Staff Highlight - Mrs. Pearce Brings Her Own Craft to the Flex Academy

There are many reasons that people get into teaching. Ms. Danica Pearce, one of our newest Flex Academy Teachers, knew from a young age that she wanted to have a career in education. We asked her about her decision to become a teacher, and how she stays connected with her students in a remote environment.

“It is so much fun to learn alongside children and see their curiosity, excitement, and understanding light up their eyes.”  This is Danica’s eleventh year in education.  She started as a teacher’s aide where she worked with students in small groups. Some of those students were brand new to America and only just starting to learn English!  She has taught all subjects to all ages. “One of my favorites was teaching Drama and putting on plays throughout the year!”

Danica chose to join our Elite family for the 22/23 school year and is finding new and creative ways to connect with her students in a remote environment. One of those ways is to spotlight one student each week in her “Guardian of the Week” series. She draws the student in the style of their favorite show or movie! It encourages her to keep up a hobby that she loves and is fun for the students. “I love talking and joking with my students. I am a kid at heart, so I love talking about and making references to shows and things that the students and I love.”

Danica is also excited about all of the fun field trips available to students this school year! She plans on attending Amy’s Farm with the Flex Academy, where she will get to meet with her students in person and see a wide variety of plant and animal species living a symbiotic life. Danica’s students are in good hands with her enthusiasm and compassion. We are so glad she joined the Elite family this school year and are excited to see her students shoot for the moon! If you would like to learn more about the Flex Academy or our upcoming field trips, please visit our website.

Senior Virtual Academy Student Alexis T. Earns Softball Scholarship

Our Virtual Academy senior student, Alexis T.  is not only an outstanding student, but she is a talented softball player as well.  Alexis recently earned a scholarship to play Division 1 NCAA softball at San Jose State University. While she will soon be wearing a Spartan Uniform, she still and will always be an Elite Eagle! 

In her early years, Alexis started out playing softball recreationally and had a lot of fun. She made a ton of friends, kept busy, worked on her athleticism, and by the time she turned 11, she knew that she wanted to compete at a higher level. This is the pivotal moment that started the journey of playing competitive travel softball. “It was here that I learned I could continue to do what I love at the collegiate level. So, I made that my goal and never looked back. It has been an absolute rollercoaster full of ups and downs and tons of sacrifices, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.” says Alexis.

Alexis currently plays for the USA Athletics on the 18U Gold team. The athletics is a top-tier, competitive organization based out of Long Beach, CA.  The organization is owned and run by husband and wife, Mike and Rose Rogers. Alexis decided to join Elite Academic Academy during the COVID Pandemic because she knew that it was the school that would give her the education she needed and the freedom to do it while working around a very demanding athletic schedule. When asked about what she loved best about being an Elite student Alexis stated that she feels Elite has truly mastered the art of creating an institution to fit and foster the best aspects and interests of every student. She loves that she can create her academic schedule, which allows her the time to devote herself to her sport and the recruiting process. The cherry on top was that Elite Virtual Academy courses are NCAA and A-G approved.

Alexis’ Elite Educator, Ms. Hutchins, is so proud of how hard she works with her academics. Mrs. Hutchins raved about Alexis saying that “She is an enthusiastic learner who enjoys school.  She is consistent with her assignments and meetings and maintains high standards in all of her work.  I can’t wait to work with Alexis during her Senior year!”.

Alexis’ post-secondary goals for San Jose State are to earn a degree in  Psychology which will help her to seek employment in the sports industry or Forensic Law Enforcement. She is very grateful for the opportunities she has had throughout her high school career and is looking forward to another awesome year at Elite before heading to SJSU!

We are so excited to see what the future holds for Alexis. There is no doubt that the SJSU Softball Team will be getting a fantastic player and teammate from the Class of 2023! Wishing you the best Senior year at Elite filled with memories to last a lifetime.

Meet Elite's New Curriculum Coordinator: Marisa Thompson!

Elite is growing, and so is our staff! Marisa Thompson has joined our Student Support Services Department as Curriculum Coordinator. She has worked in education for 17 years. She has been a high school English teacher, a professional development instructor for University of San Diego, and an education coach and presenter.


Marisa loves the work she does because she meets great educators and supports many students. She is a fantastic addition to our team, and will be supporting the Virtual Content Teachers and curriculum writing, as well as ensuring EAA has a viable curriculum guide. We asked Marisa a few questions so you can see why she chose to #BeElite! 

What brought you to Elite?

Last year, I supported Elite teachers as a guest speaker. I loved the work they were doing and their purpose in that work. When I saw there was an opportunity to join this amazing team, I jumped at the chance to continue that work with them full-time. In May, I became the Coordinator of Curriculum & Interventions for all Elite Academic Academies.

