We often talk about Bridgeway Academy’s amazing teachers and advisors in this space…and rightfully so! After all, they’re working their hardest every day to ensure your children have the knowledge and support they need to be successful in the classroom. But there are so many others at Bridgeway who want nothing more than to see each student succeed and each family to love their homeschooling experience with us. Right at the top of that list is Dr. Chris Hardin, Bridgeway Academy’s Head of School.
A Little Bit About Dr. Hardin
Prior to joining Bridgeway, Dr. Hardin was the high school principal at Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Before becoming an administrator in a cyber school setting, he was a high school English teacher with the Palisades School District in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, for a number of years and served as the interim Dean of Students at the high school.
Dr. Hardin earned Bachelor of Arts and Master or Education degrees from Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, principal and supervisor of curriculum and instruction certificates from Temple University and a Doctorate in Education degree in educational leadership and management from Drexel University, with a concentration in education administration along with the Superintendent’s Letter of Eligibility. Dr. Hardin is also a graduate of the Pennsylvania’s Education Policy and Leadership Center Fellowship program and is an adjunct professor within Holy Family University’s principal certification program.
Education is obviously a passion for Dr. Hardin, and he took some time to talk about that topic as well as Bridgeway Academy.
Bridgeway Academy: What brought you to Bridgeway Academy and homeschooling after a career in charter and public schools?
Chris Hardin: I have spent a number of years in the education field, and specifically with online learning since 2011. From 2016 through 2019, I served as the high school principal for a cyber charter school in Pennsylvania, and during my time in the principal role, I was able to see the impact of school choice on student learning and how those who were motivated to succeed were very likely to have positive outcomes based upon their online learning experience.
The option of online learning brought me to understand and allowed me to greatly appreciate the many offerings that Bridgeway Academy has for all learners. Educational choice, as well as the ability to customize and personalize one’s educational experience, is highly attractive to me and is clearly something that Bridgeway is adept at delivering to our students.
BA: Can you describe your role as Head of School for Bridgeway, such as your goals for the company and for our students and families, as well as what you currently oversee in your role?
CH: As the Head of School for Bridgeway Academy, I oversee all of our academic operations within our Advising, Live Online Classes, and Educational Technology departments. This includes various aspects of academic programming, accreditation, human resources, project management, and strategic planning for each of the aforementioned departments. I also frequently collaborate with many other departments within our organization to ensure an optimal experience is delivered to all of our students and families.
“Educational choice, as well as the ability to customize and personalize one’s educational experience, is highly attractive to me and is clearly something that Bridgeway is adept at delivering to our students.”Dr. Chris Hardin
BA: How has your background prepared you for this role at Bridgeway?
CH: My prior experience in various educational environments, leadership experience as a school administrator, and attending additional training and educational policy fellowship have all helped prepare me for this position. I’ve also worked in online learning since 2011 and have conducted research on the topic pertaining to student, family, and staff experiences regarding their respective experiences and best practices.
BA: How challenging was the transition from brick-and-mortar public schools to cyber education at the charter school?
CH: Prior to moving to the cyber charter school, I had spent a considerable amount of time teaching online classes within a public school setting, albeit in an asynchronous format. Also, I spent several years conducting research on cyber charter programs within Pennsylvania and what types of experiences students had within those settings. This culminated in a completed dissertation and later a published article on cyber charter programmatic experiences of students who returned to the public school setting, parents, and administrators, as well as fiscal considerations and the overall financial impact on public school budgets. With that background, I had a good deal of knowledge prior to starting my role as a cyber charter school administrator.
BA: From that point, how challenging was the transition from cyber school to homeschooling? Were there similarities? What were the differences that you needed to adjust to in a homeschooling environment?
CH: Some similarities were associated with the online learning options we offer at Bridgeway compared to a cyber charter school as well as various educational practices that are inherent to any academic program in a remote setting.
The biggest difference regarding program options is that Bridgeway Academy offers far more choice in comparison to any prior school setting in which I was previously employed. This is a stark contrast to various options for students and families in public or charter settings. Another difference would be that at Bridgeway we have students from all throughout the United States as well as internationally, and this requires a great deal of knowledge regarding procedural and compliance items compared to just one state, like Pennsylvania, for example.
BA: What makes Bridgeway stand apart from other homeschool choices/academies? In other words, if you were a parent looking into homeschooling, why would you choose Bridgeway?
CH: The number of academic choices for students and the outstanding support provided by our academic advisors and teaching departments. Our staff is extremely knowledgeable and caring and ensures that all students receive the best support possible. Additionally, the ability for families to choose from Live Online Classes, self-paced options online, or textbook and then choose from an enormous library of content from numerous educational providers are tremendous added values that Bridgeway Academy brings to the table for our students.
