CHICAGO — Teachers and Educators from the Gallia County Local School District recently traveled to Chicago for the Advanced Placement Midwestern Regional Summit, but they did not attend as participants. They did, however, attend the event to present on their AP curriculum.
Teachers from River Valley went to the same conference several years ago and, as a result began working to implement more rigorous curriculum into their classrooms. This effort led to shifting the curriculum to a top down model, instead of teaching up.
“Brea McClung, who teaches AP Government, uses the term ‘top-down.’ This term is apt because we start with the highest level of rigor for those students who choose to take any AP class and then we use modified components of AP to teach students who choose a less rigorous class and then we modify even more for our struggling students,” said Cindy Graham, teacher at RVHS. “All levels of performance benefit from the AP structure.”
Out of this effort came more benefits for students; including the ability to earn college credits in five different courses from River Valley teachers in River Valley classrooms. The AP program has also been used in conjunction with the Mock Trial program and the Beta club, which gives students a way to apply the methods and skills learned in AP classrooms. This conference, in a way, validates the work of teachers and administrators and helps them to strive towards the future.
“Teaching AP has been the most challenging and rewarding aspect of my career. As an educator, I am challenged to help my students reach the bar that AP has set and it has forced me to push myself and my students,” said Aaron Walker, teacher at RVHS. “I cannot simply give them more works to read (though that is part of it); I must scaffold my teaching and engage them in meaningful activities.”
At the conference, the teachers spoke on how they have helped create the environment that promotes students to succeed despite the challenges facing them. The title of the presentation was called “Diamonds in the Rough,” a nod to the thesis of students performing exceptionally well despite coming from poverty and other socioeconomic disadvantages that many students in Gallia County face.
“I spoke on the importance of addressing our demographics, and for us, that is Appalachia. We are a minority and Appalachia has her own strengths and limitations. We don’t use the term ‘minority’ as an excuse, but if we are ever going to address the challenges that our students face in this area, we must know what those challenges are,” said Walker. “I think that the reason we were asked to attend the forum in Chicago is because our district is not wealthy and becoming involved in the AP community is educationally and financially efficient. Some costs occur but when compared to the purchasing of other educational aides and the enrollment in other professional development, those costs to become involved in both AP and Mock Trial are minimal compared to the payoffs offered by both.”
The educators, while glad for the opportunity to promote their district and speak well of student efforts, they are more concerned with preparing students for the future.
“It sends a message to our kids that they can compete on any level, state, national, or even international. And ideally they are going to have to compete when they go to college or enter the job world,” said Superintendent Jude Meyers. “Proud is an understatement. What I’m proud of, is leadership coming from the staff. We’ve told our staff it’s okay to lead from the classroom, you don’t have to have a title at the end of your name to lead, we want to empower our staff. If we can bring something back that makes our district a better place then we need to embrace it.”
Reach Morgan McKinniss at 740-446-2342 ext 2108.