AP teacher shifts mindset as students prepare for exam

As a statistics teacher of mostly seniors at Southwest Miami Senior High School, Jessica Collazo wishes she had the chance to properly say good-bye to her students.

“I didn’t know I could miss my classroom this much. We left on a Friday thinking we would be back on Monday and just never returned,” Collazo said.

She has a total of 166 students – 48 in Advanced Placement Statistics and 118 in Probability and Statistics honors.

When the shift to distance learning began in mid-March, she approached her courses with two different mindsets. For the honors class, an online platform called EdPuzzle became her new lifeline. Pre-pandemic, Collazo sometimes used EdPuzzle for homework. Now her students use it for instructional videos.

With Advanced Placement, the students still had an end-of-year test to prepare for that earns them college credits. The Miami Dade County Public School System Department of Advanced Academics and CollegeBoard provided an immeasurable amount of support.

Collazo alongside other Southwest teachers wishing students luck on their AP exam via Zoom
Collazo alongside other Southwest teachers wishing students luck on their AP exam.

Her juniors and seniors use the CollgeBoard AP classroom for weekly content reviews. Collazo then hosts lessons via Zoom to provide feedback and help students with specific questions. Her Zoom sessions are multi-faceted.

“I use my lessons to bring the kids together and remind them that we are all in this together. More than anything, I have been focused on motivation and positive reinforcement,” she said.

As the Curriculum Leader over the Gifted Program, Collazo also communicates regularly with other teachers to share best practices and help each other troubleshoot. 

She admits her seniors can be hard to reach at times.

“Many of them already had the credit they needed to graduate and have checked out. I would say 80 percent of my students are completely on point and a lot of my time has been spent trying to reach that other 20 percent,” she said.

Collazo feels lucky she’s had influential teachers in her career that have taught her how to deliver information even in the most difficult of situations. She credits now-retired Ms. Gloria Alvarez for guiding her through her first few years as a high school educator.

“She taught me a lot about what it meant to be a teacher, I owe her more than I can say,” Collazo said.

Collazo’s classroom pre-pandemic.

Collazo received a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics Education in 2003 and a Master of Science in Curriculum and Instruction with a specialization in secondary mathematics in 2008, both from FIU. She’s spent her entire 17-year teaching career at Southwest and says this is a whole new world.

There are things the two-time alumna has learned while ‘distancing’ that she’ll take with her and use moving forward in years to come, but one thing’s for sure – she’ll never take her in-person classroom for granted.

Advanced Placement exams started May 11 and run through June 5.