HARLINGEN — Margaux Loya waits with great anticipation for class to begin.
Suddenly, the computer screen at her grandfather’s house seems to wake up, and the Glorious Ruler Of All Time makes his appearance.
He’s Stanford physics professor Gary Oas who answers to that colorful moniker and his students seem to love it. On Thursday he was teaching the last class of the year at Stanford Online High School.
Here in Harlingen, Margaux, 13, who’s completing her seventh grade year with the school, is one of his students.
Stanford OHS is an independent school for academically talented students in grades seven through 12, says its website.
The school creates a worldwide learning community of diverse, intellectually passionate students and teachers. The rigorous curriculum challenges students to reason analytically, think creatively and argue critically.
Oas, the “Ruler of all Time,” has been teaching the class this year from his office at Stanford University to students throughout the world.
Soon, one by one, students in China, India, Canada, Connecticut and California appear on the screen right next to Margaux in Harlingen.
“We’re talking about what we’ll most likely do next year, like different types of energy, atoms and matter,” Margaux said.
“It’s really fun and I enjoy it a lot.”
Although she logs in to the class from home, there’s plenty of interaction between her and the other students.
“It’s like sitting in a regular classroom but the only difference is this is online,” she said. “We’re talking to each other, when we turn on the cameras waving and all that, it’s all live and everything.”
They also have a sort of “text chat” system.
“When the teacher’s talking, we can be commenting on what she’s saying without interrupting the teacher,” she said. “It doesn’t make anything like a ‘ting, ting, ting, ting’ noise.”
She’s made some interesting friends in interesting places through the experience.
“I have friends from Russia, Spain, South Korea, all over the place, and also in Canada, too, and of course the U.S.” she said.
It’s been so much fun that her sister Averie, 11, is also planning to take one online course with Stanford while attending Rising Scholars Academy in San Benito.
“I want to be social with my friends but at the same time want to do something new,” said Averie, who will take a course in expository writing this year with Stanford.
She and Margaux first became aware of Stanford University in California two years ago when their parents, Francisco and Trolena Loya, took them and their two older brothers to the West Coast.
“We went to visit San Francisco and took a tour of the Silicon Valley and the Palo Alto areas,” said their mother, Trolena Loya.
“We stopped by Stanford and this was when Margaux was in fifth grade and she just fell in love with the campus,” she said. “And she just kept talking about it when we got back.”
Margaux talked it up so much that her parents looked into any summer programs Stanford might have for kids. They were in luck. They learned about the Summer at Stanford Program. But, there was a catch.
“In order to be in that program you have to be already enrolled in the school,” Loya said. “So she had to apply to the school in sixth grade to be accepted into seventh grade.”
The school accepted her, but after an unusually long application process.
“They interview her, she has to take a test, they interview the parents,” Loya said. “We have essays to write, she has essays to write. It’s very involved. She found out she was accepted in the spring of her sixth grade year to go into seventh grade.”
Margaux said she enjoyed her previous experience at St. Anthony’s Catholic School. But she appreciates the novelty of this approach and the rigorous nature of the coursework.
“My Latin teacher, she can speak Latin fluently and she knows the history of it and everything,” Margaux said with great enthusiasm.
She made special note of her instructor’s experience.
“She taught some college students,” she said. “She has taught at brick and mortar schools before she came to online school. So this is her field and what she specializes in. Same with my physics teacher and my math teacher.”
She also extolled at length the qualities of her English teacher who is, fittingly, English.
“She lives in London and she’s a Shakespearean teacher,” Margaux said. “It’s what she specializes in and what she enjoys teaching.”
Margaux is looking forward to next year, and the year after that, and the year after that…
Graduation from Stanford Online High School doesn’t guarantee acceptance to Stanford University, but it doesn’t hurt. She hopes to eventually study at Stanford School of Law.
SOME OF THE COURSES OFFERED
Chinese, 1, 2, 3, and AP
Revolutions and Rebellions
Globalization and Imperial Exchange
American Culture and Society
Legal Studies: Constitutional Law
Multivariable Integral Calculus
Partial Differential Equations
Light and Heat
Intermediate Mechanics 1 and 11