High School AP Teachers Enhance Skills at Summer Workshop


More than 500 teachers went through a week of intensive training at Sacramento State, as they prepare to teach some of the most challenging high school courses — Advanced Placement* classes that require college-level material and often reward students with college credits before they even graduate.

Endorsed by the College Board*, the Advanced Placement Program* Summer Institute marked its 14th year at Sac State.  “I’m here for a refresher and to find new strategies to increase my students’ level of writing,” said Gavin Bering, a Sac State graduate now teaching AP* World History at Valley High School.

AP* teachers from throughout California and the western U.S. rely on the workshops at Sac State to further their skills and knowledge, and they learn from some of the best.  This summer, expert AP* instructors from across the country conducted workshops in more than 20 different AP* subjects including world history, English literature, foreign languages, statistics, calculus, biology, chemistry, physics, psychology, and studio art.

Bob Smidt, professor emeritus at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, conducted the workshop on AP* Statistics for a fourth summer. “I give them what’s important and different ways of delivering the material, in ways that they may not have thought of before,” Smidt said.

Kathryn “Gussie” Wyndham, an AP* instructor with nearly 35 years of teaching experience, taught the workshop on AP* World History for a seventh summer.  She said experienced teachers wanted new strategies for reading and writing and time to revitalize, while new teachers needed guidance on curriculum and time to understand every requirement. “Every teacher who teaches AP* has to submit a syllabus to the College Board*, and professors check that high levels are being met,” Wyndham said.

Wyndham had teachers run through an exercise she’s used with her own high school students, where each one played the role of a different country, and through that lens, processed the end of World War I and the signing of the Versailles Treaty.  “Causes and consequences,” Wyndham said, “that’s the key.”

Kathryn "Gussie" Wyndham leads AP* World History workshop at Sacramento State

“I had a lot more anxiety in the beginning” learning the material, said Sac State grad Kevin Harrington, who will start his second year teaching AP* courses and his first AP* World History class at Casa Grande High School in Petaluma.  Now, “the biggest thing is the preparation for actual students, to calm their anxiety and help them understand that I will walk them through it.”

Smidt said colleges notice when students pass AP* classes because it demonstrates a high level of commitment and achievement.  In fact, the AP* program is expanding its reach, from “A” students who are already headed to college, to students who are capable of college-level material but need an extra boost of confidence.

“It’s mind-blowing for a lot of students, but I want them to experience the rigor,” Bering said.

*College Board, AP and Advanced Placement Program are registered trademarks of the College Board.  Used with permission.

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