With Sandy Smith
Why is school choice important to you?
School choice is important to me because children are individuals. Customizing education based on learning styles and what works best for the student and the family is always a positive.
Why did you become involved with PSO?
I became involved in PSO because I was grateful for the ability to choose online schooling for my children. I wanted others in Michigan, and across our country, to have the same opportunity to make that choice for themselves.
Why should parents become advocates for their children’s education?
Parents should become advocates for their children’s education because parents know their children best. I have a degree in education, but more importantly, I’m the expert when it comes to my children and what they need.
What is your favorite advocacy story?
My favorite advocacy story—While we were working on getting Michigan SB 619 (gradual lifting of the cap on virtual schools in the state) passed, I made some visits to lawmakers with our head of school and a teacher. We felt that making visits this way gave the lawmakers every opportunity to have their questions answered. We were meeting with one lawmaker who told us that there were no online students in his district. (Basically—why should he care?) We pulled up a map that pinpointed the location of online students in his district. He took a look at the map and explained that those students lived in a trailer park; his point was that they did not matter. I have never forgotten that comment, and when I think of that visit I am reminded that every student matters.
How has access to school choice impacted your family?
Following the death of our youngest son to cancer, access to school choice has allowed my husband and I to be heavily involved in our children’s education, while still having them enrolled in schools that meet their needs. We are grateful to have teachers who are proficient in specific content areas and to have a schedule that is flexible enough to accommodate our children’s interests in music and sports, as well as some travel.
What is your greatest accomplishment?
My greatest accomplishment is growing into the role of advocate for my children. This was not something I set out to do; I had no choice but to learn to advocate for my son Andrew during the two years he lived with brain cancer. I was the parent who would never have questioned the doctor—or anyone else, but I learned that I had to speak up if I wanted what was best for my child. That’s part of my job as a parent! Andrew’s cancer gave me a voice, and I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to speak up for my own children and for others as a result.
Tell us about your family.
My husband Shawn and I have lived in the Lansing, Michigan area since 2001. We have three children. Our oldest, Stephen, is a sophomore in college studying music after graduating as valedictorian from an online school. He enjoys history, writing, and soccer—especially Manchester United. Our second, Charis, is a junior in an online high school. She is a diligent student, a gifted musician, and she loves to play volleyball. Our youngest, Andrew, was sweet and funny; he taught us how to live life to the fullest—even with brain cancer. He died almost 6 years ago when he was eight. My husband is a pastor, so we are heavily involved in church and related activities. We are fans of the Michigan State Spartans and the South Carolina Gamecocks!
If you were a condiment, what would it be and why?
Interesting question. Hmmm. Mustard or barbecue sauce because I enjoy variety….
Winter, spring, summer, or fall?
Definitely fall. I grew up in New England and love the vibrant fall colors, the crisp cool mornings, the start of the new school year, apples and pumpkins, homemade soups and stews. I could go on!
Aisle or window seat?
I like the convenience of the aisle seat, as well as being able to look out the window. Just don’t put me in the middle!
If we went into your Top 25 Most Played List, what would the top 3 be?
Anything by my dear friend (sacred vocalist and pianist) Mary Lynn Van Gelderen, traditional Christmas music, beautiful flowing classical music
Bonus: what is your favorite board game?
I enjoy the challenge of a good Scrabble game.