Michael Van Tyne
Teach For America South Carolina 2012
Assistant Principal, Darlington County Virtual Academy
Cutting-edge educators in the Darlington County School District are preparing students for success through an entirely new mode of learning: the Darlington County Virtual Academy (DCVA).
The DCVA, formed during the Covid pandemic, became the district’s largest ‘branch’ practically overnight, serving more than 3,700 students in all grades. Administrators and teachers with the DCVA created a curriculum – backed by proven, effective teaching strategies and state-of-the-art technological resources – and set out to do something completely new.
Rather quickly, they spotted a valuable – maybe revolutionary – model.
Michael Van Tyne has co-led the district in creating the DCVA, an online learning platform that takes best practices from remote classes amid the pandemic and applies them more intentionally in a non-traditional educational model. The DCVA has revamped all aspects of the program as it enters a second year.
Van Tyne brings a mathematics education major, his Teach For America South Carolina (TFASC) training and attitude, and eight years of middle school experience to the task of opening completely new educational pathways to students.
“Not all students learn best in face-to-face settings,” said Van Tyne. “Many students can excel using virtual platforms. Some have medical reasons. Some like using technology and online tools better.”
“With the DCVA, where a student lives, the geography, does not matter. The DCVA can reach students we haven’t been able to reach before in a traditional learning environment.”
As it launches, the DCVA serves first- to 12th-grade students from all over the county. Van Tyne and his team offer remote learners live sessions – students see a live teacher every day – and academy hours are a frenzy of adapting technology and inventing new lesson plans for a new teaching medium.
“We feel like pioneers,” said Van Tyne. “So much is new. Not many people have experience in creating virtual lessons. We have to now think how to interest and access students by camera. Our teachers are using every platform they can to find what’s effective. We’re seeing many innovative ideas.”
Close teamwork matters. The concept of a team, in fact, drew Van Tyne into TFASC and his career.
At his high school in upstate New York, Van Tyne was a three-sport athlete. He played volleyball in college at the State University of New York at New Paltz. As he calculated what to do after graduation, something on the Teach For America website caught his eye.
“I read the word cohort,” recalled Van Tyne. “It sounded small and intimate, and it got me thinking about a new kind of team. We had 80 or so teachers that year – a cohort. When I arrived in South Carolina, I felt ready to be a change agent, part of a team helping to make education in South Carolina progressive.”
What excites Van Tyne as the virtual academy expands the frontiers of education?
“I see endless potential in South Carolina,” he said. “Students are making up for lost time last year, bouncing back, and growing at tremendous rates. I have the privilege of working on an educational pathway for them that’s new and exciting.”
He added, “I think we know something here that’s true but isn’t often talked about. So many teachers are doing a great job, being progressive and innovative, and trying to make things work for students. Positive things are happening every day in our schools.”