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Sisters say Liberty’s K-12 online program propelled them to success in college and beyond

Jamie (left) and Elise Paisant (Photos by KJ Jugar)

Elise and Jamie Paisant have been part of the Liberty University family for 12 years, beginning when Jamie was in fourth grade and Elise was a freshman in high school. When they both enrolled in Liberty University Online Academy (LUOA), a fully accredited K-12 online education program, LUOA was in its early years. They immediately formed a connection to the university that continues to this day, a connection that has allowed them to pursue their career aspirations at their own pace. As alumni of the academy, the sisters can attest to the excellent education and support they received as they entered college well prepared. Elise now teaches history for LUOA and Jamie will finish two degrees with Liberty University this May.

As a fourth grader, Jamie needed an alternative to traditional school as she dealt with some personal medical issues that required numerous doctor appointments. While her teachers were willing to let her do her schoolwork at home, Jamie found that she needed more support and guidance than they could provide. This led her family, located in Miami, Fla., to enroll her in LUOA. Elise then followed her younger sister so it was easier on the whole family.

LUOA’s 10-month curriculum allows families to choose between schooling their children year-round or adding in their own breaks. The self-paced program means students can work ahead to better accommodate their schedules and learning tempo and spend extra time on subjects they struggle with, never getting left behind like some children do in a traditional classroom. LUOA operates on a rolling enrollment schedule, with start dates every Monday.

“With the way it was set up, as long as I was active in the course, I was able to stop and start my work a couple days later if I had any appointments or issues,” Jamie said. “If I had an appointment, I could work on my classes as I was sitting in the waiting room. It was so helpful to have the school be so mobile and somewhat flexible with time, but it also had so much support from the teachers. With LUOA, I could call in any time during the work hours and have someone available to help me.”

Elise said she valued the connection she made with her teachers, even in different parts of the country, and she now seeks to form similar bonds with her own students.

“I had really close relationships with the teachers, especially for the school subjects I struggled in,” Elise said. “I know now, as a teacher in LUOA, that they ask us if we want to lead clubs for the students, and I think that is so cool. I think that’s a (special), element and the students seem to really love it.”

Speaking from her experience since elementary school, Jamie said she appreciated how the curriculum infused Christ into her education, shaping her perspectives on the subjects as she developed academically and spiritually.

“Going through the elementary, middle, and high school programs, I could always see how every course we did had a biblical integration element to it,” Jamie said. “In smaller and bigger ways, they made a point to show us what the Bible says about it or how we as believers can approach it … how science, history, and other subjects connect. As we were forming our critical thinking skills, it gave us a perspective to build off of and carry with us. Our course material always supported a biblical worldview and gave everything a greater perspective on what we learned.”

“It taught me about how we can see God’s handiwork in (everything),” Elise added.

LUOA’s curriculum in frequently evolving to make it more effective and creatively inspiring for students, according to LUOA Dean Dr. Christopher Rusk, and the elementary program is currently receiving one of the biggest updates in its history.

“We are re-thinking our elementary (programming) from the ground up, with a collaborative team of teachers and subject matter experts, to give our students an elementary curriculum that is fun, engaging, and pedagogically purposeful,” Rusk said. “Next year, students will notice the more than 3,500 instructional videos and media assets from LUOA teachers. Additionally, students will see the improved quizzing experience, and gamified practice opportunities through IXL (an online learning site for K-12).”

For middle and high school students, LUOA is expanding the number of core science courses that use lab kits, enhancing the hands-on learning experience, and is developing a middle school art class where students will learn a variety of modes and methods for studio art as well as a brand-new course that teaches engineering principles with LEGOs.

Liberty University, a longtime leader and pioneer in distance learning, serves LUOA families across the country and even around the world. Over the last four years, students have enrolled from 99 countries — including Austria, Cambodia, Chile, Kenya, and Panama.

The Paisant sisters were able to take advantage of LUOA’s dual enrollment program, which allows 11th and 12th graders the opportunity to earn college credit while simultaneously fulfilling their high school diploma requirements, operated through a partnership with Liberty University Online Programs. The program currently has 3,000 students enrolled in more than 13,000 college-level courses.

Having taught both sisters before becoming dean, Rusk attested to how Elise and Jamie have succeeded as students and people in the journeys through LUOA and Liberty University.

“Jamie and Elise were wonderful LUOA students who have grown into Godly young women who continue to be positive role models for young girls,” Rusk said. “As an educator, it is a blessing for me to see how God is working in the lives of our graduates like the Paisant sisters.”

The skills in time management and organization the sisters developed in LUOA served them well when each of them began their degrees on campus at Liberty.

“Especially because I had done dual enrollment, I felt like LUOA prepared me for the rigorous academics of college,” said Elise, who graduated from Liberty in 2017 with her bachelor’s degree in history and in 2019 earned her master’s degree. “Doing LUOA teaches you to be very self-disciplined; you really have to be on top of your work and be structured. Coming here, I was able to manage my time well, and I also had an idea of what to expect since I did the dual enrollment courses.”

“I already knew how to use Canvas (the online platform Liberty uses), I already knew how to schedule myself to meet my assignment deadlines, and I already knew some of what to expect,” said Jamie, a double major in studio art and mechanical engineering. She currently serves as vice president of Liberty’s Society of Women Engineers chapter. “It was something where in my freshman year I would find myself helping other people who hadn’t seen or been strong in these things before.”

Both sisters said they are thankful for the impact LUOA and Liberty have had on their lives.

“It gave me confidence in myself,” Elise said. “I feel like it prepared me for my future in multiple ways, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.”

“LUOA has grown so much; it is so amazing to see,” Jamie added. “The school was always available to help us through any issues we had when the programs were still growing and improving in the early years. They were so supportive.”

To learn more about Liberty University Online Academy, visit Liberty.edu/LUOA, call (866) 418-8741, or email LUOAinfo@liberty.edu.

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