Chris Cooper
San Marcos High School teacher Chris Cooper

UEX program enables instructor Chris Cooper to teach Advanced Placement courses


With their students away on summer vacation, over 700 middle and high school teachers from Texas and beyond will meet on our campus for University Extension’s (UEX) Advanced Placement Summer Institutes (APSI). APSI provides Advanced Placement course training to middle school and high school educators seeking to expand their credentials so they may teach accelerated, college-preparation courses. APSI is endorsed by the College Board and led by College Board-endorsed consultants. Having completed four previous APSI courses since 2006, we asked San Marcos High School art history teacher Chris Cooper to share her experiences.

How did you become involved with teaching art history?

“I was teaching studio art when the opportunity came to teach AP Art History. Art History was not something I had focused on before. But I thought an Advanced Placement course was something that would provide a valuable opportunity for art students. Once I began learning what was involved through APSI and Texas Art Education Association conferences, I developed a new interest in the material and how it relates to students’ learning experiences."

Why is high school art history important?

"Art history helps students discover connections between seemingly unrelated things that they’ve learned. Many will see artwork in another class that we’ve covered in Art History, and point that out with excitement. Students come back from field trips in history or English classes anxious to share what they’ve seen that relates to our material. Being able to recognize connections is important for students in order to develop a sense of legacy and belonging. I have seen dozens and dozens of 'aha!' moments in my classroom over the years and many students have come back after graduating to tell me about connections they have made as adults."

How has APSI influenced your approach to teaching art history?

"APSI has provided terrific opportunities to meet other teachers. For those just starting out, it is important to have experienced brains to pick. Subsequently, I have gotten many great ideas that helped me teach more effectively.

The course consultants have also been especially valuable. The consultant for the first course I completed in 2004 provided a great deal of useful resource materials along with personal anecdotes about teaching and life in general. He also led the group to bookstores to begin collecting our professional art history libraries. In later courses, instructors facilitated discussions focusing on best practices such as how to lead students through art exhibits and how to facilitate critiques."

What is the most important thing you’ve learned through APSI?

"It is imperative that students explore what is meaningful to them. However, their exploration needs to be structured in order to teach them to look at art both formally and contextually in order to fully understand a body of work. Subsequently, one must follow the guidance provided by College Board and experienced teachers. When a course deviates from the best practices, students will be unprepared for Advanced Placement exams. Thus, the most important thing I've learned from my APSI courses is to be an active learner—to continue searching for ways to better provide fresh and stimulating instruction."


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