By: Sam Bluze, Contributing Writer (‘22)
When it was announced that Ms. Kamper, the Law and Human Rights and the AP Psychology teacher, would be taking a personal leave from the middle of January until the end of the school year, chaos ensued among her students. Questions quickly arose: “Who’s going to be our teacher?”, “Will we be prepared for the AP test?”, and the ever-general “What in the world is going on?”.
In order to teach an AP Psychology course, educators need a special psychology certification requirement, which is difficult for employing schools to find normally, but even more so in the midst of a pandemic. Luckily for Indian Hills, there was one other teacher in the social studies department with that exact certification.
Ms. Ferrara, located in room 708, was offered the position when it was official that Kamper’s leave request was granted. Ms. Ferrara accepted, becoming the teacher of the eighth-period AP Psychology class.
A new teacher midyear is a big disturbance felt by everyone involved, and all parties want the switch to be as minimally bumpy as can be. “I want to make it as easy and seamless as possible,” shares Ms. Ferrara, “My students are all my biggest concern in this, that they all feel safe and secure and like they know exactly what’s going on.”
Ms. Ferrara studied at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, receiving an undergraduate degree in forensic psychology, and she earned her master’s degree in teaching social studies from Montclair University. “My end goal is to eventually teach in a correctional facility,” she says, “I figured high school was way scarier so I’d start here.”
This is Ms. Ferrara’s third year teaching social studies, but her first year teaching psychology and her first year teaching an AP class. Previously, she has been teaching classes in United States History, World Civilizations, and CPE Psychology, and now she adds AP Psychology to the mix.
While she says U.S. History is currently her favorite class to teach, she predicts psychology will soon become a favorite subject as she continues to teach it. Ms. Ferrara explains, “Kids think history is so boring, but kids that are taking psychology want to be there and want to learn about it, so I think it makes for a more interesting class.”
With her busy schedule, Ms. Ferrara is unable to take over the seventh-period AP class, as she teaches U.S. History during that period. Ms. Greggory, a psychology certified teacher from Ramapo, is taking over the seventh-period class in an unconventional way, Zooming with the Indian Hills class every day except Tuesdays, where she will be in-person. Ms. Ferrara says she hopes to keep similar pacing of the curriculum to keep both the seventh and eighth periods “on the same page”.
Since she has never taught an AP class before January 2022, Ms. Ferrara says she definitely feels the difference between the fast-paced environment versus the calmer one of the CPE Psychology curriculum. “I can kind of take my time in CPE, whereas AP is like, ‘We gotta make it so we can finish by May,’” she states. The AP curriculum is more extensive and rigorous than the CPE curriculum, and it is required to teach a sufficient amount of information to prepare students for the AP exam on May 3, 2022.
Another big concern for the two teachers and students was the continuation of certain accommodations. Ms. Kamper’s classes had been allowed the opportunity to submit test corrections after receiving their grades, where half of a point was added back to the total score per the wrong question corrected. Even when students were not confident in their knowledge for a certain unit test, the test corrections were always there to help boost their grades. The first thing Ms. Kamper said to her replacement, as Ms. Ferrara recalls, is to keep test corrections an option for all of the students, which she has continued to implement since the switch. “I wanted to make sure that I continued on and made sure they had the same routines that they liked, and anything that they didn’t like, we could start new,” Ms. Ferrara reflects.
As time goes on and the AP test draws nearer, Ms. Ferrara uses a lecture-based teaching style to convey the final few units of information the students need. Ms. Ferrara plans for at least two weeks of review before the test, and the students and her both hope for no untimely disturbances in the schedule. “My hope is that it goes amazing, and my goal is to make sure that they all feel really prepared for their test,” she says.
But the test isn’t Ms. Ferrara’s only objective for this year. While all of her students are working hard studying and completing their assignments, she plans on putting an equal amount of effort into her teaching by creating her own tests and planning activities to keep her students’ energy up through the end of the school year. Even with the unprecedented switch, Ms. Ferrara keeps her high hopes and determination. “I just want to make sure I do my best for all of you,” she promises, “I’ll always give my hundred percent effort!”