By Jennifer Smith
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When history teacher Steve Sayre steps into the classroom this fall it will be his 36th year. For the last seven, he’s taught at Ripley High School in Jackson County but he’s not your average teacher. Sayre’s focus is on advanced placement classes.
“It has expanded from AP U.S. history. I restarted the (AP) World history program and then this past year started the AP European history,” explained Sayre.
He said after more than three and a half decades in the classroom, AP classes have given him a new purpose.
“I mean, it’s a breath of fresh air. It’s tremendous! I just wish I had been exposed to this when I was a young teacher. Teaching AP has really invigorated me,” Sayre said.
He said Ripley High may be a “rural” school but it offers 17 AP courses from history to English, science to math. Graduates who have taken AP classes have gone on to Harvard, won Presidential Scholarships from WVU and the Yeager Scholarship from Marshall.
Sayre said the principal and central office encourage the AP programs, paying for expensive text books and tuition to the West Virginia Center for Professional Development’s Advanced Placement Summer Institute which he’s attending this week at Capitol High School in Charleston. Sayre stressed money has not been a road block when it comes to providing AP classes.
He said his students are much more prepared for college than he was.
“I know that 40-years ago when I walked into my (first) college class, I was hit in the face with the difficulty of the class material and the expectations,” according to Sayre. “Students who take AP classes in the state of West Virginia now know what to expect!”
Sayre’s son will be attending WVU as a freshman this fall. He passed several AP classes at Ripley High School. That’s going to save him and his parents some major money because he received college credit. And while Sayre said passing the AP exams are important, it’s not his goal as an AP teacher.
“Even if they do no pass the national test they are so much better prepared because of the rigor of the course they take. When they go to college, they can walk in as freshman and sit down and be ready to do college level work,” explained Sayre.
But what if that student isn’t going to college? Sayre said AP classes prepare students for technical school and life in general.
“You are going to improve as a student. You are going to be able to write and think. Those are skills that can be used in anything in life!”