Lemonade Stands and Lotus Notes

Back in the early days of FLVS, we all used to wear many hats. I was a course developer, teacher, district community liaison, legislative educator. Our IT support consisted of one person!

We did a lot of traveling to educate different organizations, schools, and community groups. We would set up lemonade stands at high school cafeterias to provide students with information about taking online classes.

We traveled to Tallahassee regularly to show legislators our “virtual classrooms.” I remember legislators being amazed and fascinated with how we talked to students on the phone. I even called a student and parent in front of them so they could see the interaction.

We built our first courses in a Lotus Notes database and would replicate our courses up to the server (copying all the data from one database to another).  Since there was only one teacher for each course, we could make changes right on the spot. To receive the students’ work, we had to remember to replicate everything hourly to keep checking for new work.

Like other early colleagues, I remember connecting to the internet via the phone line.  This meant you could not be on the phone and the internet at the same time. When I finally had the option to install a second phone line I had a 50-foot cord that allowed me to sit in different areas of my house.

I also remember having a beeper/pager and stopping at phone booths to return phone calls. Once on my way to visit a school, I stopped at a phone booth at a gas station and it was close to a highway surrounded by loud trucks and cars. The student could hear all the noise and asked me if I was at the Daytona Speedway for the NASCAR race.  This gave me an idea.  Maybe we should be setting up a booth at the Speedway and other community location and events to educate people about our virtual school option.

All of our students took face-to-face segment exams which were interesting as well. Students would either meet us at the Educational Leadership Center in downtown Orlando or we went to their homes. Often, parents would invite me and my infant son, now in college, over for dinner and I would give midterm and final exam tests in-person at their houses. I distinctly remember one student I visited who had a variety of reptiles and amphibians for pets and brought each one out to tell me about them.

I also started the first online science club. Today, FLVS has more than 30 clubs! We took field trips to science museums, wetlands, and nature parks to see the manatees – often with parents and siblings joining us. We even had our first virtual team compete at the state Science Olympiad!  They would build bridges and airplanes collaborating at a distance, then meet face-to-face for the first time at the competition.  They did very well and won many events!

While many things have evolved with technology, our unwavering support of students and their success continue as always.

Tell us what you were doing 20 years ago in the comments below!


FLVS will be sharing #FLVSTURNS20 stories throughout the 2017-18 school year, so be sure to subscribe for updates, follow us on Facebook, and visit our anniversary page for more!

Mary MitchellMary Mitchell is an instructor who has held several positions at FLVS over the years. A National Board Certified Teacher, she has been recognized as a Teacher of the Year for FLVS, the United States Distance Learning Association, and Discovery Middle School in Orange County, FL. She has written articles on topics ranging from computer image processing to teacher training for the online classroom.

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