The Learning Center Offers Solution For Virtual Learning
By: Lisa V. Proulx
With the Maryland COVID-19 rate hovering between 7 and 8 percent, more and more kids are learning from home through virtual learning. Joelle Grossnickle, Knoxville, has opened The Learning Center to serve as a children’s “home school” advisor and facilitator, providing direction and oversight in completing digital and hands-on assignments.
She has five students enrolled, and says, “My services will continue as long as virtual learning is needed.” Her services work for any student in virtual learning with a “regular” teacher. Her current students are from Brunswick, Middletown, and Urbana, and range from 3rd to 7th grade.
Growing up on a farm in Pennsylvania, Joelle earned her bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Penn State University but was drawn to working with children. The mother of three, she started substitute teaching when her youngest was in Kindergarten. “I had been working from home on a contract with my former employer, the American Physiological Society until that contract wasn’t renewed.”
She pursued a Master of Arts degree in teaching from Mount St. Mary’s and received her degree in December 2018, followed by two long-term sub jobs in Frederick County. In the fall of 2019, she took a job with Loudoun County Public Schools that was only valid through June 2020, because of the time of her hiring (they considered it an “end-of-year” contract).
With her Master of Arts in Teaching, Joelle is certified to teach in Maryland and Virginia.
In the spring and summer, because of COVID-19, Loudoun was on a hiring freeze. “I applied for 50 teaching jobs from January-August 2020 and didn’t even get an interview. After hearing friends lamenting about how they were going to work and teach their own kids from home, she needed to do something and got the idea (and the ball rolling) for The Learning Center.
In December 2019, tragedy rocked her world when she got word the chemo her mother was receiving for pancreatic cancer was no longer working. Treatment was stopped and Hospice care began. “With COVID shutting down schools it allowed me to spend Mom’s final three weeks with her in Pennsylvania until she passed on Easter morning, April 12. My mom was a resilient woman, strong and full of resources to make things happen.”
Joelle drew on that inspiration to push through and make her business come to light. Three days into the idea, her attorney insisted her business model fell into the legal definition of childcare. “That meant I had to get a daycare license. I went full steam ahead. It usually takes six months; I got it done in less than six weeks.”
She created The Learning Center to facilitate students taking part in virtual school instruction in her home with assignments provided by their regular schoolteacher with safety precautions and social spacing. “My role is to serve as a facilitator,” she says.
The Learning Center is set up in two groups. One group is on Monday’s and Tuesday’s and another on Thursday’s and Friday’s. Wednesday’s are closed to focus on cleaning. “The great thing about this specific business is kids can still feel like they are ‘going to school’ by being present in another environment rather than their home.”
She also offers outdoor activities. “I enjoy playing soccer, hiking, going to the beach, and spending time with family and friends, so I understand the importance of outdoor time. We have a required outdoor recess in the morning and afternoon. Besides being in smaller groups, it allows the one-on-one encouragement and help with their assignments and even homework.”
Joelle is “determined” to make sure the student’s homework is complete before the weekend, thus offering both kids and their parents free time. “I leave a lot of written documentation every day when the kids go home to their parents. In this subject, we completed and submitted this, and this project is due on Tuesday; giving them a heads up on paper so they don’t need to look through their kid’s account to see what needs to be done,” she explains.
A devoted mother herself, she assures parents she is providing a safe environment for their children. Safety protocols are in place, and kids are required to be socially distanced at least six feet apart, and there are daily temperature checks.
“When education doesn’t look how it used to, we have to change how we look at education,” she says.
Joelle lives in Knoxville and is the mother of three kids, Alayna (20) a 2018 graduate of Brunswick High School and a student at Brigham Young University, Ethan (18) a senior at Brunswick High School, and Weston (13) an 8th grader at Brunswick Middle School. She is engaged to Jason Barrick, a retired Lieutenant Firefighter for Frederick County, having served the county fire rescue service for 25 years, and now works for his brother Chad, who owns the Barrick Garden Center in Walkersville. He has two children, Mason, 18, a senior at Linganore High School, and Mackenzie, 16, a sophomore at Linganore High School.