Contrasting styles: the differences teaching AP classes

2019 AP tests have been taken.  AP classes are rigorous, college-level courses designed to challenge students in a particular subject. For teachers, teaching AP classes can be challenging compared to other level courses, especially for first time teachers.

2019 AP tests have been taken. AP classes are rigorous, college-level courses designed to challenge students in a particular subject. For teachers, teaching AP classes can be challenging compared to other level courses, especially for first time teachers.

by Andrew Kastelman, Staff Writer

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One AP teacher says that the AP test isn’t the most important part of her Statistics course.

“At the end of the day they’re taking an exam, but they’re learning statistics first,” Leah Wallace said.

AP (Advanced Placement) high school courses are notoriously challenging. According to The College Board Website, AP courses are ‘rigorous, college-level classes in a variety of subjects that give students an opportunity to gain skills and experience colleges recognize.’

An important qualification for teaching AP classes is experience. Leah Wallace, a math teacher, and Donna Maasarani, a History teacher, both have over 10 years of teaching experience.

Wallace has taught math courses such as Geometry, Algebra II, and Honors Algebra III, but this is her first year teaching AP Statistics. To help guide Wallace in teaching the class, The College Board website provides an international AP Stat curriculum to show Wallace everything that will be on the AP test, such as collecting data and probabilities.

Maasarani has taught AP World History for seven years. Maasarani uses The College Board curriculum as well. She follows it more strictly than Wallace, rarely deviating from what will be on the test.

There are main differences in teaching an AP compared to other classes. Wallace mentioned pace of class as a large difference, as all the material must be covered by the beginning of May because the AP test is in the first couple weeks of May. For World History, Maasarani thinks content is a difference between the levels of course.

“The breadth of content is much wider for the AP level class,” Maasarani said.

Teachers have to make adjustments when teaching an AP class, such as making sure they don’t spend too much time on one specific subject. Both Wallace and Maasarani have learned much more about their subjects and their teaching while teaching their AP class.

Wallace noticed that her students were capable of more than she thought in her Statistics class, allowing her to show more advanced material. Wallace said she has learned more about the subject of statistics because this is her first year teaching it.

Massarani thinks she learns more about World History each year she teaches the AP class. To improve her teaching style, Maasarani talks with peers who teach AP courses too.

“I collaborate a lot with other AP teachers in the school,” Maasarani said. “We talk about how we are teaching the different skills that are also necessary for the class.”

These skills include time management, strong note-taking, and tactics to improve writing.

This year Wallace felt more comfortable with regular or honors level courses. However, she looks forward to teaching AP Statistics again next year.

“Teaching it next year, now I know what I have to get through,” Wallace said.

Maasarani said she feels just as comfortable teaching the AP class as she does the regular class. Her favorite part of the AP class is the rigor, as she believes it helps the students prepare for other academic challenges in life.

Maasarani stressed the goal of getting to the AP test in May. This is the most prevalent theme in AP classes, as teachers are directed by The College Board to teach to the AP test so their students succeed on the test. Wallace thinks this is important, but she believes understanding and enjoying the AP subject is more important.