South Kitsap student tops in her (online) class

Insight School of Washington valedictorian sparkles in nontraditional learning environment

Port Orchard’s Kristen Herbert views the Insight School of Washington as an amalgamation of public schools and home instruction.

The Insight School is a tuition-free, online public high school that offers more than 120 classes, including Advanced Placement courses, and dual high school-college credit classes for those in grades nine through 12.

But unlike traditional public schools, students study through personal computers at home.

Frank Walter, who previously was superintendent in the Quillayute Valley School District in Forks, in addition to serving as an administrator in the Clover Park School District, now is the head of Insight School. He said he’s always been an “alternative education guy,” and began researching the idea of online courses while in Quillayute Valley, which has a working agreement with the Insight School because of its remote location.

He said having an instructor “who is a really knowledgeable physics teacher” in some rural locations isn’t feasible. Wherever a student takes courses, they are held to the same graduation requirements as those in traditional Washington high schools. That includes standardized test and a senior project.

“There’s the latest resources … all that you need at your fingertips,” Walter said.

Herbert, 18, who graduated Thursday with a 4.0 grade-point average and served as the valedictorian, said she wasn’t as concerned about those factors when the family relocated from Redding, Calif., to Port Orchard four years ago. She traditionally was home-schooled, but the family examined the South Kitsap High School before learning about Insight School through an advertisement.

“It was just so crowded to the point that we figured I might as well stick with home-schooling,” she said.

Insight School recently wrapped up its third year and Walter said students have the same opportunities as all other graduates in Washington. He said many have been accepted at community colleges, as well as the University of Washington. Walter also said students have the option of transferring credits into traditional high schools.

But Herbert, who doesn’t plan to attend college immediately, said she has encountered some challenges with that. While applying for jobs, she said some view online schooling as the equivalent of someone who drops out and earns their General Education Development certificate.

She only applied to Harvard University because it offered a significant financial-aid package, but said she was turned down after an interview. Herbert said her SAT score wasn’t high enough.

Herbert eventually hopes to become a registered nurse, but wants to become a Certified Nursing Assistant first. She wants to gain experience with patients in hospice or nursing homes.

“Ever since I was little, I always was interested in helping people,” Herbert said. “I was the first to get them a Band-Aid.

“I like the fast-paced environment of a hospital.”

Time also is one advantage she enjoyed about Insight School. Unlike many students, who wake up at 6 a.m. to get ready for school, Herbert said she could plan her own schedule.

Of course, she said, that doesn’t work for everyone.

“The ones who stay are overachieving nerds like me,” Herbert said, adding distractions at home, such as video games and siblings, can be burdensome for some students. “If you’re a self-motivated person, then it’s a good choice.”

Walter said the school appeals to a wide array of students. An advanced pupil easily can work ahead on in subjects without limitations. And with the material online, audio from an instructor can be reviewed multiple times. He said students also have one-on-one instruction with a teacher via the Internet or phone.

Herbert, who enjoys painting landscapes and other scenes during her free time, said she submitted work to her fine-arts instructor by taking a photo of each piece with a digital camera and e-mailing it. For subjects such as physical education, she completed exercises through a weekly time requirement and had her parents sign a form.

There also are some social aspects to the school. It holds an annual prom and Herbert said she’s had dialogue with others at the school through pizza parties and online chats.

“If I had no friends, I probably would go crazy,” she said, adding that she would like the school to coordinate study groups with students who live in a close proximity.

But she also feels the school did a good job of facilitating contact between students and teachers and counselors.

“They really care about the students,” Herbert said.

For more information on Insight School, visit or call (866) 800-0017.

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