Advanced Patience: AP Teachers Share Challenges in Teaching

“I think it was a little bit of imposter syndrome,” Sara-Jane Shepperd, English teacher, said, looking me squarely in the eye in spite of the weight of her words. That’s how her students know her; straightforward, dependable, almost motherly. So to hear her doubts that she would succeed in her new phase of teaching was jarring, to say the least. And yet, it was a sentiment shared by many other AP teachers when they first began, even Angela Tennison, who’s been an AP teacher for twenty years, and Jason Wahlers, who’s always juggled an AP curriculum and coaching golf. The reality is that students know next to nothing about the qualifications and pressures put on these teachers that have to act as stand-ins for professors. For them, the beast that is teaching is tenfold, but, as is evident from speaking with these individuals, so are the gifts. 

“I was told one day, more or less,” Wahlers said.

Wahlers said this of his beginnings as the teacher of AP Macroeconomics, which he learned very abruptly he had to balance between coaching golf. Despite students’ doubts of coaches as AP teachers, Wahlers took extensive classes on economics in college and is dedicated to the subject as much as he is coaching. 

Jason Wahlers. Photo by Teagan Krewson.

“I wouldn’t teach anything else,” Wahlers said. 

Similarly, Ms. Tennison enjoys AP U.S. History immensely, evidenced by the twenty years of teaching she has under her belt. 

“I like hearing students’ opinions on history,” Tennison said.

For Tennison, all those years of teaching never got dull, as her passion for both history and teaching overpowered any stress coming from the complicated curriculum. 

Angela Tennison. Photo by Teagan Krewson

“I like to prepare kids for the next thing, because adulthood throws everything it has at you,” Tennison said.

Tennison likes to push kids to take the AP test for college credit, because that is the biggest thing a student will get out of the class. Ms. Shepperd, however, has a different perspective.

“I want to encourage students to get something more out of my class than just college credit,” Shepperd said.

Shepperd’s is a unique case, as this is her first year teaching AP, and to the students she first taught Pre-AP to. 

“It’s a special thing that I’m not sure I’m ready for,” Shepperd said. 

These three teachers, all from different walks of life, made it clear that teaching AP classes was as difficult for them as it was for the student; the mental strain during grading was difficult to get through, and the knowledge that they were teaching dedicated students was frightening at times. Regardless of it all, though, every single one of them made sure to champion the belief that they were better off having suffered through it all. 

“The thought that I get to teach such talented kids,” Shepperd said. “My heart is full.”

by Madeline Tredway, Staff Writer

Featured Photo by Teagan Krewson of Sara-Jane Sheppered.

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