What are you most excited about this school year and being a part of the #BeElite Culture?

In traditional education, it's normal to have to jump through many, many hoops to do what's best for students and teachers. I love that we are encouraged and supported whenever we want to try something new to help every student surpass their own expectations; to help everyone #BeElite!

What are your hobbies that you enjoy outside of work?

If I'm not working on something for Elite or a conference, I'm probably planning a trip or at the beach with my family. Travel is a passion of mine and I absolutely love body surfing and snorkeling!

We welcome Marisa to her first year as an Elite team member, and we’re excited to see how she shapes the curriculum and learning of our students. If you would like to learn more about Marisa’s role at Elite or what our Student Support Services Department is all about, please visit their virtual office

For all things Elite, please visit our website 

Alina Simons Senior Shout Out

We have many outstanding Seniors this school year! Alina S., a Homeschool Academy Graduate, is no exception. Alina is a concurrent enrollment student who loves all things Visual and Performing Arts. She has really enjoyed her time at Elite, as it has allowed her to discover different hobbies and spend time with her family.

Alina has accomplished so many incredible things during her time here at Elite. We decided to ask her a few questions to help you learn more about her and all that she has achieved.

What are your plans after graduation?

I have been concurrently enrolled at Grossmont College and plan to continue my journey by completing an associate degree and transferring to San Diego State University. There are many subjects and fields that I am drawn to, but I am confident that I will always pursue my passion for creative endeavors through writing, art, and drama.

What are you most proud of from this school year, academic or non-academic?

I am most proud of the opportunity to be concurrently enrolled in community college as a high school student. I have made new friends through my online classes and learned that I can succeed in college.

What has been your favorite part of being a student here at Elite?

The most important part of my high school experience has been acquiring knowledge. I love learning, whether it be a new craft, talent, or something academic. Being homeschooled has allowed me to learn with my wonderful family and has given me great opportunities to learn from amazing experiences.

Students & Parents: Don't Miss Alina's Graduation Speech!

Alina will be the Homeschool Academy Speaker at our in-person graduation ceremony, happening June 14! For our Elite families and friends, or others interested in attending, the ceremony starts at 6 p.m. at Hawk Ranch in Temecula. All of our Elite Families will be able to view the ceremony virtually via Vimeo Livestream! The link is on ParentSquare, so please log into your account and grab the link. Congratulations to all of our Graduating Seniors!

Interested in learning more about our Homeschool Academy? You can learn more here.

Sage Shines - Virtual Academy 11th Grader Becomes San Diego Broadway Award Finalist

Meet Sage: A Virtual Academy 11th Grader who has absolutely soared this school year! Sage has been singing and performing for as long as she can remember, she has always had such passion for it. She met Mrs. Amy Ciceri here at Elite, when she started participating in our Visual and Performing Arts opportunities. Mrs. Ciceri encouraged her to pursue her craft and entered her into the Broadway San Diego Awards.

The Broadway San Diego Awards is a regional competition for high schoolers across San Diego County. The winners, top actor and top actress, go on to represent San Diego at the Jimmy Awards. It is a very thorough audition process, including virtual and in person auditions. This was Sage's first time entering and she did not shy away from the competition!

"I was nominated as top 10 best actress. At the event, each actress sings for a top 3 spot and then the winner goes on to the Jimmy Awards. I made it through to the top three!"

Sage decided to enroll with Elite this school year, as her dad is immunocompromised. She had her reservations at first, because she was really looking forward to the "traditional" high school experience.

"I realized that being homeschooled opens up so many doors for me artistically. It enables me to finish school earlier in the day, giving me the flexibility to hone in on a variety of different aspects and cultivate my craft".

Sage typically is able to finish her school work in the afternoon, so she has the rest of the day to practice the song or monologue she's working on at the time. Her mom is so proud and has enjoyed watching her thrive in this new schooling environment.

"At Elite, Sage is now able to balance school and her passion!" 

Sage would like to major in either musical theatre or acting in college. Due to her hard work as an Elite Eagle, her goals are definitely within reach. We look forward to everything she will be able to accomplish as a student, performer, and beyond!

4 ways to help motivate your child in their schoolwork

*This article is a guest post from Dr. Deana Westedt, an Elite Academic parent

For parents of students learning at home who have difficulty completing their work, it can be a mystery that stumps the cleverest amongst us and leaves us wondering how to get them back on track. We know they are capable, yet work remains undone and refusal may ensue. Such circumstances can directly impact the dynamics in the home.

Here are some top tips for digging deep into such challenges and how to work with your child to get things going, even if they never really were!

1. Talk with your child

Ask your child what is hard about getting their work done. The answer may surprise you. It may have nothing to do with the type of work given at all. Find out from them some ideas of what they think might help to improve their work completion. These conversations can smooth out the rough edges and teach your child important communication skills to resolve conflict and challenges.

