(COVINGTON, La.) – Advanced Placement (AP) classes are college-level classes offered to high school students, ending with a placement test for possible college credit. Students have to work hard to achieve success, but without their teachers, the students would not be able to get to where they need to be.
St. Paul’s offers seven AP classes and boasted 27 AP Scholars in 2014. To achieve the rank of AP Scholar, a student has to achieve a score of three out of five in three or more AP tests in one school year.
“It compares very favorably to private and public schools in the entire Greater New Orleans area.” commented Assistant Principal Joe Dickens.
St. Paul’s has many AP Scholars, and that can be attributed in part to the AP teachers on board. All teachers that teach Advanced Placement classes at SPS have rigorous course material, according to Dickens. However, three of these teachers regularly get magnificent results from their students.
Pam Cullen is the Math Department Chair and teachers AP Calculus, Calculus Honors, and Algebra II Honors.
“I present, often through ‘discovery’, a new concept and then have the students apply and practice that concept,” said Cullen.
“I think my students do well because, first of all, they are motivated and bright students,” said Cullen, humbly. “Secondly, I make sure that we cover the entire curriculum specified by the college board before the end of the third quarter. I think my years of experience with the AP class and with the professional development offered by college board also help me to prepare my students.”
Cullen believes that one advantage is that she has students review and take practice exams provided by the college board for weeks before the exam. She also has her students do AP practice problems worksheets every week.
“I feel that extra practice helps the students retain the concepts they have learned,” Cullen said.
Another teacher that turns out great scores is Social Studies Department Chair Kim Gardner.
“Because AP courses should model college level classes, I focus on personal responsibility,” Gardner said. “To be successful on the APUSH (Advanced Placement U.S. History) exam, students should have the desire and interest level that motivates them to spend much time learning, reading, and writing outside of class.”
Instead of calling her Mrs. Gardner, students should call her Coach Gardner. “I really see myself as more of a coach, providing students with the tools and information required to be successful,” Gardner said.
Like Cullen, Gardner humbly gives most of the credit to her students.
“Last year’s APUSH students drove their own success because they were motivated to do well and took responsibility for their learning,” Gardner said.
Gardner also tries to instill life skills in her AP students.
“While AP test prep is an important part of the class, I also emphasize the skills that will help ensure their future academic success: analytical skills, writing, and, again, personal responsibility,” Gardner said.
Rounding out the teachers whose students regularly test well is AP Writing, English IV, and Creative Writing teacher Brad Guillory.
“I try to make sure that my students know that I am learning along with them,” Guillory describes as his teaching technique. “I want it to be a community of learners.”
Guillory accredits his fellow faculty for much of his AP class’ success.
“I think that my students do so well because they have a great foundation that the teachers before me have built upon,” Guillory said.
As to why Guillory’s AP Writing students perform better than other schools in the state, he can only say, “It’s a secret.”