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Teachers' Words of Wisdom: How To Make It A Great Year In Your AP Classroom

The NMSI network is growing! This fall approximately 185 new schools will benefit from NMSI’s College Readiness Program (CRP), expanding NMSI’s network to over 1,000 partner schools across 34 states. As we head back to the classroom, NMSI staff and teachers took a moment to share their favorite back to school advice for Advanced Placement® (AP®) teachers, especially for those who may be leading an AP class for the first time.
Leesville, LA, High School Principal Tamela Phillips, a NMSI CRP for Military Families school serving Fort Polk, echoed NMSI’s philosophy that every student can thrive in AP if they have the tools they need and are willing to put in the effort. “If you are not currently in AP, we believe you could be and should be, and so we challenge you to be,” said Phillips.
 Other NMSI teachers wanted to remind their peers that each new school year provides a rare opportunity to start anew, and build on success. 

"There are very few careers which offer opportunities to begin anew when the air turns crisp.  We, teachers, must relish this chance and remember to pass it along to those new and returning faces in our classrooms,” said Paula Spalding, an AP English literature and composition teacher at Carthage Sr. High in Baton Rouge, LA. “Last year is gone...it's a fresh start...so take a calming breath and be the teacher who truly has the students' best interests at heart."
Michael Lanzarone, an AP Calculus teacher at Bartlett High School in Anchorage, AK, reminds AP teachers to practice AP test problems early and adopt a growth mindset.
“Contrary what some of your colleagues may recommend, don't be afraid to start practicing AP problems early in the year. You won't scare them away! Frame the early problems as "getting their feet wet" and grade them accordingly,” said Lanzarone. 
“I know it seems intuitive, but the more comfortable your students are and the better they can predict what types of problems will be on the AP test, the better they'll do on the actual test.  Embrace the "us against the test" mentality. You are merely a knowledgeable facilitator, to help students as they strive for a 5. Finally, adopt the growth mindset and the word "yet" into your pedagogy. This can transform the way your students view themselves as learners and increase their ability to "dig in" and keep persisting in the face of a challenge - a vital skill for success on the AP test.”
NMSI team members had additional advice to share.
Charla Holzbog, a middle school and high school math teacher for 22 years who now serves as NMSI’s director of mathematics, stressed the importance of building relationships.
“Get to know your students as quickly as possible and build on those relationships. Your interest in their lives is critical to your working relationship with them in your classroom,” said Holzbog. 
NMSI’s English content specialist, Jennifer Fowler, former educator with 14 years of English and gifted education experience, agreed.
“Develop a deep cultural understanding of your students and their communities. Dynamic instruction is strengthened by informed and collaborative analysis of your students’ cultural experiences, strengths, and needs within their specific communities.”
Regardless of if an educator walking into an AP classroom is a veteran or new to the rigors of educating AP students, remember to take care of yourself as well as your students. NMSI’s Penny Smeltzer, a statistics content specialist, summed it up best.
“My back to school advice:
1) Keep up with your work. Budget your time even better than your money.
2) Get enough sleep for your brain to function well.
3) Enjoy the learning. Keep telling yourself you're going to be good at this...because you are.
4) Remember we learn from our mistakes. Some days just simply have more opportunities for learning,” said Smeltzer.
Have a great year!