2. Consider setting a timer and giving a concrete amount of time to work

Sometimes the task may simply feel overwhelming and a child who does not developmentally have a sense of time or has neurodiversity may react by avoidance or outbursts. Setting a finite time with a definite beginning and end can help to scaffold this skill of work for them. If they can only work for one minute independently to begin with… go with it! Start with their success point and work your way up.

3. Balance

Consider what options you can offer your child for some child-led learning time. For example, you may consider giving a when-then challenge that includes preferred activities. For example, you can say,” When you have X amount of this done, you may…. (Fill in the blank with whatever activity they like to do such as Legos, etc.)

4. "When…then" for technology

If technology is a part of the issue, use the above-mentioned when/then technique. There are a million different ways you can vary it for your family. There isn’t one right way, so you may have to tweak it here and there before you find a program of sorts that works for your family. Whenever possible, include your child in the conversation surrounding tech issues, as this may increase buy-in from them.

About the author

Dr. Deanna Westedt is an Elite Parent as well as a speaker, teacher and motivator. Dr. Deanna Westedt is helping parents maximize their homeschool experience to bring out the full potential of learning in the home setting. She tackles the most common and difficult challenges of homeschool, drawing from both personal homeschool experience and blending that with developmental and learning theory. Her unique understanding of the homeschool lifestyle combined with her research into scaffolding learning for all kinds of learners, including those with learning disabilities and giftedness, makes her guidance second to none!


Phonemic Awareness Activities and Their Importance for Literacy

*This article is a guest post from Dr. Deana Westedt, an Elite Academic parent

Although phonics plays an important part in a child’s reading development, there is so much more to laying the foundation for children’s success in literacy.

Read on for simple and easy ways to pave the path to literacy (no flashcards required!):

1. Include some rhyming songs and games in your day 

Silly wordplay is not only fun, but it also builds important pre-literacy skills to prepare students to substitute and manipulate phonemes (sounds) in oral language which in turn prepares them to use word chunks and blending to read new text. Fun tunes like the Name Song (Billy Billy Bo Milly…) and reading nursery rhymes (bonus points for clapping every time you say a rhyming word!) are very impactful ways to build up students’ readiness for reading.

2. Access to lots and lots of books! 

Although books can be expensive, you don’t have to spend a fortune (or anything at all, really!) to provide an array of texts for reading and enjoyment.  The public library is a great resource for accessing a variety of children’s literature and often, they have a little store where extra copies or donated books are sold at very low prices, sometimes as low as 25 cents a book. Libraries and bookstores often have reading incentive programs, too, where a free book is the prize. Also, consider partnering with other parents for a book exchange.

3. Building your child’s vocabulary 

Aside from reading aloud to your child, which has been shown to greatly increase a child’s vocabulary exponentially, providing experiences that promote new words and dialogue help, too! Baking, gardening, a visit to the park, or a walk in the neighborhood are all great opportunities to build your child’s vocabulary simply by talking about what is around you.

About the author

Dr. Deanna Westedt is an Elite Parent as well as a speaker, teacher and motivator. Dr. Deanna Westedt is helping parents maximize their homeschool experience to bring out the full potential of learning in the home setting. She tackles the most common and difficult challenges of homeschool, drawing from both personal homeschool experience and blending that with developmental and learning theory. Her unique understanding of the homeschool lifestyle combined with her research into scaffolding learning for all kinds of learners, including those with learning disabilities and giftedness, makes her guidance second to none!


Student Shout Out - Flex Academy Student Zeke B.

Zeke is a 2nd Grade Student in Elite's Flex Academy and has soared like an Eagle this school year! His Teacher, Mrs. Davis, wanted to give him a special shoutout for his progress and impact he has made on his schoolmates.

"Zeke has shown massive amounts of improvement in all academic areas this year. He shows up for small group sessions and has raving reviews from his tutors! His hard work shows in his iReady assessment, where he grew over 30 points in both ELA and Math!" 

Zeke's parents chose to enroll him in Elite and they are so proud of his progress. Zeke loves to play basketball and baseball. He really likes his teacher and the friends he has made this school year. He enjoys the interactive small group sessions, and it shows!

"Not only does he come to class prepared, he is eager to share out and show what he has learned. Zeke is a good friend who takes the time to get to know his peers. He will often ask about their day, something he sees in the background that they have in common, and he remembers those connections in other meetings and builds on them. Zeke is an all around example of what it means to #BeElite! He takes advantage of every available session, works hard off screen, and establishes great relationships with his peers."

Zeke wants to be a police officer when he grows up, and we know he can do anything that he works towards. We are so proud that he has chosen to Be Elite and has represented our school so well!