“Our staff is extremely knowledgeable and caring and ensures that all students receive the best support possible.”Dr. Chris Hardin
BA: What’s your favorite thing about Bridgeway?
CH: I would say our outstanding staff and the array of educational options for students that allows learners to be successful in a multitude of ways.
BA: Many Bridgeway employees consider the company to be a family. Do you agree, and if so, why?
CH: Yes, definitely. Our staff is very welcoming and always seeks to provide assistance regarding any question on any topic. Bridgeway employees truly care about one another, and this was readily apparent during our Summit and Graduation Ceremony in June 2022, when we had over 100 employees in attendance. It was an excellent time for training, professional development, and camaraderie.
BA: So many families rave about Bridgeway’s teachers and advisors. Can you comment on their roles with Bridgeway and how effective they are in those roles?
CH: Our student-to-advisor ratio is approximately 80 to 100-to-1, which is far lower than any comparable option in traditional school settings. This allows for frequent communication and ongoing support from a knowledgeable educational professional, and this helps to guide our students and families toward their optimal education experience. Our teaching staff is also highly qualified and certified in the content area where they are providing academic instruction.
Similarly to the advising team, our student-to-teacher ratio is between 8 and 20-to-1, which is also lower than nearly all online teaching classroom settings. We also provide a teaching assistant within a large percentage of our online classes, which allows for classroom management assistance, faster communication, and answers to questions due a smaller teacher and teacher assistant-to-student ratio. This is an excellent level of support within the online learning community or similar setting.
“At Bridgeway Academy, we are always seeking to provide the ideal options for our students to ensure that they will be successful in their future endeavors.”Dr. Chris Hardin
BA: Education has obviously played a major part in your life. What makes you so passionate about education as a whole?
CH: For me, supporting student achievement is a primary driver in my mission as an educator. Our long-term health as a nation and international community relies upon our ability to educate our students and provide them with skills to be competitive in an ever-evolving society. Providing options for all learners is an ultimate goal for me. We owe it to students to ensure that they are able to be successful within whatever academic setting they choose, and an abundance of evidence supports the premise that each student learns in a different manner.
At Bridgeway Academy, we are always seeking to provide the ideal options for our students to ensure that they will be successful in their future endeavors. Empowering students by aligning their interests and strengths within a customized academic program is certainly something I am proud to be a part of.
BA: What is it about homeschooling specifically that you’re most passionate about?
CH: Students can learn at their own pace and be free of potential distractions or concerns within a traditional school setting. Students have the freedom to choose from a number of curricular options and also take part in various extracurricular activities that they otherwise would be unable to complete due to in-person education requirements. Bridgeway Academy allows for our students to learn at home with a supportive adult and do so in a manner that best suits their goals and educational outcomes.
Understanding the many variances that come into play when choosing homeschooling options is something that I came to appreciate when I first became interested in alternative learning and online learning options many years ago. But student/family academic freedom and choice is the primary component of why I value homeschooling so much.
BA: Without revealing too much, can you give readers a sneak peek at any news or excitement coming up for Bridgeway in the new year?
CH: We are continuing to expand academic programming options in various grades, but hopefully soon at the high school level. We have various short-, mid-, and long-term plans to add more challenging courses and related activities within a somewhat new program of study. We are also very excited about an upcoming partnership in 2023 regarding our Dual Enrollment program!
BA: Speaking of the new year, what are you looking for Bridgeway to accomplish in the coming months–or even years–for students and families?
CH: In addition to enhancing our academic programmatic offering with a wider array of courses and rigorous academic programs, we’re looking to continue expanding upon our student club and activity options.
“We pride ourselves in providing an individualized, personalized, customized, supportive, and caring experience for each student.”Dr. Chris Hardin
BA: If you could say something to families who may be on the fence about homeschooling in general, what would you tell them about Bridgeway?
CH: I would point out that the number of academic programs, types of learning, and number of course options are far superior at Bridgeway to what many families may have previously experienced. And as I mentioned earlier, both our advisor-to-student support/ratio and teacher/teacher assistant-to-student support/ratio far surpass what is currently available in nearly all K-12 educational settings as far as online learning or homeschooling is concerned. We pride ourselves in providing an individualized, personalized, customized, supportive, and caring experience for each student and we would love to have prospective students enroll in one or more of our many outstanding accredited educational programs and options.
Many thanks to Dr. Hardin for taking time out of his busy day to answer these questions! Bridgeway Academy offers a high-quality education in a variety of forms, as Dr. Hardin alluded to–online, textbook, self-paced, and live classes–as well as the flexibility you’re looking for. Call us today at (800) 863-1474 to learn more and see why so many families trust Bridgeway Academy with their child’s education.