Stewart Parker is a ninth grade teacher of AP Human Geography in the magical city of Orlando, Florida. Yes, you heard that right — even though he teaches a notoriously scholarly and, at times, self-serious Advanced Placement course, this 21-year teaching veteran still manages to bring all sorts of magical, memorable lesson plans to life in his classroom. In fact, his efforts even earned him the honor of being named the 2020-2021 Orange County Public Schools Teacher of the Year. And while they say a good magician never reveals their secrets — Stewart is happy to share that a sprinkle of EMC² Learning pixie dust has played at least a small role in his continued success.
Finding Our Way Out of the AP Test Prep Trap
Before finding the resources at EMC² Learning, I felt that my classroom was boring, flat, predictable. Though I absolutely loved teaching, there was no doubt that many of my students couldn’t help but find themselves bored by the straight lecture and notes given in class. The lack of engagement was bad enough, but I became increasingly concerned because they struggled to retain the information well beyond the test. And like many teachers, I think I fell into the trap where I thought that my AP class needed to be more like the quote-unquote “traditional college class.” After all, wasn’t I supposed to be preparing them for college?
It Came Without Presents or Boxes or Bags
When we returned to in-person instruction after the pandemic, I discovered EMC² Learning. This platform simply could not have come along at a better time. As I began to transition my classroom to one with more engagement and student centered learning experiences, I became excited again about teaching. And that enthusiasm started to spread like wildfire through my classes as the students got excited about coming to class. They knew the predictable was gone. They never knew what might happen in the classroom. Would they be playing tug of war to show the struggles between two sides of an argument? Would their teacher be dressed like the Grinch?! This was the sort of curiosity, surprise and wonder I was able to channel into my daily instruction. The lessons already created were easily adaptable to my classroom. And this gave me the tools I needed to not reinvent the wheel, but to use great lessons to level up my classroom.
Had a great day yesterday @WPHS_OCPS doing some glow in the dark geography. Simple station rotation activity with neon colors and black lights. It is always a winning lesson. The Ss were shocked when the bell rang and they had to leave. #teachertwitter #OCPS2021TOY #emc2learning pic.twitter.com/OQfUMcDJed— Stewart Parker (@ParkersGeocats) September 10, 2022
Students Are Lighting Up with Excitement
Every day, my students now come into my classroom wondering what we will be doing with the content. Whether we’re doing a creative team-based problem solving activity, I’m sporting some sort of silly costume, or students are completing individual challenges where they have to think outside of the box, I simply don’t get the “I’m bored” or “this is stupid” comments anymore. Adding even just a bit of competition to some of my everyday activities genuinely makes the class so much more enjoyable. Reading an article and taking 10 unique notes? When it’s a competition, they do it! The students love when we do things like this, and they simply can’t wait to do another activity or take part in another creative learning experience.
I knew the resources were a huge hit when my students were asking when we were going to do something “fun” again. I’m like, “you guys know you are actually doing some really good geography, right?” One boy responded, “yeah, but this is more fun than what it used to be like in here!”
EMC² Learning is home to more than 600 fully editable resources for any course or content area. Engagement Engineers and members of the Creative Corps enjoy a full year of access to each of these resources on demand. We hope you’ll consider joining us to unlock a full year of site access. For complete details including our exclusive limited time offer for annual site membership, click here.