The 5 best online teachers in America


By: Maryalene Laponsie


Within the world of traditional education, much is made of the quality of teachers. Politicians discuss the virtues of tenure while parents swap stories on the sports sidelines about which middle school math teacher makes the grade. However, in the online education world, teachers are often relegated to the background. For many students, the curriculum takes center stage with the instructor given hardly a second thought.

If you think online instructors have it easy, you're mistaken says Martin Snyder, Director of External Relations for the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). "Teaching online actually requires a great deal more preparation," he explains. In addition to creating and delivering a solid curriculum, online instructors must find innovative ways to interact with students.

While there are outstanding online teachers across the nation, here is a list of some of the best of the best. These teachers provide instruction in a variety of settings across a number of grade levels. These elite instructors are using the online medium to transform the face of education:

1.) Chrissy Markley: Online education isn't just for college students. Chrissy Markley is part of the next generation of online instructors who are taking virtual learning to the lower grades. At Arizona Connections Academy - a tuition-free, K-12 online public school - Chrissy teaches 7/8th Grade Gifted Language Arts and 8th Grade Language Arts. A former 6th grade teacher in a traditional public school district, Chrissy appreciates the unique opportunity to provide individualized instruction in the virtual classroom. Recognized as an outstanding instructor, she was named the school's 2011 Teacher of the Year.

2.) Amy Pace: Like Arizona Connections Academy, Open High School of Utah is a tuition-free, public school offering online instruction. There, Amy Pace is an award-winning science teacher. After spending 11 years in a traditional teaching environment, Amy joined Open High School of Utah where she has helped create an engaging science curriculum that can be used to provide individualized instruction to students. In 2010, she was one of only 103 7th to 12th grade teachers to be selected for a Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Technology.

3.) Mike Kosciuk: During the day, Mike Kosciuk teaches calculus, statistics and algebra to students at De La Salle Collegiate High School in Warren, Michigan. However, in the evenings and on the weekends, Mike provides instruction online via Tutor.com. Not only does he tutor math students from 9th grade through the college level, he also mentors other online tutors to help them explore and improve their teaching strategies. Recognized as a leader in online tutoring, Mike was the February 2010 Tutor of the Month for Tutor.com.

4.) Jody Shine: A ten year veteran of online teaching, Jody Shine began her career with Davenport University by teaching on the South Bend/Mishawaka, Indiana and Grand Rapids, Michigan campuses. When her supervisor asked her to teach online, she was skeptical at first. "I feared something would be lost in the give and take of classroom discussion," Jody said. "Now I know the online format allows students to more thoroughly explore ideas before discussing them and allows students greater freedom to express themselves." Today, Jody uses a variety of tools including discussion boards, voice recordings and online videos to teach English Composition to Davenport students.

5.) Michele Pfund: At the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, Michele Pfund is a popular instructor in the university's top-ranked MBA program. Student feedback for her courses regularly praises her hands-on style that focuses heavily on student interaction and communication. Michele also serves as director for the undergraduate Supply Chain Management degree program. School leaders credit Michele with helping the program rank in the top ten nationwide according to U.S. News and World Report.

While these five stand out as exceptional, they are only a few of the outstanding instructors working online today. From the elementary level through graduate studies, there are hundreds of exemplary teachers who offer instruction in everything from vocational training to liberal arts to specialized degree programs. They may come from different walks of life, but the best online teachers combine their love of learning with a commitment to excellence.