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Meet the Expert Tooling Up for Back to School with Nancy Ramos

NMSI’s Meet the Expert series taps the expertise of our cadre of experienced teacher trainers and consultants, many of whom hold leadership roles in regional and national education organizations in addition to earning recognition for outstanding teaching in their own classrooms. We’ll call on these experts to share their experiences, challenges and lessons learned and to provide commentary on timely issues pertaining to STEM education and college readiness.

In today’s post, we meet Nancy Ramos, who has been teaching biology for 37 years and serves as one of our AP* Biology consultants for NMSI’s College Readiness Program. During her many years of teaching, Nancy has been active on numerous College Board educational committees including the AP Biology Test Development Committee and the SAT Biology Subject Test Development Committee. She joined Health Careers High School in San Antonio, Texas in 1995 and currently teaches pre-AP and AP Biology.
Nancy Ramos pre-AP and AP Biology
In this Q&A, Nancy highlights some of the challenges students might face when starting pre-AP and AP Biology and what teachers can do to identify a student’s strengths and weaknesses. The interview has been edited and condensed.
Q: What is the most challenging aspect of starting new school year, and what advice would you give to a new teacher facing a similar challenge?
A: In pre-AP and AP Biology, the biggest challenge is trying to see what level of accomplishment and prior knowledge the students have with science skills. Early homework assignments that require graphing skills, posing a hypothesis, or identifying variables are important because they can help the teacher assess their students’ skills so that remediation in pre-AP can occur early in the school year.
In AP Biology, the biggest challenge is having students recall back to chemistry and biology from two or three years ago; after one or two classes, students are aware that learning from the past has to be applied to the present.

Q: What new lessons are you adding to your curriculum this year?
A: In pre-AP Biology, I will continue to add another lab design experiment. I think this will be in mitosis. In AP Biology, I am considering adding a lesson about biofuels.

Q: What is your favorite lab activity and why?

A: I like any of the biotechnology labs – like transformation, electrophoresis, and polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Students really engage in these labs and it brings real science of today into the classroom.

Q: What’s your favorite school supply and why?
A: I like using new markers for the board, colored pens, and fresh new pencils. New tasks begin with something new, so I suppose the excitement of starting fresh begins with these items.

*Advanced Placement and AP are registered trademarks of the College Board.
*Image Credit: National Institutes of Health