AP European History teacher Chris Kuipers

CURRICULAR CHANGE-UPS: Chris Kuipers swaps Renaissance crown for AP European History

Jacqueline Chao
AP European History teacher Chris Kuipers

Though king Chris Kuipers of the seventh-grade Renaissance Faire has officially retired his crown, the former royal will stick around campus teaching AP European History and eighth-grade history, with William Crabb taking his place as seventh-grade history teacher.

Kuipers last taught AP European History eight years ago at his previous school, Stoneleigh-Burnham School in Greenfield, Massachusetts. A couple of years ago, the exam was restructured, so Kuipers took a weeklong course at Sacramento State University over the summer to learn about the changes.

AP European History is now divided into six themes (Interaction of Europe and the World, Poverty and Prosperity, Objective Knowledge and Subjective Vision, States and Other Institutions of Power, Individual and Society, and National and European Identity) and four time periods. 

While studying these themes and eras, there is also emphasis on learning the writing skills needed for the exam’s essays and document-based questions. Kuipers found that the course has become more in line with his own teaching philosophy of focusing less on facts and figures and more on teaching students to write well and construct strong arguments.

“For me, history is more thinking about the patterns and connections of ideas rather than the rote memorization of names and dates,” Kuipers said. 

“We live in an open-note world. People have their smartphones and devices in front of them, so if you ever want to know when the War of 1812 was, you can look that up. What’s much more important is how you use that information. How do you create an argument? How do you analyze? What’s the synthesis?”

Former history teacher Daniel Neukom witnessed the transition from the old exam to the new one and met with Kuipers to give him some resources and advice. However, Kuipers said that Neukom did not want to tell him exactly what to do with his class.[related title=”Related Stories” stories=”25679,25715″ align=”right” background=”on” border=”none” shadow=”on”]

“(Neukom) was pretty adamant that he wanted this to be my own course,” Kuipers said. “He was careful about not wanting to influence me too much.”

Kuipers said that his current class seems like a small, relaxed seminar course since there are only four students: junior Mehdi Lacombe and seniors Annya and Katia Dahmani and Nico Burns. 

“I feel I have a headstart on the kids and certainly have the experience, but it’s unlike (any) course that I’ve taught here before,” Kuipers said. “I feel like I’m one member of the class sort of working with them, sort of exploring (the material).”

Though Kuipers is a college counselor for juniors and seniors, this will be his first time teaching in the high school, and the differences are already noticeable, he said.

“It’s fun to have that moment (when) it’s a little more intellectual, (when we) dive down into the material,” he said. 

Kuipers said he is looking forward to the AP’s final period that covers World War I to the modern day. More material, such as the development and challenges of the EU, has been added to this period in the new exam.

—By Sonja Hansen

Print Friendly, PDF & Email