were pretty discouraged to start. Once they recognized their potential, value, and ability and we found a job path where they could use their strengths, their whole outlook changed.”

Alanna went on to become a teacher in several online settings—first, in a specialized school offering alternative learning options and job placement in Saint Lucie County, Florida, and most recently, as an ESOL teacher.

Job placement experience helps her get creative when advising students
Alanna brings in what she learned in these jobs to guide the students that she coaches today. She’s able to blend her experience as an online teacher and career advisor into one role.

“My experience in vocational placement is really useful here. I had a student earning her child care certificate who was interested in a new career in early education,” she explained. “I suggested she contact a local preschool. The preschool let her join the classroom and she loved it; the manager ended up offering her a full-time teaching position!”

She gets what it means to be labeled a “dropout”
Her ability to connect with her students doesn’t just come from what she gained through her career or training. As a teen, she had a hard time in high school herself and eventually dropped out. And although she could have earned her GED, she decided to go back to school instead because she wanted to earn an actual high school diploma.

She says having a mentor offer her encouragement was key to her success. “I struggled in school until a role model of mine realized my potential and encouraged me to work hard to achieve my goals,” she shared. “Now I can pass that on by helping inspire my students to succeed.”

Not only did this experience motivate Alanna to help students with similar pasts, but it enables her to really get where they’re coming from.

“I can totally empathize with my students,” Alanna said. “It was hard and kind of embarrassing to go back to high school, and I didn’t have the option to go online!”

A growth mindset helps students go “from a negative to positive”
Alanna says that what she loves most about her role as an academic coach is helping students transform their outlook on education and their own abilities. “In this job, I can focus on [a] growth mindset to help alter the mindsets of those who have experienced educational trauma in the past,” she explained. “Changing my own mindset from a negative to positive was a huge factor to help me reach my potential. It is important to wake up every day know[ing] you can. This is what truly inspires me.”

In addition to emotional hurdles, Alanna appreciates that her students have practical obstacles, and many are struggling to balance school, work, family, and other responsibilities. She offers them guidance on setting up an effective and realistic schedule. When a student is having difficulty with a class, she refers them for academic support. Most importantly though, she offers encouragement.

“I tell everyone that if you work hard and stay on the right path, you will reach your goal,” said Alanna. “The only time you fail is when you give up.”

Career Online High School is an 18-credit, vocation-based high school completion program offered through public libraries. Unlike a GED, adults can enroll in the program and earn an accredited high school diploma and entry-level career certificates in a high-growth, high-demand career field.

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