The University of Arkansas at Little Rock held its first fully online Advanced Placement Summer Institute in June and July for more than 700 AP teachers.
The virtual AP Summer Institute is a collaboration between the UA Little Rock Jodie Mahony Center for Gifted Education, UA Little Rock eLearning office, the Arkansas Department of Education, and College Board, an educational nonprofit organization that developed AP courses and examinations.
“When we were presented with a choice to go online instead of canceling, we wanted to maintain our commitment to the Arkansas Department of Education, Arkansas teachers, and students,” said Dr. Ann Robinson, director of the Jodie Mahony Center. “The online environment is an opportunity to serve APSI participants innovatively with exciting, dynamic professional development.”
Currently in its 26th year, the AP Summer Institute allows AP teachers to attend summer workshops in 24 areas of advancement placement. It was established in 1994 to provide AP teachers with the content-focused professional development they need to teach AP courses. Thanks to a grant from the Arkansas Department of Education, a majority of participating teachers from Arkansas attend the institute for free.
“This is one of the best professional developments I’ve ever attended,” said Vera Rideout, a sixth-grade teacher at Coleman Intermediate School. “I am so thankful for this opportunity! Thank you so very much for opening this window of opportunity that I previously just gazed out.”
While the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down many educational workshops and summer camps, professors and educational proponents were determined to keep the workshop going for the nearly 700 teachers who signed up.
“It took a small army to move a professional development institute this far-reaching to an online environment,” Robinson said. “UA Little Rock has extensive experience with online courses and online professional development. The university is supported by a well-developed tech support infrastructure and a widely used online learning management system. We also had six expert course assistants who worked with the faculty members to get their course shells organized and the whole Jodie Mahony team supporting them.”
At a time when providing quality education for students is more important than ever, Arkansas teachers were glad for the professional development experience.
“Seven years ago, when I was a graduate student in secondary education at UA Little Rock, I had the opportunity to attend APSI as a pre-service teacher. APSI was hands-down the best training that I had to prepare me for teaching in the high school art classroom,” said Amanda Heinbockel, an AP studio art and design teacher at Central High School. “I was able to network with art teachers from around the state and country. The entire week was structured to model the student experience of an AP Studio Art course. The instructor, Trish Winnard, modeled excellent classroom management techniques that I used in my first semester teaching that fall. It was amazing to have a week of hands-on experiences so that I could understand how to create a rich, positive learning experience for my students. I have since attended three additional APSI training, and they have all consistently been excellent experiences.”
In the upper right photo, staff members at UA Little Rock’s Jodie Mahony Center for Gifted Education celebrated the 25 anniversary of the Advanced Placement Summer Institute in 2019. Photo by Ben Krain.