Tips to Keep Your Brain Active During Summer Break

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Ah, summer. Vacations. Staycations. Sleeping in. For many, summer break means beach, binge-watch, and sometimes, boredom. But just because you’re not in school doesn’t mean learning has to stop. Summer break is the perfect time to find time for things you love with activities that also help keep your brain sharp.

Here are a few ways to keep your mind active this summer:

Play Games

Yes, you read right—you have permission to play games! Games can have a positive impact on your brain function and development and can improve memory. But it’s true, not all games are created equal. Choose games that boost creativity and incorporate problem-solving and critical thinking skills. Level up your word mastery and mathematical computations while having fun. Nowadays, you can find a variety of games online but there is something about playing a tangible board game with others that brings skills together. So, challenge your family and friends to a game or two and let them know they are working out their brains. 


Now before you groan out loud, we’re talking about reading whatever it is you want to read (we’d bet money it’s not a textbook). Did a summer movie come out that is based on a book? What’s your favorite TV show? What was it five years ago? Have a favorite comic or cartoon character? The beauty of summer reading is that you can treat yourself to some light, enjoyable reading and keep your mind and imagination active.


Don’t worry, we’re not thinking at all about a book report or writing essay. Draft a poem or song.  Jot down a short story you’ve been pondering. Journal daily about your summer adventures or plans and dreams for the future. Writing in any form strengthens concentration skills and improves cognitive function. Leisurely writing is a great creative expression and helps keep your mind sharp. And who knows, writing a best seller could be an added bonus.

Learn an Instrument

Did you ever go to a concert and wish you were the one shredding on the guitar or beating those drums? Fascinated by people who can read music? Playing an instrument not only improves long-term memory and brain function, but it also enhances reaction times. There are lots of online tutorials that will walk you through the basics. You can also check your local area for in-person lessons.

Summer is a great time to reflect on the past year, recharge, and set goals for the next school year. Bust summer boredom by keeping your brain engaged with these activities and more. How will you keep your mind sharp this summer?

Sal Khan to Lead Student Seminars at Khan World School at ASU Prep

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The Khan World School at ASU Prep is opening to passionate ninth grade students starting in August. And some of that world-class learning will be lead by Sal Khan himself. Well known in the education world as the founder of Khan Academy and, Sal plans to join the faculty for this inaugural class of students. Please watch his announcement below.

Learn more about this exciting online school model at

ASU Prep Academy High School Students Win NASA’s TechRise Student Challenge

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Six students at ASU Preparatory Academy’s Polytechnic STEM High School were winners in NASA’s TechRise Challenge. Their experiment, “How will Hydrophobic and Non-Hydrophobic Sponges React with Water in Microgravity?” was selected to be tested in space and will launch on NASA’s Blue Origin rocket in January. Learn more. The team was interviewed by Fox 10 Phoenix.

Watch the Interview HERE

June Newsletter

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ASU Prep Digital’s mission is to design new models for educational success to raise academic achievement for all learners.

Note from Your Director

Dear ASU Prep Digital Students and Families,

Hello Sun Devils! 

We were so proud of our graduates in May! Did you miss our 2022 ASU Prep commencement ceremony? You can relive our students’ special evening here.  It is hard to believe we are already in June and we hope your summer is off to a great start! 

We are looking forward to our upcoming school year with you. Enrollment is now open for the 2022-2023 school year! Students that are continuing their education with ASU Prep Digital don’t need to do anything, as your LSC will be reaching out to review a schedule of your courses for the upcoming school year. The 2022-2023 School Year Calendar is available on our website under the resource section. 

Some exciting news: Love the flexibility of online school, but want a little more face-time with teachers and peers?

We have two unique programs that allow ASU Prep Digital high school students to spend time working with their peers in-person at an ASU college campus. They participate in guided workshops, hands-on activities, and real-world projects supported by a personalized learning advisor. The rest of the week, they will work at home on their digital lessons, supported by a local Learning Success Coach. 

Upcoming Info Sessions:

June 22: 12pm-1pm, 6pm-7pm

June 29: 12pm-1pm, 6pm-7pm

To find out more, please visit our website and complete the online registration form, if interested. 

Let us know if you have any questions about these exciting new opportunities. Enjoy the rest of your summer!


