When the College Board moved the Advanced Placement tests online due to schools being closed by the COVID-19 pandemic, one Park City High School teacher thought of a new way to celebrate test day.
About 70 Park City High School students took the Advanced Placement English and Composition test this week. In past years, teacher Julie Hooker and her colleagues in the English department would serve breakfast to their AP students on test day. But with students taking the test at home this year, Hooker, who was inspired by the AP Computer Science teacher who had t-shirts printed for her students, reached out to the Park City Education Foundation for an express grant. On Tuesday afternoon, wearing a mask and keeping a safe distance, Hooker tossed a pair of red socks into each of her AP students’ cars, as they drove by.
The socks have the Miners logo on them as well as the letters A-P and the phrase Answer the Prompt woven into them. She says she wanted to do something to reinforce their learning and remind them the most essential part of taking the test is to – Answer the Prompt. The AP tests she says changed dramatically this year – what was a 3 hour test a year ago at school has become a 45- minute test at home where students will answer only one essay prompt.
“All year long I drill into them what does AP stands for and at the beginning of the year they all say Advanced Placement,” Hooker said. “But right after that, we teach it really stands for answer the prompt. A prompt gives them information about the rhetorical situation that they need to look for in the text that they will be analyzing and in that prompt they’re prompted to look at particular strategy and appeals and tone and that's what we want when they’re writing.”
Even more special than handing out the lucky socks Tuesday she says, was just seeing her students again, in person…
“It was the best day of teaching since March 13th, she said. “I have not physically seen my kids since Friday March 13th - that was the very last time that we were in the building together. And everybody drove up with big smiles on their faces and it was so nice to see everyone - to give a virtual high five, and a long-distance hug, and remind them that they've got it! It really best day of teaching since March 13th.”
The last two months of home school have been challenging for parents – for teachers and for the students. Even though the Park City school district had the resources in place to make distant learning a reality, Hooker says, there is nothing like being together…
“What I found is that no matter how creative, no matter how effective, no matter how unique we are in delivering curriculum virtually, it's not the same as face to face,” she said. “It’s not the same as being able to read each other’s reactions. It’s not the same for our kids because they also miss each other. One thing that happened when I was tossing socks into cars is everybody that drove up in that two hour window said, ‘hey, who else has been here?’ And our kids have lost their connection with each other.”
So, far, the Park City Education Foundation has raised $43,000 and awarded $35,000 of that for about 60 grants. Jen Billow, Associate Director of Communications and Development says they expect more grants to roll in before school finishes and based on what the fall looks like, may have to continue the program…She says they’ve received a number of thank yous from teachers, telling them that the quick turnaround of grant money is making a big difference in the district’s sudden switch to distance learning. Teachers are also grateful the foundation has been flexible with the grant money and been able to award money regardless of how they have fit into prior grant award categories.