Valley teachers participate in Advanced Placement Summer Institutes
Contact: Jorge Alvarado, Intern 956/381-2741
Posted: 07/21/2006
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The University of Texas-Pan American, in cooperation with the College Board have organized 30 intensive five-day training courses for local, state and national teachers who have taught or will teach Pre-AP or AP level classes in their respective schools. The 2006 Advanced Placement Summer Institute (APSI) trains participants in a variety of advanced courses to prepare them to teach their students new and innovative ways of learning.

Pictured left to right are educators Claudia E. Benitez, Barrera High School; Santiago Trevino, Los Fresnos High School; and Christopher C. Gonzalez, Hidalgo High School, conducting a lab experiment as part of the AP Biology Institute.
The institutes are offered in three weeklong sessions: the first met June 26-30, the second July 10-14 and the last will meet from July 24-28. These institutes are held on the University campus as well as the UTPA Annex building. They are designed to help the teachers develop, reinforce and implement a stronger curriculum for their Pre-AP or AP students based on the classes they will be teaching during the coming school year. The teachers (participants) are coached by certified consultants who are selected and trained by the College Board.

Mary Saenz, assistant director with High School to University Programs and Testing Services, said picking the consultants was difficult, since the consultants receive offers from other universities that conduct similar summer institutes.

"It's a first come, first served scenario," she said. Most consultants, however, have told Saenz they enjoy the welcoming and organized atmosphere UT Pan American provides and willingly return to the Rio Grande Valley to lead these institutes.

Rosa Fonseca, a Pre-AP and AP English consultant of 12 years who teaches at universities all across Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma, said she was very excited about the turnout of the APSI. She currently works with middle school teachers to introduce the AP subjects to a younger level.

"That's what Pre-AP is, teaching AP skills, but using grade level's skills-based, not content-based," she said.

Throughout her years as a consultant, Fonseca said she has seen an increase of the knowledge displayed by students at schools. She is a teacher and a grader for the national exam and has noticed the level at which students are writing has improved tremendously. Fonseca said she has also noticed the number of teachers attending the institutes as participants has increased over the years and believes all teachers should undergo this training to provide a better foundation for students.

For Fonseca it is very rewarding to know a lot of her original participants have gone on to become great AP teachers she said.

"The participants come here with open arms and open hearts; they're wonderful, very dedicated. It's always a pleasure to come here," she said.

The enthusiasm is felt by the participants as well, like Lisa Tackett who came from Oklahoma to attend an institute on calculus conducted by Linda Gann, a math consultant of six years from San Antonio.

"She makes everything so easy, she took something I was struggling with in statistics and she did it in two pages and my kids said it was the easiest thing they had done," Tackett said.

She said a lot of teachers face the same obstacles she does and the institute provides a great opportunity to exchange experiences through this unique networking environment. Tackett is the only calculus teacher in her school district, so she appreciates the chance to interact with her peers.

"I've enjoyed it and I've learned a lot. People have been really nice," she said.

Erika Buentello, a teacher at J.B. Alexander High School in Laredo, participated in the Studio Art Institute conducted by the UTPA AP Summer Institutes.
Gann said the main reason she chose the University was the energy of the participants. Since she was once trained by consultants, she said it is her turn to help other teachers get started and stay motivated.

"For the new teachers it gives them a broad overview of where they are going, for the experienced teachers it reinforces what they are doing, and validates their constant effort of going beyond the call of duty to help the kids succeed on those AP exams."

Gann still attends other AP conferences to continually improve her teaching methods.

The APSI also offered other courses in biology, chemistry, computer science, physics, Spanish, geography and history.

Dennis McMillan, associate vice president for Enrollment and Student Services, knows how important developing this training for teachers is.

"This program has grown to the point where we will have more than 600 teachers come to campus this summer for training."

McMillan said the University is always looking for ways to get students involved in advanced courses at a younger age. The APSI is just one of the many programs the University conducts throughout the summer in order to get the students well prepared, in this case, by preparing their teachers.

"This program leads us in a pretty large step in this direction. It leaves the teachers prepared and trained to teach a very rigorous curriculum that's presented to students still in high school. I really have to admire them because they take time to improve themselves, and they are doing that because it will benefit their students."

For more information on the AP Summer Institutes, call 956/292-7577.