Dr. Laura Maloney  Director of Academics

Mr. Michael Kasper, M.Ed, Director of Academics

Meet The Teachers

Jennie Spencer, 4th Grade Lead Teacher

This is Jennie Spencer’s 16th year teaching. Her favorite thing about being in education is the relationships she builds with students and families. Listening to live music is one of her favorite things. She believes that all children should have the equal right to learn in a safe and caring environment that challenges them. She feels that it’s so important to put students at the center of every decision we make. Her goal is to create a classroom full of learners who feel safe enough to take creative risks, and confident enough to know that we grow from their mistakes.

Eric Roth, 8th Grade Math

Eric Roth is originally from Archbold, Ohio and currently lives in Flagstaff, Arizona. He’s been working with ASU Prep Digital for two years. He enjoys biking, running, and hiking in his free time. The weather, terrain, and scenery are perfect for outdoor fun in Northern Arizona. When asked about one of his heroes Eric said, “one of my heroes is Corrie ten Boom. She never stopped seeking out opportunities to do good, serve others, and share her light and faith, even and especially when it came at great personal risk to her.” One of the things he enjoy most about ASU Prep Digital is getting to work with students from all around the state, country, and world. He feels very fortunate that he gets to facilitate the interaction of students from various backgrounds during live lessons. What he enjoys most about teaching is building confidence in students and showing them they are capable of doing anything they set their mind to.

Michelle Medina, Honors Geometry Part A teacher 

Michelle Medina has been teaching for four years. Her degree is in Forensic Science and she did the alternate route certification to become a teacher. Her favorite thing about being in education is that every day is something new whether it is teaching a different lesson or working with a different group of students. She never feels stagnant. Michelle also enjoys working with students and helping them to not only become better problem solvers but also to be better human beings whether that is being more responsible or tolerant of others. Even if she is not having a one on one conversation with each student every day, that she is still making an impact on them. In her opinion, “teaching is more than just helping students to become better problem solvers. It is about giving them the life skills they need to thrive and become better human beings.”

School Updates

High School

Nathan Amador

Nathan is a junior in his second year at ASUPD, with aspirations to get a Masters in Theoretical Physics, followed by a pHD in Quantum Mechanics. Nathan’s passion for physics extends into all of his courses, and it is not uncommon for him to espouse on some advanced mathematical equation or new theory on quantum gravity that he has developed in the course of a live lesson. Therefore, when I learned about a NASA sponsored Future Engineers contest that was challenging students to “Learn about nuclear batteries that power space exploration and write about what energizes you”, I knew I had to share the opportunity with Nathan. He applied, and just found out that he has been selected as a finalist! He will learn next week whether he wins or not, but either way, I am extremely proud of him and all that he exemplifies as an ASUPD student! Here is a link to the contest: 

Academic Support

Academic Enrichment Programs 

When student curiosity is ignited, their learning knows no bounds. Our selection of academic enrichment programs let students join small groups that dive deep into learning areas of their choice, advancing their subject knowledge, building their confidence, and increasing their critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. 


  • Summer school in the ASUPD elementary school is in full swing! Students at ASUPD are returning for summer session 1 and summer session 2 to take part in Math Refresh and Reading Refresh courses either at their grade level or a grade level above. These courses help students avoid the ‘summer slide’ with academics fresh in their minds. In addition to weekly playlists with asynchronous work, our elementary teachers also engage students with fun, academic based games and interesting live lessons. LSCs continue to provide amazing support our ASUPD students as they work through their summer coursework.
  • Planning for fall 2022 is at the forefront of administrators minds’ daily. In addition to continuing our pod groups, the elementary school is preparing to launch its Gifted Program and will be communicating with families about enrichment and differentiation opportunities as well as any curriculum changes. Stay tuned for more information about elementary clubs, also, and our back to school day plans!


  • Many of our teachers are conducting summer sessions to assist students in their learning. We are meeting with staff to prepare for the upcoming school year, including adding a few more electives to the middle school. We are excited about these courses as we feel that they will be of great interest to our middle school students. We can’t wait to share more information on these exciting new electives with you soon!


