With the retirement of teachers Sue Nellis and Jane Batarseh, Country Day needed new Latin, Comparative World History and AP U.S. History teachers. The addition of a new science class further shifted teachers’ schedules.
History teacher Chris Kuipers took over ninth grade history and AP U.S. History (APUSH), Nellis’ old classes.
He teaches two sections of ninth grade history, one section of APUSH and one section of AP European History.
Since Kuipers had already taught AP European History for three years, he said teaching AP U.S. History isn’t very different.
“The AP curriculum is pretty set,” Kuipers said. “The College Board dictates what you need to cover, so it (is) just taking that information and fitting it into the school year. (Nellis) shared a lot of her resources, such as her calendars, with me. I’m also using the same textbook she used, just a newer edition.”
The ninth grade course, however, went through many changes.
“Putting the course together was like making a quilt, taking lots of pieces from different things and making it into something that’s my own style,” Kuipers said. “One major change was bringing the National History Day (NHD) program into ninth grade.”
According to Kuipers, this required less preparation because he had been doing the program with the eighth grade.
“We’re hoping that (middle and high school history teacher Bill Crabb) can also implement it into the seventh grade so that we can lay the groundwork for researching skills.”
If the program is implemented in seventh grade, students will learn to research through NHD until sophomore year, when they will use their skills for the sophomore project, according to Kuipers.
“In fact, we want to make the papers for the sophomore project eligible for National History Day as well,” Kuipers said.
Kuipers also is trying to coordinate his ninth grade curriculum with Crabb’s 10th grade class.
“Mr. Crabb and I have been talking a lot about bringing the ninth and 10th grade curriculums a little more in line,” Kuipers said. “Historically, they’ve both been great classes, but they’ve sort of operated in their own spheres. So our vision is to bring that closer together.”
One change was merging the two courses’ textbooks. Now, both classes use the same book (“World Civilizations: The Global Experience”). The book is an AP textbook, so the teachers will use it only as a reference, Kuipers said.
They also changed both courses’ names. Last year, ninth grade history was called Comparative World History, and 10th grade history was World Cultures. This year, both are called World History. Ninth grade and 10th grade history will go in chronological order, according to Kuipers.
“I will start the ninth grade from the beginning until the 1700s, and (Crabb) will take it from there into modern history,” Kuipers said. “As of now, there isn’t much more I want to change, but one thing I would like to think about is whether or not AP Euro should (continue to) be a senior course offering since, at most other schools, it’s more of a sophomore class.”
Similar to Kuipers, middle school Latin teacher Brian Billings took over Batarseh’s high school Latin classes. Billings teaches a combined Latin I and II class in middle school as well as combined Latin II, III, and IV classes in high school.
“I’m changing a lot of things from the way (Batarseh) did it,” Billings said. “I’m using a completely different textbook than the one she used.”
Unlike Kuipers and Billings, chemistry teacher Victoria Conner is teaching a completely new class this year: Advanced Topics in Applied Science Honors. To do so, she had to transfer Algebra II to math teacher Patricia Jacobsen.
Conner explained that the class focuses on the engineering part of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). The course integrates multiple sciences (such as biology, chemistry and physics) and applies concepts to real-world problems.
“The goal is to have a class where students actually get a taste for engineering,” Conner said. “I’d like to increase students’ problem-solving skills and collaborative skills and get them to think about science as something that’s not just in a lab, but something that actually has a place in the real world.”
Jacobsen also will take over AP Calculus BC from Glenn Mangold next year.
—By Arikta Trivedi
Originally published in the Sept. 17 edition of the Octagon.