Local child pianist finds success with online school

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At age 4, Beaufort’s Wennie Rodriguez started playing the piano, learning it so quickly that her first teacher referred to her as a “piano prodigy.” Between events, master classes and competitions, attending a brick-and-mortar elementary school like her peers proved difficult.

Wennie Rodriguez, 10, of Beaufort, studies through her online school, South Carolina Connections Academy.
Wennie Rodriguez, 10, of Beaufort, studies through her online school, South Carolina Connections Academy.

Now at 10 years old, Wennie will be entering the eighth grade this 2014-15 school year, working three grade levels above other students her age. With a thirst for knowledge and a knack for memorizing facts, Wennie needed a different kind of education to truly challenge her, said her mother, Welneliza.

Wennie is enrolled at South Carolina Connections Academy, a tuition-free virtual public school option for students in grades K-12 throughout South Carolina. She joined the online school when her mother decided to look into school options that would work with Wennie’s piano practice schedule and advanced learning abilities.

“When we were looking for schooling options for Wennie, South Carolina Connections Academy offered the flexibility we wanted, but also the support from individual teachers that we needed,” said Welneliza Rodriguez. “The flexibility is key for us. Wennie can practice piano three times a day, and still stay on top of her lessons. We also don’t have to worry about traveling because Wennie can bring the classroom with her.”

Wennie interacts with her classmates and receives instruction from her teachers in LiveLesson® sessions — a virtual classroom setting that encourages the same lively interactions of a traditional classroom, but online. Students can chat amongst themselves and even virtually raise their hands. Welneliza Rodriguez said in addition to the technology that allows Wennie to connect to her teachers and peers, she is grateful that the curriculum is challenging and tailored to Wennie’s needs.

The Rodriguez family has also found that extracurricular activities have enriched their daughter’s socialization experience. Wennie is able to connect with other students in South Carolina and across the U.S. through participation in extracurricular activities like the Math Club, Movie Club and the National Junior Honor Society.

South Carolina Connections Academy, which is authorized under state law by the South Carolina Public Charter School District, expects to serve more than 3,800 students throughout the state during the 2014-15 school year. South Carolina-certified teachers work with students and learning coaches, the student’s parent or guardian, to develop customized learning programs that address each student’s personal education needs while maintaining a curriculum that meets rigorous state education standards.

Virtual schooling is proving to be the right fit for Wennie as well as for many other students, including those who benefit from a flexible schedule, those who learn at a different pace from their peers or those who need more individualized attention. The diverse student body includes competitive athletes with rigorous schedules, previously homeschooled students, and students seeking expanded course offerings, among others.

For more about South Carolina Connections Academy, visit www.southcarolinaconnectionsacademy.com.