Elite Academic Academy is now enrolling for the 22/23 school year. Please visit our website to get started on your academic journey with Elite!

Teacher Highlight: Shaun Bunn - Virtual Academy Content Teacher

We're excited to share with you all about our amazing math teacher, Mr. Shaun Bunn! He has overcome and accomplished so much in life, that we felt it only right to have him share with us. Check it out below:

Q: What led you to become a teacher?

A: Growing up in a war-torn country, I always wanted to go to school. My family was poor and couldn't afford school, I remember standing outside and looking through the school window trying to learn. At that moment, I realized that I want to be a teacher so that I can give the opportunity for students to learn. A different opportunity that I didn't have when I was a child.

Q: What does a typical workday look like for you?

A: My typical day starts with me checking my emails and logging into StrongMind to respond back to students and staff. I schedule Zoom meetings with our students to help them with any questions that they might have. Be available during office hours for students to drop in, and spend the rest of the time planning and organizing all the math courses. I am making sure that I can reach out to all students from different levels of mathematics. I print out workbooks and checkpoints to examine the mathematical practices programs that we have and try to determine which methods best suited for our students. As we all know our students come from different backgrounds and their needs are different, so I use different strategies to meet the needs of all students.

Q: How long have you been teaching?

A: I have been teaching in for 16 years and still loving every second of it.

Q: How has your experience been with Elite and working with Elite Students?

A: Elite opens many opportunities and ideas for me. I have always been curious about teaching online and how that works, now being a part of the Elite family I know how great this has been. I learn as much from our students as they are learning from me. Our students are a dynamic and wonderful group of young people. When I get on Zoom with them and teaching them math, seeing their faces light up when they actually understand the materials brings me so much joy. The interactions that I have with our students is extraordinary.

Q: What are your hobbies outside of teaching?

A: I love traveling! Seeing different cultures and visiting different places. When I travel, I like to immerse myself in the cultures and learn new things. I believe that the best way to learn and remember anything is to experience the adventure yourself.
You can learn a little more about our awesome teachers here.

Interested in Elite? Get started here!

The Quest Crew's Adventure in Nature

Mr. Olson is our CTE Recreation Teacher and an extreme outdoor enthusiast. He uses his passion and wealth of knowledge about the outdoors to open the natural world up to our students. Recently, Elite partnered with Pali Institute to offer an awesome opportunity to experience nature first hand. From biology and ecology, to team building and problem solving, this is where textbooks come to life!

The Pali Institute is an innovative outdoor program offering educational experiences to schools and youth groups. Their campus is located on the crest of the San Bernardino mountains near California’s gorgeous Lake Arrowhead. During their field trip, students were able to experience learning from a whole new angle through a variety of courses and activities.








Our students were separated into three different groups: the Young Explorers, Outdoor Experience, and Leadership Experience. The Young Explorers option was for our 3rd-5th grade students and included Art in Nature, a Forest Ecology hike, the Living Fossils lab, and "Animal Survivor" class. Students in this group enjoyed a slower pace of activities while their imaginations were able to run wild as they collected acorns and bright yellow willow leaves for their art creations.

The Outdoor Experience option was for our adventurous students. This action packed day had them shooting arrows, building shelters and identifying the plants of the San Bernardino Mountains. Classes during this program included Archery, Forest Ecology hike, Outdoor Skills & Survival Techniques. We had so many students signed up for these activities that two groups were formed; this gave students ample opportunity to practice their shot and build shelters!

The Leadership Experience was for the lionhearts and risk-takers in the group. They challenged their eye with archery; built camaraderie with classmates, and tested their nerves in an adrenaline-inducing high ropes course! This was a popular option for our high schoolers, and students appreciated the opportunity to connect with one another in a natural setting. We also had a group of young risk-takers who completely conquered the ropes course. Age is clearly not a sign of courage for our Elite students! 

Mr. Olson did not stop there - he also coordinated a hike for our Elite families in San Diego County at the Santa Margarita River Trail! Over 30 students, parents and staff joined the hike and had an absolute blast while taking in some knowledge from Mr. O along the way. The group identified several native plants, including a poison oak patch, caught a crawfish in the river and spotted a pumpkinseed fish between the rocks! Kingfishers and songbirds hopped between branches as the group made their way to the numerous beaches along the river.


Thank you Mr. Olson and Pali Institute for being such gracious hosts and instilling an appreciation for Nature and a love of learning with our Elite Students! Mr. Olson will be back in action during January 2022 with skiing and snowboarding at Snow Valley, and Ice Skating in both Riverside and San Diego Counties. If you are interested in learning more about our upcoming recreation events or learning about our CTE Academic Courses, please visit our website's CTE Page.