  • We are already halfway through our Summer School Session 1! Our teachers and students have been working hard through our accelerated Summer School courses.  To support students through this intensive pace, teachers are holding two live lessons for their students each week. Social Studies, English, and Elective live lessons are scheduled on Mondays and Wednesdays; while our Mathematics, Science, and World Language live lessons are scheduled for Tuesdays and Thursdays. Note: Students should have completed their first DBA last week (June 6 – June 10).  DBA 2 is due this week! 
  • Summer Session 1 ends on June 29th. We will have a short break, and then return to Summer School with our second session starting July 11th. 
  • We’re building a supportive academic culture that lets students connect with others who share their passions and academic interests. Not only does this make learning more fun, but it allows students to encourage each other on their learning journeys.

Learn more about our Academic Support Program offerings here.


To help fulfill our mission of designing new models of educational success, the ASU Prep team is working with passionate parents to create flexible school program alternatives. These programs are designed to serve families looking for just the right mix of in-person and digital learning to meet student needs, while accessing ASU faculty through an on-campus experience.

  • 1 day per week on-campus, semester-based
  • Honors Elective high school credit earned
  • Faculty-supported workshops that focus on real-world, project-based learning
  • Application-based; available to all ASU Digital 9th-11th grade students
  • Available at ASU Polytechnic campus in Fall ‘22 and ASU Tempe in Spring ‘23

  • 2 days per week on-campus, year long program on the ASU West campus or the ASU @ Mesa City Center campus
  • Available to all ASU Digital 9th-11th grade students, 12th grade students upon review
  • Faculty-supported workshops that focus on real-world, project-based learning
  • Students will be enrolled in concurrent ASU courses
  • Core content support on-site with a Personalized Learning Advisor

To find out more and apply to any of these programs, please visit our website and complete the online registration form.

Make sure to #RepThePrep and check out the ASU Prep School store!


Addressing Online Learning and its Shortcomings During COVID

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Shortcoming (noun): “A fault or failure to meet a certain standard, typically in a person’s character, a plan, or a system.”

COVID-19 reshaped the world in many profound ways, one of those being the effects on traditional schooling and education. Millions of teachers, students, and families faced the uncertainty of how to continue learning amid a myriad of disruptions. School shutdowns. Teacher shortages. Mask mandates. Social distancing. Rising fear. Isolation. 

Among the first shortcomings noted was the scramble to ensure students had technologically sound devices and could connect to the internet. Concurrently, there was the surge of trying to get brick-and-mortar teachers up to speed on remote learning so they could captain their own ships. And of course, families had to quickly create the space, structure, and supervision necessary to help their children navigate the online learning seas.

Homeschooling, while not new, experienced a rise during the pandemic, and the national homeschool population doubled in growth with a large increase in minority families.

“The way digital learning ‘went down’ during the pandemic—I would not have wished that on anyone,” said Kay Johnson, Director of Strategic Communications, ASU Prep Digital. “I have huge empathy for all teachers who were not familiar with digital learning. Those teachers were heroic.”

The rush to pivot to online learning was swift, and many schools and districts were thrust into murky, uncharted waters without proper tools or training.

“The tragedy is that we’ve had the tools in place for digital learning and we could have responded to the pandemic in a much more fluid way given how many schools have been providing online education successfully for decades,” said Johnson. “A remote program is vastly different from one in which the content and instruction were designed from inception to be delivered in an online environment.”

One example she shared is project-based learning, such as science labs. There are ways to collaborate online, but brick-and-mortar schools were not given the time to consider “how.”

Now, three years after the pandemic’s emergence, studies show the depth of academic disruption: Decreases in academic learning and declines in test scores.


Many states are looking at what happened during the pandemic and are addressing online learning and its shortcomings during COVID. Texas was the first state to publish a full set of student test scores. The results were grim—large learning losses in both reading and math—not only wiping out learning gains, but setting them back to 2016 and 2013 levels, respectively. 

Nationally, research shows that the pandemic widened pre-pandemic test score gaps by race and economic status with younger students seeing some of the biggest declines in learning. Additionally, income-based academic gaps in elementary schools widened 20 percent in math and 15 percent in reading since the pandemic began.

