Jennifer Smith-AP teacher
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.