When Advanced Placement students get out of school for the summer, their teachers go back to the classroom.
“I’ve been teaching for more than 30 years,” said April Wilson, an Advanced Placement English teacher at Valley View High School in Moreno Valley. “When you teach AP, it’s a class that you really need to stay on your toes for ... the students are very astute. You better know what you’re doing.”
Last summer, Wilson was one of five Advanced Placement teachers to earn the nation’s first Certificate in Teaching Advanced Placement from UC Riverside Extension.
Before entering the pioneering certificate program at UC Riverside Extension, Wilson said she often felt like a lone ranger teaching Advanced Placement English at her school. Taking sequential coursework allowed her to meet teachers from other schools who were teaching different disciplines.
Like their own students, the teachers in the program compared notes.
“I got to see a lot of connections,” Wilson said. “For instance, I’m reading The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (in class) and the students are studying the American Revolution (in their AP History class). We really learned from each other.”
The other four students who earned certificates were Jesus Lara, A. Tyleen Paige, Connie Pruett and Allison Blythe.
Both Wilson and Lara, who is an Advanced Placement Spanish teacher at Cathedral City High School in Los Angeles, learned about the program two years ago during a weeklong summer workshop called the Advanced Placement Summer Institute at UC Riverside Extension.
Though Lara traveled from Los Angeles to Riverside every other weekend, he said the program was invaluable.
“It’s taught me quite a bit on how to teach,” Lara said.
Lara now uses his new skills to teach students in his other Spanish classes — something he would not have done before. He has encouraged those students to take the Advanced Placement exam even though they weren’t in the Advanced Placement class. Approximately 45 of those students accepted the challenge.
“Most of them passed,” Lara said.
Prior to the establishment of a certificate program, many Advanced Placement teachers honed their teaching skills at summer workshops, which are co-sponsored by The College Board.
The College Board is the private nonprofit agency that creates and scores all AP exams. It routinely surveys private and public universities to find out what high school students need to know in traditional areas like English literature to the ever-evolving fields of computer science and biology.
College Board representatives, in turn, share that information in weeklong summer sessions across the country. Yet AP teachers had no way to take a sequence of courses that laid a solid foundation until UC Riverside Extension created a certificate program from its own College Board- approved summer institute. Extension has offered the summer institutes since 1999.
“The program developed because teachers in the Summer Institute requested more in-depth coursework,” said Sue Teele, director of UC Riverside’s Education Extension.
The College Board worked closely with UC Riverside Extension to create a comprehensive certificate program.
“The UC Riverside Extension Center was tremendously responsive,” said Mike Johanek, executive director of K-12 professional development for The College Board. “They were very open to our thinking on it.”
Since the program launched, colleges and universities around the country have begun to create their own Teaching AP Certificate programs, using the UC Riverside Extension certificate program as a model, Teele said.
To earn the Certificate in Teaching Advanced Placement, teachers must take 17 units of coursework, including 8 units of required courses, 6 units of a specialized academic area, and 3 units in an academic discipline seminar.
The Teaching Advanced Placement certificate is just one of UC Riverside Extension’s more than 85 certificate programs designed to provide continuing education and training for those looking to enhance their current career skills or transition to a different career.