High-tech, High-touch Helps Address Learning Gaps

In an attempt to address those racial and economic disparities, the Arizona Governor’s office recognized they needed to train all their teachers how to properly use digital tools. At the onset of COVID-19, they formed the Arizona Virtual Teacher Institute (AZVTI) in partnership with the Helios Foundation and Arizona State University. ASU Prep Digital, ASU’s K–12 online school, provided training to districts and emergent sites to help teachers navigate their new virtual world. Educators received free, web-based training on relevant topics anytime, anywhere to fit their schedule. To date, they have trained more than 15,600 teachers.

With a core commitment to putting students first, ASU Prep Digital addresses academic gaps through a high-tech and high-touch approach to learning. “It comes down to the human element and support of students,” said Johnson. “We’re not waiting for a student to call with a problem. Our staff is proactive, and we actively reach out with multiple touchpoints.”

And the human element is working–ASU student’s test scores are 23 percent higher in English Language Arts–21 percent higher in Math, than State of Arizona high school averages. ASU Prep Digital instituted a research program in August 2021 to measure programmatic effectiveness. Using a rigorous standardized test, a longitudinal study of achievement growth scores revealed that students in ASU Prep Digital made strong positive progress in the academic year in both Reading and Math. Additionally, 70-80 percent of students in each grade finished the academic year with higher achievement than they started with. Researchers found consistent evidence of growth not only for high achieving students but for students who need improvement. The quantitative magnitude of growth either meets or exceeds reputable growth benchmarks for schools across the country.

Johnson added that offering a robust digital experience is just one component. “There are online learning tools that give us amazing feedback and data and content…but having someone shepherd those kids along is critical. That’s what it takes to get the next level of quality.”

Find the Right Digital Learning Partner 

Being “forced” into remote learning because of the pandemic has been a wakeup call for many, but one thing is certain: Digital learning is not going away, and it doesn’t have to be an either-or mentality. Finding the right partner to provide training, digital curriculum and even remote teachers is the key to school success. 


ASU Prep Digital provides K–12 school districts with single online courses, full-time virtual programs, innovative learning recovery solutions, and professional development options. It is ranked at the top of the 2022 Best Schools List

For information about partnering with ASU Prep Digital, please email


Summer + Boot Camp = Thriving Teachers

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When you hear the word “summer” what do you think of? For many people, summer means vacations, time with friends, and travel. Warm nights after hot days. Thoughts of a less hectic schedule, to sleep in, lounge about, enjoy the pool, read, go to art and music festivals. Summer is viewed as a reward for all the rushing around we do during the school year, but it is also the perfect time to continue learning. 

Enroll Now in AZVTI Summer Boot Camp

The school year may be ending, but educators and leaders can take full advantage of Arizona Virtual Teacher Institute Summer Boot Camp. This training is provided at no cost to Arizona K-12 educators through the generous investment of the Arizona Department of Education, the Governor’s Office, Helios Education Foundation and Arizona State University.

This year’s Summer Boot Camp series offers 18 unique training sessions to choose from. Participants will be immersed in collaborative discussions and engaging tech tools during these live, guided workshops. Sessions begin June 7 and continue through July 14.

For just a few hours a day, three days a week (there are some 2-day sessions), attendees will earn professional development credit while gaining and strengthening the skills they need to succeed next year. Here are three of the training sessions offered this summer: 

  • Social-Emotional Learning and Trauma-Informed TeachingThrough a trauma-informed teaching lens, teachers create a healing environment where those who have suffered varied levels of trauma will feel supported and empowered. Learn how you can make your classroom a place where you and your students want to be together.
  • Understanding and Supporting Diverse Learners Teachers encounter a wide range of learners and learning styles. Participants will develop dispositions and skills which support all learners, ensuring increased access to equitable education for diverse students.  
  • Ed Tech Essentials: Collaboration with Digital Tools The intersection of technology and education allows teachers to deepen opportunities for student engagement and collaboration in the classroom. In this session, participants will gain hands-on experience with tools that allow students to work in real-time on projects and activities.

Check the AZVTI Training Calendar to view full session descriptions, dates and times offered, and to register. Arizona teachers can also find resources and training sessions at 

Khan World School at ASU Prep

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ASU Prep Digital is partnering with Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy, to open a unique global online high school. Michael B. Horn, co-founder of the non-profit think tank Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, recently interviewed Sal Khan and ASU Prep Chief Operating Officer Amy McGrath. Join Sal and Amy as they share the vision for this innovative learning model. 

Watch the podcast