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In or Out of School, Hull Finds a Way to Impact Students

Even when she was away from teaching, Paula Hull knew that working with children was her calling.
 
She started teaching in 1991 and went on an extended leave to become a caregiver for her mother. In that time, she continued to guide young minds by working with a youth group at her church, being a scout a leader, and being active in her kids’ school through the student council, theater group, and reading group.
 
When the time came for her to resume her career, she taught at Taylor Preparatory High School for three years. She now is in her second year as a special education teacher at PrepNet Virtual Academy, and this year was nominated for Michigan Regional Teacher of the Year from the Michigan Department of Education.
 
“I always knew I was meant to be a teacher,” she said. “Very early on, teachers impacted me and changed the trajectory of my life. It was a blessing to be able to come back when I did and I have no regrets.”
 
Hull’s drive led to her creating a specialized peer tutoring program at Taylor Prep that brought together students she worked with as the National Honor Society advisor and special education teacher. She thought having the two groups interact could be mutually beneficial during the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
“My kids needed help and my NHS students needed to be impactful, they needed purpose,” she said. “It’s very hard to do community service and you can't leave your house, so it was a tough time for them. They were looking for something to do. They wanted to be meaningful, so I trained them to be tutors.”
 
After a month of training, the National Honor Society students tutored special education students in targeted areas in which they excelled. The program eventually expanded to the entire school known as “Power Hour.

Hull teaching online.
PrepNet’s Paula Hull was nominated for Michigan Regional Teacher of the Year.

Hull also launched personal curriculum modification plans, which serve as an alternate pathway to graduation by making minor adjustments through IEPs so students can hit AP class thresholds. She noticed that lowering the bar just enough can give students hope to push forward and go beyond what they thought was possible.
 
“Making the goals attainable has provided a pathway so I’m really proud of that,” she said.
 
Hull now sees the advantage of teaching at an online virtual school, which is a unique environment that has its perks.
 
“A lot of the concerning behaviors that prevent learning are mitigated here because of our service delivery, which is nice, so in ways we can be much more effective than what we can in brick and mortar there are fewer distractions and we can focus on content,” she said.
 
No matter where she is teaching, Hull’s goal is consistent – to give students the tools they need to improve, be it academically or otherwise.
 
“I want to see academic achievement, but for me if they’re better off for having known me, then I’ve done my job,” she said. “I work to make them better than they were before.”
 
Keep up the excellent work, Ms. Hull!

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About PrepNet Virtual Academy
PrepNet Virtual Academy is a tuition-free, online public charter school in Grand Rapids, Michigan, virtually serving students in kindergarten through 12th grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes more than 100 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit nhaschools.com.

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