High schoolers launch nonprofit, teach nontraditional classes to kids News

Ethan Li operates an online school that supplements learning for kids from kindergarten through fifth grade.

But unlike most educators, he is a high school sophomore at Norman North.

Ethan created Alliance of Academic Achievement with friend Ryan Chen — a Norman North freshman — during the height of the pandemic two years ago because he saw a need for supplemental online curriculum.

“At the end of 2020, this was officially created,” he said.

Ethan was attending a virtual book club when the facilitator asked him to substitute. That’s when he realized he enjoyed teaching and could serve a wider audience.

“It was in the middle of the pandemic, and a lot of people were frustrated while they were transitioning to online learning,” he said.

“In just a few months, all of the schools were shut down so I got the idea to turn this into a whole organization to support kids’ learning through these small online learning environments that would be easier to manage than a normal online class.”

When the organization was launched, five students taught classes, and all of them were high schoolers or middle schoolers. That number has jumped to 17 teachers who now teach over 20 courses.

As of Jan. 6, 966 Alliance of Academic Achievement students are learning throughout the US and even in Canada and China.

Class sizes are intended to be small so teachers have the opportunity to mentor students.

“I think one of the main things that separates us from your average class is that we have really small classes. Usually, there are six people in each class. It helps us to interact with the students,” Ryan said. “The fewer students to handle, the more interaction and with more engagement. We can provide a better learning experience.”

The nonprofit is intended to provide teaching in fields not normally taught in elementary school.

Students can sign up to learn about nanotechnology, body and health, first aid, introduction to the elements, quantum physics, famous artists throughout history and chess.

Ethan, who teaches nanotechnology and quantum physics, loves STEM-related fields and said young children have an ability to learn difficult concepts if they are taught in the right way.

“It can be intimidating to teach these subjects to elementary students, but I bring out the basics and I dumb it down to a form they understand,” he said. “This class uses a lot of analogies because of the difficult nature of quantum physics.”

The organization has never admitted adult teachers.

One of the goals of Alliance of Academic Achievement is to help secondary students learn how to design courses and work with younger students.

Ethan said all the courses must be original, and teachers are responsible for setting up slides and preparing for Zoom meetings.

Lin Li, Ethan’s mother, is encouraged by the program and said it is designed to prepare the teachers for life as much as it is to help the students.

“He is doing this not just to benefit others, but to benefit himself,” she said. “I have seen so much improvement as he has set up meetings and taught others, so it is a win-win. I’m very proud of him.”

Na Chen, Ryan’s mother, said that the platform provides opportunities for the young teachers to connect with students around the country.

“They are enjoying the teaching, and the young kids are enjoying the learning,” she said.

As a nonprofit, Alliance of Academic Achievement is free. For more information, visit bit.ly/3vNiJnQ.


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