Meet Anna Turkington, an award-winning competitive ballerina & a new full-time Grade 10 student with OVS. We asked Anna to answer some questions about how online learning & OVS fit into her day-to-day life as a professional dancer. Here’s what she shared!
First off, tell us a bit about yourself!
I am a Canadian-born professional ballet dancer currently living and dancing in Pennsylvania, USA. Prior to sticking with ballet full-time, I trained in other styles of dance including contemporary, jazz, tap, hip-hop, lyrical, musical theatre, and modern. For a time, I also specialized in acrobatics with intentions of joining the world of Cirque Du Soleil. However, for the past few years, I have been training professionally at the world-renowned Rock School for Dance Education in Philadelphia. Since joining that school, I have had numerous opportunities to dance alongside many influential people in the industry on some of the most prestigious stages in performances and competitions. I am humbled and honoured to say that I have won first place in the Junior Division at Youth American Grand Prix three years in a row and competed in their New York City Finals, where I internationally placed top twelve.
Why did you decide to complete your OSSD through OVS?
Training full-time in any sport or extracurricular activity does not allow for much flexibility. For me, I have 6 – sometimes 7 – full days of ballet training each week. Through OVS, I have the freedom to complete schoolwork at my own pace, at any time throughout the day (or night). There are days where I only have a small window to complete schoolwork in between dance classes and some days where I have performances and competitions and don’t have a chance to do schoolwork. Then, there are days where I have a block of time to accomplish as much schoolwork as possible to make up for lost time – something that wouldn’t be attainable at a brick and mortar school. Essentially, I was motivated to use Ontario Virtual School to complete my OSSD for the ability to complete high school while still be able to chase my dreams of becoming a professional ballerina.
How has your OVS experience so far aligned with your expectations of what e-learning would be like? How does it compare to a day school experience?
After switching to online (especially with OVS) I will likely not return to a regular school ever again. There is a lot of wasted time at school that is not present during e-learning, meaning more work can be achieved in a shorter time frame/at a schedule tailored to you. Some people worry about the social aspect of not going to school, but if you are an independent person with friends through extra-curricular activities, you will notice how much more efficient your schoolwork can become. This is just from my personal findings of being an online student the past few years, but everyone approaches academics differently for different reasons. There is something to be said about the mobility of a computer, however. It is refreshing to be able to complete schoolwork on dance breaks, in hotel rooms when on vacation, at a coffee shop, in a park, on a road trip, and so on.
What aspects of the OVS learning model stand out to you?
I cannot narrow down what I love most about learning with OVS as there are simply too many reasons! I think my favourite aspect of the courses is the level of interaction between the teacher and student. Some other online schools I’ve attended just used documents of information to learn and study off of. I find it is much easier to absorb information when there is a “physical” teacher describing the concepts. I also like having a short quiz at the end of each lesson to enforce what was just taught. There is also no “busy” work at OVS, which stands out to me compared to other schools I’ve attended.
How do you maintain balance between your academic and professional pursuits?
Maintaining the balance between academic work, having somewhat of a social life, the demands of ballet training, and making time for alternative activities can definitely be tricky – especially in the current COVID situation, since training at my usual dance school in Philadelphia is not an option. I have found that the best way to sustain this “balancing act” is to create a schedule. Every Sunday, I use a planner to jot out what I want to accomplish each day, both dance and school wise, but also allotting time to spend with loved ones and focus my attention on activities such as reading, making cards with my Circuit machine, going for nature walks, etc. In our fast-paced society, these things are necessary to avoid burn out.
Tell us a bit about how you determine your course schedule.
As a full-time Grade 10 student with OVS, I have chosen to take 9 courses this year (2 of which are half credits). When deciding which courses to take and when, I wanted to create balance. So, I made sure to mix core classes (math, science, English) alongside the business, careers, psychology, etc. for each semester. Since I have been an online (previously homeschooled) student for a while, I have tested out a few different ways to approach scheduling. Some years I have split my 8 classes into 4 per semester, though I have also completed courses 2 or 3 at a time – it really depends on the time of year; if it is performance season, or if I wish to get ahead over the summer. At the moment, I am taking 4 classes (one being a half course). I will then take 3 courses, complete those and then work on my final 2 courses for Grade 10. I have found that dividing my course load into smaller segments allows me to focus more time on each subject and take the exam while the information is still fresh. With traditional school settings, I’m more likely to need a refresher on the beginning of the course once I reach the end. I feel like this is another great bonus of OVS.
How has OVS supported you as a full-time student?
The faculty at Ontario Virtual School is incredible. My teachers are always willing to answer course-related questions with exceptional response times, provide updates & just generally check-in to see how I’m doing. Growing takes place in positive environments and the learning environment at OVS is very encouraging. The administration was also lovely to work with when making the decision to become full-time.
What are your academic/professional goals in the near future?
Ballet careers do not last indefinitely, so I am making sure to secure a strong educational base for life after ballet. Right now, my goal is to complete high school, then go to university to study in a field related to osteopathic therapy or forensics. Of course, I am also hoping to continue doing what I love and ideally land a job in a ballet/contemporary company.
Do you have any advice for students interested in taking courses online?
My best piece of advice for students looking to transition to online school is to create a schedule! It can be intimidating when you initially log in to your course and see all of the course content, but it becomes much more manageable once you break it down and plan out what you would like to complete when. I would also say to always remind yourself of your goals, stay determined, don’t give up, and success will come. My grandmother once told me this quote that has forever stuck with me, “They didn’t build Rome in a day.”
Thank you for reading through my interview, and I hope my answers help with your transition to Ontario Virtual School!
Answers have been edited for clarity and length.