From the prison system, to an Exceptional Student Education (ESE) classroom, to a small school in the Bahamas, Maureen Bennett’s diverse background in education has spanned over 15 years. In addition to her work experience, she possesses a Bachelor of Arts in Education, English for Speakers of other Languages (ESOL) training, and teaching certifications in Florida and Illinois. Throughout her career, she has worked closely with students with learning disabilities and special needs. It is that particular experience that she feels prepared her most to support the students she now coaches.

“Many of my Career Online High School students experienced educational trauma in their original school setting—and often that can stem from an undiagnosed or misdiagnosed learning disability,” she explains. “As such, these students often felt overwhelmed and uncertain in their capacity for learning, which made it hard for them to view school as a positive experience.”

This can ultimately lead to failure, but Maureen knows it doesn’t have be like that. Her ESE experience has given her tactics and tools to help students who struggle with traditional educational formats. It’s her goal to show students that there is a different way to approach the learning process.

“I love re-energizing the students I work with,” she explains. “Because many of these students have had traumatic experiences with education, it is important to remind them that it can be fun and rewarding.”

As an Academic Coach, her job is to keep students engaged and on track to graduate with a high school diploma. In addition to focusing on the positives of education, she also helps to guide them through difficult life situations and teaches them skills to help them do better in their classes.

In one of her previous positions, she worked in the prison system as an academic teacher for incarcerated adults, which taught her a lot about test anxiety. She uses that experience to help her students develop better test-taking skills and study habits.

Often, though, her students are facing tough, real-world challenges in addition to academic obstacles. One woman she coaches has children, is taking care of her elderly parents, and works all while completing this program. “These people have real struggles,” explains Maureen. “I give them advice on how to manage time better or minimize stress, but sometimes they just need an encouraging word—someone who will listen.”

Maureen’s career in education began in the Bahamas, where she worked at a school with only 30 students who were either children of military members or federal contractors. It was such a small school that she had to wear many hats. “I learned a lot about all aspects of education there,” says Maureen. “And I worked with students of every age.”

Her favorite part of being an Academic Coach?

“I love hearing about students’ dreams and helping them achieve them,” Maureen says. “It’s an incredible experience.”