Andrea Leib '01 and son Michael spend part of each day out at the track.
The shrill sound of motorcycles revving their engines doesn’t pierce her ears. Dirt flying through the air doesn’t choke her. She thinks nothing of getting a little mud on her face.
Her tiny frame dressed in jeans, boots, and a tank top, Andrea Leib ’01 straps on a helmet and jumps into her RZR Side-by-Side off-road vehicle to take laps. Right behind her is grown son, Michael—looking much like a Star Wars storm trooper in his motocross gear—heading out for a 40-minute “moto” practice. Her husband, Don, has just fine-tuned Michael’s bike and heads over to coach his racer son.
For Andrea Leib and her family, the motocross track is home, office, and classroom. Over the past decade, motocross has been the chosen life of the Leib men—Michael in pursuit of a professional motocross racing career and Don as Michael’s manager, with careers at the track in motocross advertising design and as founder and CEO of Rocket Exhaust.
Motocross was not, however, the chosen life of Andrea, who had been pursuing a career in education. But she made a decision to support her son’s career and in that process she unexpectedly discovered her own.
Andrea envisioned a career as a traditional classroom teacher when she earned her undergraduate degree and teaching credential at Kean University in New Jersey. Once in California, her hopes for a permanent teaching position were dashed when she learned she needed more credits to teach in the state.
“I thought if I needed to go back to school I wasn’t just going to take a few classes,” said Andrea, who discovered the University of Redlands online. “I entered into the master’s program in education with a focus on educational counseling, and it was the best decision I ever made.”
Meanwhile, then fifth-grader Michael was becoming a serious competitor on the amateur motocross circuit. This was a game changer for the Leibs.
“When Don first put Michael on a motorcycle, I never imagined it would leave the backyard,” Andrea said. “When you sign up for t-ball, you know you’ll just be going to the local park. But when you sign up for motocross? It takes you to Tennessee, Florida, and Oklahoma—all over the country.”
Michael needed to train, travel, and get his education. Don’s solution was for Andrea to homeschool their son and their older daughter, Ali, who was then in eighth grade.
“Andrea thought I was nuts,” he says.
“It was something I had no interest in,” Andrea says. “I knew people who were homeschooling and I wasn’t sure how much actual ‘schooling’ was going on.”
Despite her doubts, Andrea made it her mission to ensure a first-class education for both Michael and Ali. She enrolled them in a free charter program for one year as an experiment. It wasn’t long before friends at the track sought Andrea’s help for their children.
“I started putting flyers on motorhomes at races, knowing these kids were there with an amount of work that just wasn’t fair. At races, I would go over to the announcer, tell everyone I was there and have people sign up,” she says. “It evolved into something I never thought possible. I started tutoring students at the track, helping them get through their homework while they were training, competing, and traveling.”
Andrea says she soon knew she didn’t just want a tutoring service at the track.
“I knew this was a school I was going to build.”
Trial and error took Andrea from tutor to teacher to founder of On Track Custom Learning Solutions. The private distance learning school is just what the name suggests—customized learning that fits the students’ availability.
“Some of my students are at the track four to five hours a day, come home and maintain their bike, work out, take a shower and by the time they eat dinner it is 7 p.m. They don’t have time for five hours of study.”
The need was especially apparent to Andrea.
“We live this life,” she says. “We understand these racers are athletes—serious and dedicated. It is difficult to compete, and the traveling can be brutal.”
Michael now races professionally around the world.
“Going to school and constantly falling behind wasn’t cutting it, although neither was growing up without an education,” he says. “Being able to do both made it possible for me to become a professional racer and chase my dreams all at the same time. It’s been inspiring to watch my mom chase her dreams, too.”
Potential On Track students discover the program through word of mouth, online, or at a race. Andrea walks them through the enrollment process and assesses their educational needs.
“If traditional school is working for a student, there is no reason to stop doing what works. On Track is for the racer, the athlete, the musician or any other student who finds traditional isn’t working,” she says.
Former motocross racer Sara Price discovered On Track when she was getting serious about racing.
“I was able to take my school on the road, train and work hard with my racing to make my dreams come true,” Price says.
About 70 students like Sara have graduated from On Track, which now has seven home coaches who connect with the students through texting, Skype, email, and a virtual classroom.
Students are responsible for about three hours of work daily and for communicating with their coaches. The curriculum is built to state standards, and the school was recently accredited by AdvancED.
Andrea now serves mostly as administrator of the school but teaches electives during the summer. She credits her time at Redlands for allowing her to conceive and seize the opportunity to start On Track.
“If I had never gone back to school at Redlands to get my master’s, I don’t know if I would have thought up this idea or had the confidence to execute it.”
Posted: Jan. 16, 2014
Written by: Jennifer M. Dobbs