As virtual schooling continues to surge in popularity, there is a growing need for new K-12 teachers who understand how to teach in an online environment successfully. To help meet this need, the Florida Virtual School (FLVS) is teaming up with area colleges to pair teachers-in-training with its online instructors in a first-of-its-kind internship program.

Six University of Central Florida (UCF) education majors are in the middle of a seven-week internship where they are working hand-in-hand with FLVS teachers. Interns were chosen because they expressed an interest in teaching online.

UCF student Katelyn Richardson, who is majoring in English language arts education, was chosen to participate in the internship program, but has not yet begun the virtual portion of the program at FLVS. She will begin her virtual internship in the second week of March.

“Being able to have this chance to intern with the Florida Virtual School opens a world of possibilities for the University of Central Florida, and me, personally,” she said. “It is truly encouraging to know that there is an organization that truly believes, and lives out, the philosophy of student-centered education. The Florida Virtual School not only puts forth these ideals, but supports and enables the teachers to give 100 percent of themselves to the students and their education.”

FLVS, founded in 1997, provides virtual K-12 education solutions to students throughout the country, offering more than 80 courses for middle and high school students.

After spending seven weeks at FLVS, interns will spend seven weeks in traditional classrooms in central Florida, said Brian Marchman, instructional leader with FLVS.

“I think that it’s the first of its kind of … internship to prepare students to teach not only online, but in the traditional classroom as well,” he said.

The program is being piloted with UCF as well as at the University of Florida in Gainesville, but Marchman said FLVS hopes to be able to work with all 10 of Florida’s state colleges and universities eventually. Officials currently have established at least some communication with five.

Marchman said the internship was welcomed immediately at UCF.

“We’re a forward-thinking institution here,” said Michael Hynes, the chair of the Teaching and Learning Principles department at UCF, in a press release. “We want to be thinking ahead of where the education industry is now. We have great confidence this pilot is going to work. It will give our students an edge, because they will not only know how to teach a traditional class, they will also know how to do it virtually.”