December Teacher Spotlight
We are excited to shine a spotlight on the amazing Virtual Campus teacher: Mrs. Sinclair!
Tell us some basic info about yourself (school, background, family, future goals).
My name is Mrs. Onica Sinclair and I’ve been teaching for 10 years (I know, I’m old, right?) and I have taught a ton of different classes throughout my years. I have taught all levels and semesters of standard English classes (English I – IV), plus Multicultural Literature, Women’s Literature, Sports Literature, Shakespeare, AP Lang and Comp, AP Lit and Comp, Speech, and We the People. I absolutely love incorporating your interests and passions into our assignments any way I can. Let’s work together on this!
A little about my personal life…I was born and raised in rural south Texas. The first thing a Texan will always tell someone is that they’re from Texas, it’s a pride thing. I grew up on my family’s ranch and was very involved in 4-H and FFA. I raised and showed sheep and cattle for 10 years (age 8-18!) and loved every bit of it. Between taking care of my livestock and running around outside barefoot with my two younger sisters, I kept busy and tried to stay out of trouble.
Throughout high school, I worked for a local news station as an “Our Generation” reporter, then in college at a veterinary clinic, and finally, Public Relations Manager for the Rio Grande Valley’s Central Hockey League and Arena Football 2 teams. I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies and moved to South Carolina after graduation. After being there about a year, my journey led me here to Iowa in 2006 and it’s been my home ever since. I was accepted to both South Carolina University School and Law and Drake Law School, but decided not to pursue law. And I’m so happy I didn’t. Everything happens for a reason.
Once I got settled, I began pursuing my Master’s in Secondary Education with endorsements in English and Speech at Drake University. I graduated in 2009 and, with the support of my family, I began teaching immediately and loved it. I decided to go back to school to further my education and leadership and received another degree in Education Leadership and Administrative licensure in December of 2017. Always remember, you’re never too old to go back to school and don’t ever, EVER, stop learning.
None of this would have been possible without the support of family. I have an amazing husband that loves coaching football (we’re a football family) and a wonderful daughter, Grace (12 years old), that both make my world complete. We live on a farm in Johnston where we have 3 dogs. Drake is an English Bulldog mix, Cujo is a Lab/Rottweiler mix, and Peanut is a Porkie (Pomeranian/Yorkie mix). We got Cujo and from AHeinz 57 Rescue Center so rescue dogs are near and dear to my family’s heart. We also have a munchkin cat named Maddie. It’s a full and busy house, and like most households we have our up’s and down’s, but we center it around love and respect
What brings you to Virtual Campus?
I’m proudly the Virtual Campus OG! I started with Virtual as a favor to the district. Virtual “Academy”, at that time, was in the pre-pilot stage. I was the first English teacher to be associated with DMPS online schooling. Following our pre-pilot year, we were blessed enough to have Mr. Mendoza brought on to lead the way. I remember hours of sitting in a conference room with him and one of the directors coming up with our Virtual “Academy” name change to Virtual Campus, our mission statement, and our vision. Building a school from the ground up is an amazing experience! I’ve been hooked ever since. I love working with our entire team and with our amazing students. This is by far the happiest I have ever been in a job and I have Mr. Mendoza, our team, and our students to thank for that.
What are the challenges you have faced, as a teacher, going from teaching in a traditional classroom environment to an online virtual environment?
Honestly, I can’t think of any challenges. Learning how to create Canvas courses was a bit of learning curve, but I embraced it. I absolutely love creating courses and content. Some may think the same level of relationship building isn’t possible in a virtual school and would be a challenge, but boy are they wrong! I love and cherish the relationships I have developed with my Virtual students. I feel as Virtual Campus continues to grow, we just need to be prepared (which we are) for the challenge of rapid growth and how we will adapt.
What are your hobbies and interested outside of school?
Outside of school I love to hang out with my family. We have a great job with spelling bees as corny as that sounds. We have a whiteboard in our office and Grace and OJ play against each other. I always google “the most commonly misspelled words” and give those to OJ on purpose. Shhh…he doesn’t know! I love reading a good book. Once I’m hooked, its almost impossible for me to stop. We have a great time. Another huge piece of who I am outside of school is working out. I love strength training and lifting. Cardio is ok, but pushing heavy weight is the best. Strong, not skinny! I work out 5 days a week for about an hour and a half to two hours. Once you start seeing results, it becomes an addiction. At 36 years of age, I’m the healthiest and fittest I’ve ever been. I love to take my daughter to the gym with me. I push her on the weighted sled or teach her proper lifting form and technique. It’s definitely one of my main passions.
What do you love about Virtual Campus?
It would be so much easier if I could write what I don’t love because that would take up way less space. Oh, let me count the ways (yes, that’s a Romeo and Juliet literature reference). I love that we are not alternative, but adaptive. We have the ability to adapt what we teach and how we teach it for individual students. I know that our students are getting a rigorous and relevant educational experience. I love how much communication we get to have with our students. I absolutely love our students and our culture/climate. Office hours are so chill and everyone feels safe and welcome there. No bullying. No judgement. Just positivity and support. I absolutely love my teammates. We work so well together, respect one another, and appreciate and utilize the strengths each of us possess.
What makes students success in your course?
Student communication is key for success in my courses. Feedback is included in this communication and is my favorite way to guide instruction and help people improve and have a chance to get better. It helps tremendously when a student can come in for office hours if they are struggling. Usually individual teaching and instruction is a good way to get around barriers. I will always help in any way I can. If I know you are trying your absolute hardest, I will work my hardest for you to ensure success.
Why should students enroll in Virtual Campus?
Why not?!?! Virtual Campus is an amazing education experience that provides individual support from each of our great team members. It also provides for maximum flexibility with a student’s schedule and individual graduation plan. We provide a safe environment to come and work in. This is no bullying and no judgement safe zone. Everyone feels welcome and the culture and climate within our building and within our courses is uncontested. We welcome anyone who may be interested in learning more to complete an interest form on the website.