Middle school students attend high school math classes, adjust to new environment

Danielle Williams, Entertainment Editor

Thought your first day of high school was stressful? Imagine starting your day off in a school packed with people you have never met, in classes full of students up to two years older than you. This is the life of certain middle school students, whose only chance at being challenged in a math class is to travel to Blue Valley for first hour.
Maci Virgillito, an eighth grader at Blue Valley Middle School, has been in an advanced level math class since kindergarten.
“I am very motivated, hardworking and responsible,” Virgillito said. “I think this separates me from other students in my grade level.”
Math teacher Richard Gill welcomes middle schoolers into his classroom each morning.
“I have had about fourteen to sixteen middle schoolers in my classes for the past few years,” Gill said.
He said you can tell if a student isn’t being challenged enough in their particular class by how bored they are or how fast they are getting through the material.
Ben Wang, a seventh grader at Prairie Star Middle School, takes Honors Geometry at BV. Wang will have completed the math credits of a junior, by the time he starts high school.
“I skipped sixth grade and seventh grade math,” he said. “I always thought my classes were easy, and I was able to figure things out faster than the rest of the students in the class.”
Gill said the students that come to the high school are above the rest, regarding math ability.
“They’re not always the ones most interested in math, but they always have a strong ability in math,” he said. “There are usually at least one or two that I know are going to become successful engineers and scientists.”
Wang and Virgillito were both approached by Gifted Education teachers or their current math teacher about starting classes in the high school.
“I was nervous and excited all at the same time,” Virgillito said.
Most of the middle schoolers have math first hour, so they don’t have to take multiple trips to and from their school.
“I wake up at a normal time and take the bus to the high school,” Wang said. “After my math class, I take the bus back to the middle school and go straight to Spanish.”
Gill said he has always been enamored by how well the high school students welcome the middle schoolers.
“The students always seem to integrate well, and the upperclassmen seem to appreciate the intelligence of the middle schoolers,” Gill said.
Freshman Bella Carpenter said she has had her share of classes with students a grade below her.
“I always try to interact with the middle schoolers so they feel more comfortable in the class,” Carpenter said. “Last year [at the middle school], some seventh graders were in my math class, and I asked them to sit with me at lunch so they felt included.”
Wang said he enjoys his Honors Geometry class and feels very comfortable and accepted.
“Everyone is pretty nice, and I don’t find it too hard to fit in,” Wang said. “I’m just a little too short.”
Virgillito and Wang said they both feel somewhat timid about participating in class.
Virgillito said she feels even more pressure than the rest participating in class because she feels like she is being judged by students older than her.
“I am self-conscious about raising my hand because I don’t know a lot of people in my class,” Virgillito said.
Although Wang said he still doesn’t feel challenged enough in an advanced math class, he is glad he has the opportunity to take a class at the high school so early on.
“Taking classes at the high school has helped me learn to interact well with larger groups of people, as well as learn new math concepts,” Wang said.