HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Spring Valley High School calculus teacher Laurel Ferguson spent her Wednesday in class but not with her students. She was learning more about the subject from some experts in the field. Ferguson took part in the West Virginia Center for Professional Development’s Advanced Placement Fall Institute.

This is her seventh year teaching AP calculus, a subject she said she was forced to teach in 2006. She admits she was way in over her head and when it came time for her students to take the AP test, the success rate was abysmal.

“Let’s see…zero percent passed,” laughed Ferguson. “It was the worst! It was the worst!”

But she said it didn’t take long to get on the right track. That summer she took her first seminar with the West Virginia Center for Professional Development. She said, as she looked around the room, she saw teachers who got it, who had successful AP programs. She was determined to learn from them and create her own success story.

“It changed my life!”

She started doing homework herself, finding all the information she could to become a better teacher and put it into practice. Her second year success rate was 50 percent and it’s only gone up from there. In fact, in the spring of this year, 22 of her 26 students passed their AP exam.

“If they do what I’ve said, they will pass that exam,” according to Ferguson. “I stand by that.”

She works with her students in and out of the classroom, holding Sunday sessions February through May to give students more instructional and one on one time. She stressed it’s all about convincing the students they can succeed, they just need to try.

Currently Ferguson teaches the only AP class at Spring Valley. She wants to see that change. She’s been encouraging educators and staff to take the leap and add subjects like English and Science.

bubble graphic


bubble graphic


  • Sean Strand D.Sc, Ph.D, MBA

    Hello Jennifer,

    I have seen this many time in my life with Autistic level-3 children. Have used modified versions and all have failed. The dreaded Zero is not un-common.

    Until one day when one of our classes had a field trip and some one found an 8 ft snake ( yes a real one) On child asked how it could bend and at the same time push inorder to push ahead in a side-wards direction. Humm ment Much thinking to be done.

    This slow speed and multi directional movement problem at hand triggered a whole range Farm type questions to be A) completed and B) defined in full.

    My Calculus class room door was at last opened wide and enough for a team of wheel chair users to run in all with great hast.

    This odd looking and feeling problem was both real and touchable and could l be both measured and monitored in class.
    We cover the full range of Cambridge School 'O' and 'A' levels in our Special Ed School for Autistic Children.

    The main problem I still have is why it works at all? We have changed many item within and true to form they fail, but when we return to the snake every one seems to be bursting with enthusiasm and the understanding of what need to be completed in order to learn, and thus passing the end of year examinations.

    So my question to you is how do you get it the children's interest high enough for meaningfull learning to be completed in time for testing?

    Luka Special Ed
    SouthEastern Provence,
    South Africa.

  • Joe

    I would like some information that falls between the lines. One, we had a teacher teach the class before she was qualified. We could not let a qualifed person with a mathmatics background teach the course, that would offend the union. How do the kids perform on the college level? Are they being taught how to pass the AP test or or they being taught calculus. Once they get into college and apply it at the next level, how are the kids perfoming. I would like to see some more objective results rather than a puff story based on a teacher that stated."If they do what I’ve said, they will pass that exam,” according to Ferguson. “I stand by that.”

    It wasn't if you do what I say you will learn calculus. There is a big difference in the two statements.

    • I.P Freely

      Well stated...a better measurement would be for a follow up to see how the students who passed the AP exam do in a college calculus class. So many school and teachers focus on "how to beat the test". We see that annually with the state testing across the nation. The real measure for success comes from home first. The concept of success must be nurtured at home as well. But to many parents think that everything must be done at school only.

  • Gilbert Gnarley

    Amazing what can happen when teachers are given the support needed to carry out a task and are assigned students who hunger for knowledge.

    Well done, Ms. Ferguson and Spring Valley AP Calculus students.


      Finally a teacher who deserves a raise! She is simply focused on student results. Wow, what a difference one teacher can make when they are fully engaged. Now give her a raise in front of her peers.

    • Joe

      I absloutely agree. It also shows what a teacher focused on performance can do, as well.

      Congratulations, Mrs. Ferguson on a job well done. You deserve an immediate raise in pay for your performance.