AP or Honors?: New AP European History teacher discusses differences in class types, how to succeed in Advanced Placement classes

Rachel Lock, Web Editor

Every year, students are asked what classes they are taking the next year. For Blue Valley students, this can mean many important decisions to make in order to make sure future plans are going in the desired direction.
One decision, shrouded in confusion, is what type of course is the best to fit a particular student’s needs: honors, Advanced Placement or regular.
AP European History teacher Jenny Buchanan, who has previous experience as an honors teacher at another school, shared her advice on how to be successful in her class and other AP class settings.
Buchanan taught an honors-level class called Advanced Studies: World History at Lee’s Summit North High School for 12 years, preparing students for the International Baccalaureate (IB) program.
“IB is generally more of a program where students take certain classes to get a diploma,” Buchanan said. “In AP, you can pick around a little more, and there’s not a diploma at the end. But they are both very difficult, rigorous programs.”
Buchanan said adapting to the new course has not posed a problem for her.
“The only thing that has changed is I was not preparing students in my honors class for an AP test at the end of the year,” she said. “So I will probably be sticking to a schedule a little bit more closely to make sure we get to a certain point by the end of the year. The classroom has been a pretty smooth transition.”
Although new to BV this year, Buchanan said she knows ways students can succeed in this course.
“Staying organized and time management are probably the keys,” she said. “Listen to the tips teachers have on how to study because [AP classes are] different from other classes.”
She also said AP European History is a college-level course and requires college-level skills to be successful.
According to Buchanan, there are a few indicators as to whether or not a student is ready for an AP class.
“Students are ready for an AP class if they have the desire to challenge themselves,” Buchanan said. “AP isn’t just about the score on the test — it is also about building college readiness skills which all students can benefit from.”
Buchanan shared her thoughts on what a student’s success in her class would look like.
“Success is just generally growing, being in a better place than they were at the beginning of the year and having some tools in their toolbox to take with them for future classes,” Buchanan said. “Certainly content is important, but I would say learning how to be a better student is success.”
Buchanan gave some insight on her plan for delivering that success for her students.
“[I plan on having] reviews at the end of the year — I think success is going to come with teaching skills,” Buchanan said. “We’ve been working on speed-reading in class, and we are going to take notes in a different format that I think will help people be more successful on the test and successful in future college-level classes.”
Buchanan said AP Euro is notorious at BV for being stressful.
“One of the biggest ways that we’ll be able to relieve some of that pressure is explaining to students that you don’t have to know everything because it is more skill-based,” Buchanan said. “I think a lot of the students come into the test thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, I have to memorize every single little detail.’”
Buchanan said keeping up with the unofficially assigned textbook reading every night or catching up on missed nights is very important.
AP Euro teacher Jason Peres has a very similar classroom model to Buchanan’s class.
“[Peres and I] are certainly going to do some things similarly,” Buchanan said. “We are going to do some common assessments together, some similar tests and activities in class. There are some differences that I have changed a little bit, like the reading schedule.”
By having a similar class structure, Buchanan said it should be easier for the AP Euro students.
Buchanan said she has always been interested in what knowledge has to offer.
“I’m kind of an academic at heart,” Buchanan said. “I’m interested in continually learning and really diving into the topic and really discussing it in-depth.”

Social studies teacher Jenny Buchanan’s tips for success in an AP Class:

  • Stay organized
  • Make up missing assignments
  • Listen to teacher’s tips on how to study
  • Manage time
  • Keep up with assigned reading
  • Review at the end of the year