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3 Steps to a Successful Year in AP® Biology

Jul 08, 2021

Guess what!?!  Teach On A Mission, LLC, is growing, and I am so excited to introduce you to Adriana Targa in this episode of the Sustainable Teacher Podcast.  Adriana is a ten-year teacher in Managua, Nicaragua who is joining our team as the Content Coach for our Sustainable Biology Teacher membership for AP® Biology teachers!

In this episode she not only introduces herself, but brings us 3 steps to a successful year for all our AP® Biology teachers out there.  And that’s not all… she’s got 7 more steps!!!  That’s right, 7 more actionable steps you can be taking this summer to make sure your school year is successful and sustainable in AP® Biology.  

Grab the full download - 10 Steps to a Successful Year in AP® Biology Teacher workbook - at the link here.

To listen to the complete interview, please be sure to listen on the embedded player at the top of this page or find episode 34 of the Sustainable Teacher on any podcast streaming app.

Who is Adriana Targa

Hi everyone! I’m Adriana Targa and I live in Managua, Nicaragua with my husband Mario and my 4 pets (2 dogs and 2 cats). I studied Biology at Penn State and started tutoring at the university's tutoring center during my sophomore year. While tutoring for an intro Biology course I discovered my passion for teaching. I loved talking about biology, and giving tips and tricks to students on how to understand a concept or solve a problem. 

I started out with a couple of students in a small cubicle in the tutoring center but ended up with keys to a classroom in the tutoring center. It was amazing, and this is when I figured I should try teaching… I came back to Nicaragua and started teaching and haven’t stopped since then…. I am very passionate about science so I actually started AP Biology in the school I teach and encourage other teachers to open up other AP Science courses and science electives, and I have now become the head of the science department. So in 10 years I’ve come a long way… And I am still loving what I do with students.

Advice for New Teachers

What would you go back in time and tell yourself as a brand new biology teacher?

Wow… back when I started as a new teacher I worked so much. I started from scratch, studied so much to make sure everything was perfect and got upset when I had picture perfect lesson plans and it was disrupted for x,y,z reasons… I think I would tell myself to relax, to go with the flow and not stress if things aren’t perfect. 

I would also tell myself that all the hard work does pay off, after a few years of teaching it does get easier, you become more confident and this is when the fun starts because you are open to much more new ideas and exploration with your students. 

Adriana’s Why in Supporting Biology Teachers

When asked why she decided to take on this new adventure and become a Content Coach with Team Teach On A Mission, here’s what Adriana had to say.

“Being an AP Bio teacher at a school is usually a solitary business since you are the only one that teaches that course in your school. Because of this you have no one to talk to about your difficulties or triumphs… You don’t have anyone to collaborate with. When I went to AP Workshops and summer institutes for AP Bio this is when I got to collaborate with other teachers. I noticed we had the same questions, worries and I was able to contribute my knowledge to other teachers and they were also able to help me out. I absolutely loved it! This is what motivated me to come and do this membership. Collaboration is beautiful and I want to help other AP Bio teachers as I was helped when I traveled around the world for help.”

3 Steps to a Successful Year in AP® Biology

Remember to grab the full workbook, all 10 steps to a successful year in AP® Biology at this link, as these steps we list here are previews and an introduction to some great things you can be doing this summer to set your year up for success.

  1. Make a Student & Parent Contract

For those teachers that are new to AP Biology or those overwhelmed AP Bio teachers… I was in your shoes. I know how frustrating and nerve-racking it can get but I want to share with you 3 steps that have helped me start the year fresh and kept me organized: 

Step 1) Make a Student & Parent Contract - Any advanced course requires quite a commitment from students. You want to make sure students and parents are clear about your expectations. This way everyone starts fresh on the same page and you can move forward in your class without anyone stressing out because everyone is fully aware about what the class is about. 

  1. Plan Your Biology Labs NOW

The lab requirement for AP Biology was a constant headache when I started teaching the course. There are 13 labs and you are required to complete 8. Many of these labs require sophisticated equipment that are just out of budget for many schools. Especially for me, living in Nicaragua… I either don't have access to many supplies or it takes a long time for me to get supplies since I have to order them from the US. So what I suggest is

Step 2) Check out the resources available to you for wet labs at your school and plan out your labs. Figure out which labs you can do as described in the lab manual and which you can work around with alternative materials or methods. I’ve had to do this quite a bit and have been able to successfully do the labs with my students.

  1. Don’t Overthink the FRQ

The other big question and stress for many AP Bio teachers is the FRQ. Where do we even begin? 

Step 3) Don’t Overthink the FRQ - The FRQ is simply an essay where students must prove they know the concepts by applying them to real life scenarios. The fact is that if your students are focusing on the content, lab skills, and you are helping them make real life applications of the terms and concepts then they will do just fine. Just have them familiarize themselves with the types of questions and practice writing it. 

In class go over some sample questions in the very beginning (During UNIT 1), go over the task verbs and type of FRQ’s (long FRQ, Short FRQ…). Have them read and grade different responses themselves (CollegeBoard provides a few examples)and Have them do their first FRQ as a take home. Then as they build confidence and improve, you can assign FRQ in class and then on tests. 

Just For Fun

Question: Who is a teacher that has mentored you and how have they impacted your career?  Why do you want that for other teachers?

Adriana says,

“As I said before I started AP Bio on my own, the first teacher in my school to do this. So I didn’t have a single mentor for AP Bio specifically but I had teachers from other areas; some coworkers, some teachers from when I was a high school student or college student that had an impact on me. I took pieces of all of them and incorporated it into my own teaching. I have even been influenced by teachers I have found online such as the YouTuber Paul Andersen from Bozeman science.”

Where to go next

Don’t forget to grab the AP® Biology Done Right workbook for teachers: 10 Steps to a Successful Year in AP® Biology, which is linked here.

Alright Teacher-friend, I’m so excited that you got to know Adriana a bit more in this episode as a part of Team Teach On A Mission.  If you know a biology teacher who could benefit from reading/hearing this episode/post, please be sure and share it with them, because, remember, no one will care about teacher sustainability except teachers, so let’s support each other as we work towards more work-life balance.

I’ll see you same time, same place next week on the Sustainable Teacher Podcast. Bye for now.

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