Incarnate Word Virtual High School Offers Catholic Online School for Girls

Incarnate Word High School Senior appreciation

We are proud to present this guest post by Anne Schafer-Salinas, Director of Virtual Learning at Incarnate Word High School, about Incarnate Word Virtual High School, a new program offering a Catholic online school for girls.

With the start of the 2021–2022 school year upon us, many families are still trying to identify the best fit for their students. The pandemic challenged our education systems to transition to hybrid and virtual learning models. Many experiences were not perfect; most educators never envisioned themselves to be YouTubers and most parents had not included homeschooling in their parenting plans. Despite the disruption caused by a global pandemic, learning continued, and society has opened a door to alternative learning options. At Incarnate Word High School in San Antonio, our Principal, Dr. Anna Downey, has known for years that learning is not a “one size fits all” endeavor. Since before her arrival at IWHS in 2019, she has envisioned the existence of robust virtual learning environments to function alongside existing brick-and-mortar schools.  That vision has come to life in San Antonio with Incarnate Word Virtual High School.

Tradition of Catholic Girls’ Education

Incarnate Word High School in San Antonio was founded by and is an active ministry of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word (CCVI Sisters). As part of their commitment to “a life for God and a heart for others,” the CCVI Sisters established several orphanages and schools, including Incarnate Word, beginning in 1881. The tradition entrusted to us by the CCVI Sisters of offering a strong holistic education to everyone has positioned Incarnate Word High School to successfully launch a virtual campus. IWVHS will continue to meet the needs of young women seeking a strong Catholic education. If you are new (or new-ish) to San Antonio, like myself, and would like to learn more about these women who are an established presence in the greater San Antonio area, you can do so here.

The virtual campus is not a response to Covid, but rather its launch was accelerated by Covid. As virtual learning moved into the mainstream, it became very clear that pandemic or not, it was time for IWHS to expand and offer Incarnate Word Virtual High School (IWVHS) for those families who want/need an alternative setting but do not want to sacrifice the strong academics or the many traditions that an established school can offer.  Of course, virtual learning is not a new idea, but we believe we are expanding the definition of what virtual learning can be.

Incarnate Word High School ring

Shamrock Sisterhood in Our Catholic Online School

The girls in our program will learn from home, but it is our priority to ensure that they still feel part of our Shamrock community. As the Director, I have had many conversations with other administrators on campus ensuring that we have our virtual girls in mind as we plan events such as orientation, monthly liturgies, assemblies, the Freshman Tie Ceremony, and so much more. Working with student leaders and their sponsors to include the virtual students in all our activities in a meaningful way is a priority for me. The girls learning from home bring a wealth of life experience and diverse viewpoints that will contribute to the diversity of our campus community. It is important that their voices have a way to be included in discussions and events, rather than relegating them to a passive avatar on a big screen.

Our virtual students are joining the Shamrock sisterhood that stretches back to 1881. They are joining a community that includes mothers, CEOs, small business owners, athletes, politicians, public personas, doctors, lawyers, and so many more. We are as committed to our virtual students as we are to our in-person students, ensuring that they grow as learners and leaders. Providing opportunities for them to contribute their voice is a critical part of that commitment.

Incarnate Word High School freshman tie

An Intentional Approach to Virtual School

IWVHS is open to any young lady entering grades 9–12 for whom a more complete virtual learning experience is desirable. We know there are a variety of reasons why families would seek out alternative learning opportunities. Specifically, in year one we are looking to support families with extenuating health issues as well as those in more rural areas without school choice. As the program grows, our delivery method will adjust to be more compatible with the schedules that athletes and performers have as well as make learning much easier for those in different time zones.

To do anything well, you need to move with intention. We are embracing intentionality to ensure that what IWHS has built is effectively transitioned to the virtual campus. Community, sisterhood, advocacy, service to others, academic excellence—these are all traits of IWHS. They will also be traits of IWVHS. Every student will be assigned to an Advisory with an experienced IWHS staff member as well as a College and Career Counselor. All IWVHS students will participate in our Big Sister-Little Sister Program as well as be expected to complete service projects, attend their grade-level retreat and the all-school activities that take place throughout the year. Attendance at events can be virtual or in person. For those girls who live locally, this is a nice break in routine and a way to be more connected to their Shamrock sisters. For those that are not in the area, other opportunities to connect with the school are being developed.

Incarnate Word High School sophomore pin

Learn More About Our Catholic Online School for Girls

We are really excited about the upcoming school year and look forward to building a strong Catholic girls virtual school program grounded in tradition that simultaneously incorporates the innovation of the times in which we are living. If you would like to explore IWVHS for your daughter, I can be reached by email at asalinas@iwhs.org or by phone at my direct number, 210-569-3624. You can also visit our website at incarnatewordhs.org/iwvhs for information on our application process.

Charter Moms Chats

Anne Schaefer-Salinas, Director of Virtual Learning at Incarnate Word High School, joins Inga Cotton to share about this new Catholic girls virtual school on Charter Moms Chats on August 18, 2021 at 4:00 PM Central live on Facebook and YouTube.

Anne Schaefer-Salinas is Director of Virtual Learning at Incarnate Word High School. Anne is relatively new to San Antonio, having relocated from the San Francisco Bay Area with her family in 2019. She has been in education for nearly 25 years but came to the field in a rather circuitous fashion. Her professional life began in hospitality. While volunteering at her church, working with youth became a passion which lead to a career change from the corporate world to the world of education. With just a brief hiatus, all of her educational experience has been in all-girls Catholic High Schools. She has taught courses to all levels in the high school setting, including on-level, honors and APs.  She has been working as an Administrator for the last 9 years. Anne holds a BS in Business Administration, a MA in History and a MA in Education Administration. She is a wife, mom to a 15 year-old human and two rescue dogs (Alvin and Rocky), and is an avid SF Giants fan.

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