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Teachers are Advanced Placement students this week at Kiski Area

Emily Balser
| Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017, 12:39 p.m.
From left, teachers Jennifer Caumo Shaw, from Chartiers-Houston School District; Angela Keeley from Penn Hills School District; and Holly Jacobs from Kiski Area School District participate in National Math and Science Initiative training at Kiski Area High School on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017.
EMILY BALSER
From left, teachers Jennifer Caumo Shaw, from Chartiers-Houston School District; Angela Keeley from Penn Hills School District; and Holly Jacobs from Kiski Area School District participate in National Math and Science Initiative training at Kiski Area High School on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017.

Kiski Area High School is full of students this week — but they aren't teenagers.

The students are actually about 200 teachers who are participating in National Math and Science Initiative training.

It has brought together educators from across the country to learn techniques on how to get students interested and performing well in Advanced Placement courses.

The training is part of the Dallas-based nonprofit's college readiness program, which districts can pay to join for three years to help prepare their students for college.

Muriel Fox Alim, program manager with the organization, said they decided to bring the training to Kiski Area because of the success the district has seen with the program. She said the nonprofit partners with 24 schools in Western Pennsylvania.

“We are so impressed with the buy-in that Kiski has made and their desire,” Alim said. “That really shows us that they understand what we're about, and they are vested in the partnership.”

High school Principal Chad Roland said the district has had enrollment in Advanced Placement classes go from about 370 to 500 for the upcoming school year.

It also had the number of students earning qualifying AP test scores, which determine whether students can get college credit for their AP course, go from 61 to 174.

“We blew our goal out of the water,” Roland said.

Holly Jacobs teaches the AP language course at Kiski Area. It was a new class last school year that replaced the honors English class for 11th grade. The class focuses on mostly nonfiction writings, which she said students can relate to.

“I feel like the kids really responded to the class,” Jacobs said.

There was so much response to the class that enrollment for it has nearly doubled for the upcoming school year.

Jacob said it will be a lot of work, but she's hoping to take away some techniques from the training to help her with the challenge.

Melissa Schaeffer teaches AP calculus at Kiski Area and wants to learn more hands-on activities to use in the classroom.

“I got a lot of activities to keep the kids engaged (and) a lot of tips for preparing kids for the AP exam,” she said.

Schaeffer is planning to become a trainer in the fall. That means she'll be offering her 20 years of expertise to other teachers and students participating in the program.

“I think I have a lot to offer,” she said.

The training has drawn teachers from all over the country.

Bev Jundt teaches in North Dakota. She said the training is valuable because she learns new teaching strategies and she gets to meet and learn from teachers from different states.

“It's just so refreshing,” Jundt said.

Angela Keeley, who teaches in the Penn Hills School District, said she has learned how to break students into groups during her class to improve learning.

“It allows them to focus,” she said. “There's a lot of work with collaboration.”

Matt Smith, assistant principal at Kiski Area High School, said being part of the program has brought excitement among teachers and produced results among students.

“That's a huge impact,” he said.

Emily Balser is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-226-4680, emilybalser@tribweb.com or via Twitter @emilybalser.

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