Instructor honored for achievements with AP courses

February 06, 2005|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,SUN STAFF

A veteran math and computer science teacher has been honored for his achievements teaching Advanced Placement courses.

Brian W. Kelly of Pasadena's Northeast High School has received the Siemens Award for Advanced Placement. The annual prize recognizes 18 teachers nationwide who encourage and help students in AP math and science courses. He will receive $1,000 and be honored at a reception this spring.

Northeast High School Principal George J. Kispert said Kelly, who started teaching in Anne Arundel County 31 years ago, dedicates time beyond ordinary requirements to ensure students succeed.

For example, on the night before the AP exam, Kelly studies with students for a few hours, fueling them for the test with pizza and a pep talk.

The tests are graded on a scale of one to five. If students receive a score of three or higher on end-of-the-year exams, they may be eligible for college credit. The 52-year-old teacher also leads a competitive computer science team.

"He's just trying to get students to perform at their very best," the principal said. Kelly "has gone certainly well beyond the call of duty with respect to the AP program."

The teacher also volunteered to split his schedule between Northeast and Chesapeake High School, where he teaches AP computer science, after the instructor there left.

"There are not too many teachers that will come to you and say, `I'm willing to do a split position,'" Kispert said.

Kelly, who holds a doctorate in math education from the University of Maryland, said the recognition would not alter the way he approached his work.

"It's an ego boost," he said, but added, "I still teach the same."

The Pasadena resident started teaching AP courses when he came to Northeast in 1985 to be chairman of the math department.

He said he began teaching computer science after a school board member inquired whether the school had a program. The answer was no. As department chairman, Kelly said he felt responsible. He took a one-week AP training course over the summer and started teaching the following fall.

"I guess over the years I learned with the kids," Kelly said.

The teacher serves as a consultant for the College Board, teaching "pre-AP" workshops to help middle and high school teachers prepare students for the courses. At Northeast, he also leads a team of mathematics teachers to guide students for AP, Kispert said.

The teacher describes himself as a "real believer" in the AP curriculum.

"Sometimes you can lie to yourself and tell yourself your kids know more than they do," he said. But he added that AP's standardized tests "really let you know where you stand and what kind of job you've done."

Kelly lives in Pasadena with his wife and two children, who attend Bodkin Elementary School.

The Siemens Foundation supports achievement in science and technology by funding the AP awards as well as the Siemens Westinghouse Competition in Math, Science & Technology.

An increasing number of Anne Arundel students are scoring well on the tests, according to data released by the College Board.

More than 650 county students were named AP Scholars in 2004, having received scores of three or higher on three or more exams. That compares with 355 in 2003, and 302 in 2002.

One of Superintendent Eric J. Smith's goals is to have 40 percent of seniors taking an AP course by 2007, with 70 percent of those receiving scores of three or higher by graduation.

However, racial disparities remain among those who have attained the AP scholar distinction.

Between 2002 and last year, the number of white students named AP scholars increased from 253 to 555, while the number of black AP scholars rose from eight to 17.

"We're certainly glad that we see an increase in the number of students who are scoring at this high level," said schools spokesman Jonathan Brice.

He said, however, that the number of students who received the awards did not accurately reflect the ability or potential within the high school population. "We continue to set our targets on increasing [students'] participation and success in AP," Brice said.

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