PA Cyber
Faces of PA Cyber

Meet the Faces of School Choice

Jennie Harris

January 22, 2024

School choice has carved countless paths for students looking to learn in a different setting. PA Cyber celebrates individuality and empowers students to pursue their passions and academic goals. Explore the unique stories of individuals at PA Cyber, where students, alumni, faculty, and activity leaders share their educational journeys.


Aya Batmi

Current Student in Mechanicsburg

What led you to enroll at PA Cyber?

I used to go to a public school. One of my old friends who transferred to PA Cyber told me and my mom about it. And it was a good choice because I can pick my own schedule since I’m at boxing almost every day.

What’s your favorite subject?


What do you do after school?

I’m mostly at the boxing gym. I’m currently ranked number 3 in the nation [for my age and weight class] after I went to the junior Olympics and December nationals.

What are your goals for after graduation?

My goal is to go to a good college and to not only make it pro in boxing but to go to the 2028 boxing Olympics.

Aya poses with championship belts and medals.

Aya's goal is to go pro in boxing and be in the 2028 boxing Olympics.

Ayden Gerlach

Current Student in Slippery Rock

What led you to enroll at PA Cyber?

I do competitive cheerleading, and I travel a lot for competitions. PA Cyber worked best after trying two other cyber charter schools. I can work ahead on assignments so I can focus on practice and my competitions without missing school or being behind on homework.

What’s your favorite subject in school?

History is probably my favorite subject. I like learning about the past and different events that have shaped the world today.

What are your interests outside of school?

Competitive cheerleading and tumbling. I made Top Gun AllStars TGLC last year in Miami, Florida. My team won USASF All Star Worlds last April at ESPN in Orlando. I am currently back on the team this season and traveling back and forth to Miami. I live with a host family when I am down there and during competitions.

What are your goals for after graduation?

I want to become an Athletic Trainer and also coach tumbling at Top Gun Pittsburgh in Cranberry Township. I currently work there doing private lessons and classes when I am home from Miami.

Student shows off a medal from his cheerleading team winning a world championship.

Ayden travels out of state for cheerleading competitions. His team won USASF All Star Worlds last April.

Kayla Collins

Alumna in Greensburg

What have you been doing since graduating from PA Cyber in 2022?

I’m currently a sophomore at Seton Hill University, and I’m in the middle of switching to a Biology major with a Psychology minor. I’m a student teaching assistant for our First-Year Seminar course and an Orientation Leader Captain. Next month, I’ll also be presenting cognitive psychology research as a first author at the Eastern Psychological Association conference in Philadelphia!

How do you think PA Cyber prepared you for this path?

PA Cyber prepared me for this path by teaching me that I can handle as much work as I want to. People sometimes tell me I’m involved in too many extracurriculars and that I’ll have no time; I tell them, “There’s no such thing as being too involved if it’s the level of involvement I want!”

How did you benefit from school choice?

In my previous brick-and-mortar school, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to learn the independence I now have. I chose my schedule, when I submitted my assignments, where I attended class from, and made sure I actually attended class. PA Cyber helped me create my own independent style of work ethic that I use every single day.

What advice would you give current students enrolled at PA Cyber?

Every day, take steps toward who you want to be for the rest of your life. Each choice you make — whether it’s to pay attention in class or sit on your phone instead — plays a small role in where you’ll end up in life. Those small roles add up to who you are and who you will be, so start becoming your best self now! Chase your biggest goal like it’s a race you’re so close to winning; that’s exactly what it is.

Photo of a young woman smiling. She wears classes and a pearl necklace.

Kayla will be presenting cognitive psychology research as a first author at the Eastern Psychological Association conference in Philadelphia next month.

Matthew Abel

Faculty Member in Pittsburgh

What led you to PA Cyber?

I started teaching calculus face-to-face about 30 years ago, then life changed, and about 10 years later I worked for a major online education software company. Life happened again, and amazingly, PA Cyber chose me to be a teacher. I’ve been teaching here for about 7 years and it’s been wonderful. The students have made me the best teacher I can be. In fact, I was just nominated for Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year because of them. The connections with students, parents, and colleagues have been beyond expectations.

Why is school choice important?

School choice is very important to meet the ever-changing complexities of life. Everybody, including me, has a life that keeps changing, and being able to choose the best educational fit for their lives is important for every student and every family. PA Cyber offers the flexibility and valuable educational opportunity that many students need.

What is your favorite part about being an educator?

My favorite part is connecting with students and being able to directly meet their educational needs individually. My students tell me, years after I’ve had them in class, that they appreciate what I’ve done for them. And I greatly appreciate what they’ve done for me. It’s fantastic to hear that I’ve helped them believe in themselves with a growth mindset and achieve their potential.

What’s a fun fact about you?

I played on the field for the National Champion University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the Fiesta Bowl in 1988 in the band. I can play tuba, trumpet, guitar, and kazoo. By the way, did you know that there are three kinds of people in the world? Here they are: people who can count and people who can’t.

Man stands in front of a whiteboard with handwritten math calculations on it.

Mr. Abel's students nominated him for Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year. Aside from teaching math, he can play an array of musical instruments.

Jane Camp

Activity Leader in Midland

Describe your role as Supervisor of Student Events.

Since 2004, I have helped students and their families connect within the PA Cyber community. I oversee the Family Link program, which creates learning experiences outside the classroom through field trips and in-person meet-ups. I also help manage our club program, which allows students to meet peers who share similar interests. When students connect, they build a sense of community, pride in their school, and grow as individuals.

What benefits do you see in allowing students to choose their school experience?

Increased engagement and motivation, personalized learning, a stronger sense of belonging and community, and preparation for real-world challenges are a few of the benefits that I observe on a daily basis.

What is your favorite part about being an activity leader?

I strive to create a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere and encourage participants to interact with each other. Seeing friendships form and students reunite with their friends on field trips is such a rewarding aspect of my job. I also get to witness learning and growth, which I love. The learning never stops!

Jane is wearing a blue jacket and Wright's Fallingwater is in the background.

Mrs. Camp oversees the Family Link program, which creates learning experiences outside the classroom through field trips and in-person meet-ups.

Danielle Schlessinger

Principal in Midland

Tell us about your career.

I started at a traditional brick-and-mortar school as a High School English teacher. The following year, I was hired at PA Cyber as an English virtual classroom teacher for grade 10. I went on to become an Assistant Principal in the High School, and now I am the High School Principal for grades 9-10.

Why is school choice important?

Every child deserves to receive an education at a school where they feel safe, supported, and valued. That decision should not be bound by physical location.

What are some examples of benefits you see in your students as a result of their ability to choose their school?

I see students who are able to participate in activities, clubs, and classes that they would not be offered at their home school district. Additionally, the ability for students to work at a pace that is best for them is a huge benefit.

What is the best part about your job?

On graduation day, I love seeing the students’ smiling faces when they walk across the stage to grab their diplomas. It’s a great feeling!

Every child deserves to receive an education at a school where they feel safe, supported, and valued. That decision should not be bound by physical location.

Principal Schlessinger