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Non-traditional approach brings success
by Garrett E. Valenzuela
Jun 17, 2013 | 1633 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
James Hansen
James Hansen
SPARKS — Rushing back and forth through the halls, concentrating in large classes and handling typical public school was just not working for James Hansen.

Knowing his struggles, Hansen opted for a virtual high school experience when he enrolled in the Nevada Connections Academy, a free public school that students attend from home or another location outside a traditional classroom. Hansen spent four years in the high school online program and notched his diploma earlier this month.

“The thing that really makes it better than regular school was, for me, I am not running around and I can take as long as I need with each class,” Hansen said. “I don’t have to be sitting in a room with 32 students and be the only one who doesn’t understand something.

“On top of that, when I do need help, I can just contact the teacher and they will contact me back for whatever I need. For me it is a little bit easier to understand when they write out each step and explain it. I am not interrupting a whole class that last for an hour when they have to write something out for me.”

Hansen said his classes often cater to his strengths and weaknesses because of his ability to complete certain lessons in different classes. He said, for instance, English lessons could be completed in 45 minutes on occasion and that would leave an extra couple hours to work on math because of its difficulty.

Hansen also said the connection with his teachers via the online program helped him work intimately on some subjects and get his questions answered promptly.

“A lot of my teachers will open up what we call Live Lessons and use a whole day to answer questions for students,” Hansen said. “They will also open those Live Lessons for some of the questions you have and, basically, they just say ‘Let me show you how to do this.’”

With an online homeschooling program, some things can be left out of a school day, such as physical education and interaction with people your age. Hansen experienced this first hand and began packing even more into his schedule by his junior year by harnessing his gymnastics background.

Hansen recently finished his second year of competitive cheerleading, an activity he said he initially joined for “scholarship purposes.” As he continued to progress through various stunting challenges, he admitted it proved beneficial for more than just some time out of the (home) classroom.

“Being in an online school there is no PE class and not really a whole lot of going outside and getting yourself fit,” Hansen said. “Certainly it helps to keep myself in shape even though I am sitting at a computer all day, which is important, but on top of that one of the things about being in an online school for me is I have never been much of a team player.

“I was not a big fan of working with people, but cheerleading kind of helped me get over that and kind of figure out how important it is to work with other people because you have to do that when you are on a team.”

Hansen’s cheerleading efforts during the last two years pushed him to earn a position as a coach at Reno Elite Cheer where he works with a youth and a high school team. With ages ranging from 6 to 11 on one squad and teenagers on the other, Hansen said working with children has given him more reason to continue becoming a team player.

“Working with kids is ridiculously fun, especially kids in that age range because they are full of energy all the time,” he said. “They are always ready to go. For me, I have been able to help these kids get better at something they want to do, and that is worth something to me.”

Hansen was also inspired to enter the National Novel Writing Month contest during November where he was tasked to write 50,000 words of a novel, which was accompanied by the reward with having his novel published. Though he got off to a late start, Hansen finished his novel, Bond of Stars, in time and was sent five copies of his novel and had it made available online through e-book.

“There couldn’t be a time where I came home to say ‘I don’t really feel like writing.’ It was really buckling down and writing it out,” Hansen said of the contest. “When I finally wrote the last page, which was just two words ‘The End,’ the only thing that was running through my mind, as my head slammed on the desk, was I am done. It was a great feeling to finally finish and have this completed book which took such a long time and a lot of effort. It was definitely the longest month ever.”

Hansen will enter Truckee Meadows Community College this fall where he plans to complete his core classes before transferring to a university to study his undetermined major. Hansen said he has thought about computer programming as a major, which is a hobby he finds intriguing, but the decision is “still up in the air.”

He also plans to attend a flying school in Reno where he can learn to fly small aircraft in hopes of eventually attending a school to learn to fly large commercial planes.

“I have wanted to fly since I was really young, about age 10. I love flying,” Hansen said adding that he was able to fly with an instructor last year. “Every time I fly on an airline I turn on the pilots radio instead of watching tv or listening to the radio. As soon as I was up in the air I knew right away flying was something I wanted to do.”
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