Teaching for the A+

By CONNIE NOLEN / Community Columnist

Although Pelham City Schools had Fall Break, many PCS employees continued working. Pelham Ridge teachers moved into their new school building.

“I’m fine with working over the break,” said Sharyn Genschmer, a fourth grade Pelham Ridge teacher. “I just want to be ready for my students when they return on Monday.”

Pelham Ridge teachers Barbara Terry and Kelly Whitman echoed Genschmer’s sentiments. Although I’m not moving, I understand. I’ve been grading, reminding students of contest and scholarship deadlines, planning for the new nine weeks, reorganizing my room and attending professional development during the break.

On Friday and Saturday, I was at Birmingham-Southern receiving instruction and collaborating with Advanced Placement teachers who teach the AP class that I teach: Advanced Placement English Language and Composition. Also known as AP Lang, this writing class replaces freshman composition—if students pass the required test at year’s end.

Having been blessed with extraordinary writing teachers, teaching writing comes naturally to me. Teaching creative writing (where students explore all writing genres), competitive writing (where students write for publication and scholarships) and literary magazine (with students who, not only are interested in writing, but also in publishing and all of the design, artistry and technology that comes with producing a publication) are rewarding.

Taking AP Lang students to that next level of writing, while teaching the necessary lessons in the time allotted, is challenging.

My first instructor at Birmingham-Southern was Mary Jo Zell. She introduced a scoring system for AP writing that is very similar to a technique I’ve used from my best college writing teacher.

Zell’s scoring system prepares me to score AP Lang more efficiently—and I am as excited as Pelham Ridge teachers—because I want to have everything ready for my students’ return after the break also.

Marva Collins, a celebrated teacher who hailed from Alabama, said her desire was “to be able to say I got an A+ on the assignment God gave me.”

Teaching for the A+ for my students—and for myself—is my firm focus and my complete commitment.