Science Hill students earn credit from home over summer


School may be out for the summer, but 621 Science Hill High School students took the opportunity to earn some high school credits toward graduation during the month of June.

Science Hill offered seven online classes, which allowed students to get ahead or make room in their schedule to try other classes during the school year. The courses were taught and developed by Science Hill teachers and staff.

“By offering these classes, students are able to have flexibility in their school schedule, which allows them to explore different class opportunities like advanced placement and career and technical education classes,” Johnson City Schools Supervisor of Secondary and Instructional Technology Dr. David Timbs said. “This also allows us to get students into desired classes earlier because of enrollment. It’s also a good way to introduce students to deadlines, personal responsibility, communication, and working in an online environment.”  

Other classes that were offered included personal finance, driver’s education and computer applications. Also, for the first time, Science Hill offered U.S. Government and Economics.  

Science Hill rising junior Camryn Boles completed the personal finance class and said the class was a convenient way to earn credit and enjoy her summer. Boles said the interface of the class allowed her to work while traveling and she was also able to view her grades as soon as an assignment was completed.

“I really enjoyed that I could complete the course at my own pace,” she said. “I feel like it gave me time to fully comprehend the material and still have time to enjoy my summer. I thought it was a great experience and it helped me prepare for future online college classes.”

The largest enrollment was for the personal finance class, which is a half-credit. That paired with a half-credit for personal wellness are requirements for graduation. Students that are in JROTC, band or TSSAA-sanctioned athletics can earn their half-credit of personal fitness by participating in their selected extracurricular.

The personal finance class was designed by Science Hill teacher Tim Vanthournout three years ago. He teaches the class during the school year in the fall and spring and the course covers three components including how to make money, what do you do when you start making money and then how to build wealth or the acquisitions of assets.

“We try to talk about, in detail and through simulations, what it’s like to earn a set amount of money and fill out a budget,” Vanthournout said. “Then we throw curveballs at them when life happens.”

The U.S. Government and Economics classes were taught by Jessica Schiwitz and Dr. David Burgin. Schiwitz said that most of her work came on the front end as she created the course and the assignments that go with the online class. While her students were taking the course, she was able to grade their work, troubleshoot any problems students might have encountered and send friendly reminders to students that may not be keeping up with their assignments. Being her first year teaching an online class, Schiwitz said she was impressed with the work she received.

“The work I received in the course has been at or above what I would receive in a regular classroom setting, so that has been a positive for me,” Schiwitz said.

The classroom portion of Driver’s Education was also taught for 20 students and when students weren’t working online, they were able to get their driving time with a Science Hill instructor.

In the future, Science Hill hopes to be able to offer online advanced placement classes during the summer, and perhaps even during the school year. Tennessee allows students to earn up to two credits online per school year.

Vanthournout said that he likes the idea of preparing the students for what they might see in college.

“Having high school students learning not only the content, but learning the discipline of taking an online class, I feel like that is a great component,” Vanthournout said. “It also forces students to communicate with their teacher, because a student has to have some dialogue with their teacher in order to be successful and sometimes in a classroom with almost 30 kids, that doesn’t happen.”