Tahoe Truckee Unified School District advanced placement courses challenge and motivate
December 21, 2009
In a region that nurtures Olympic-level sports competition, news of academic prowess can get lost in the collective community discussion. However, query local high school graduates and a significant educational legacy emerges; one that was fostered by the Tahoe-Truckee Unified School Districtand#8217;s Advanced Placement (AP) program.
Just ask Emily Lawrence, a 2005 Truckee High School graduate, who gives top marks to an AP history class taught by Larry Leatherman.
and#8220;Mr. Leatherman was a fantastic teacher and I remember really being challenged in his class,and#8221; says Lawrence, who recently graduated from the University of San Diego with a degree in International Relations and Spanish. and#8220;I think the biggest value of the AP program is that it gave me the opportunity to push myself, as well as an opportunity to get college credit.and#8221;
The College Board, a nonprofit organization, develops and maintains stringent guidelines for AP curriculum. Students have an opportunity to take AP exams in May, which are given nationwide. If the students score well on the exam, they can earn college credit before they graduate, which can be a real cost benefit.
Still, the student benefits go far beyond college dollars saved.
and#8220;It gives these students, who live in a small community, the benefit of putting themselves out there in the academic world,and#8221; explains Leatherman, who now serves as an academic coach for three TTUSD high schools. and#8220;When they take the exam, they are checking their progress against thousands of students across the nation.and#8221;
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Yet as any wise educator will tell you, cut-and-dry exam preparation is not what fuels young minds. Rather it is a higher level of discussion, debate and problem solving that lights the studentand#8217;s academic fuse. From biology to English, these principles are evident throughout the AP programs at both Truckee High School and North Tahoe High School.
However, itand#8217;s no cakewalk, warn high school AP teachers and graduates.
and#8220;We tell them right away that this is a college level class and we are going to go quickly,and#8221; says Erin McKee, an AP English teacher at North Tahoe High School. and#8220;Youand#8217;ve got to stay on it or it will kill you. But in the end the students say the AP offerings gave them the strategy for success across the board; itand#8217;s about critical thinking, we encourage them to dig deeper.and#8221;
Fellow North Tahoe High School AP social studies teacher Jennifer Jurosky agrees.
and#8220;There is definitely a different level of expectation,and#8221; explains Jurosky, who has taught high school AP U.S. history, economics and American government for 10 years.
She notes that rigorous AP courses are not common among small rural high schools, yet both North Tahoe and Truckee offer numerous options.
North Tahoe 2008 graduate Will Rogers had and#8220;Ms. J.and#8221; as a teacher for both AP U.S. history and government/economics.
and#8220;She loves what she does and makes learning not only fun, but applicable to life in general,and#8221; says Rogers, who is in his second year at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. and#8220;From our stock reports to our budget projects to the elections held in class, all making us understand and realize what is needed in the real world. I continue to use some of the things she taught us in class.and#8221;
Truckee High School graduate Kim Quesnel says physics teacher Sue Lowder had a huge impact on her academic choices.
and#8220;Mrs. Lowder showed us how math principles could be applied to the real world, which really struck a chord in me and probably had an influence on my majoring in engineering,and#8221; explains Quesnel, who is studying civil engineering at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.
Truckee High School and North Tahoe High School offer AP courses in calculus, U.S. history, government, economics, Spanish, physics, chemistry, biology, English literature and language.
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