Their Passion for Teaching Pays Off for Local High SchoolPublished: May 1, 2009
CSULB’s Anton Striegl and Dave Neumann, former Advanced Placement (AP) world history teachers at Long Beach’s Wilson High School and instructors in the university’s secondary history/social science credential program, cheered Wilson’s recent identification by the College Entrance Examination Board’s annual Report to the Nation as the public school with the largest number of Latino students having passed the AP world history examination in the graduating class of 2008.
Striegl, who earned his B.A. in business administration from CSULB in 1988 before returning to acquire his single subject teaching credential in social science, and Neumann, who earned his credential at UC Irvine and his M.A. in history from CSULB in 2000, both declared themselves proud.
“Multiple factors came together to achieve the success that we had with Latino students in the AP world history course at Wilson,” said Striegl. “In my opinion, this achievement was made possible by the hard work of many people in the Long Beach education community.” The College Board has advocated greater access to AP classes by underrepresented groups for several years. “The College Board has emphasized the need to make sure we are reaching all student populations. They have led an effort to remove barriers to entry into AP classes,” he said. “At Wilson, we embraced this idea and grew our program from an offering of three sections of AP world history to 10 sections of the course over a three-to-four-year period. We had approximately 300 students from the class of 2008 take the AP world history exam. This was an incredible number of sections of the course and it made for a diverse population of students.”
Neumann agrees with this assessment. “It was Wilson’s goal to increase access by underrepresented groups to AP courses, which have become a gateway to university admissions. Anton and I had thought for several years that the history/social science area was a place where that could be achieved,” he said. “It’s a little less programmatic than math or science in the sense that students can be successful in a rigorous, college-level course without substantial prerequisite coursework. This goal was also embraced at the district level by Chris Steinhauser, superintendent of LBUSD. Consequently, high school counselors encouraged students with the potential for success—identified by PSAT scores and other measures—to take advanced placement courses. This led to increased enrollment by students in underrepresented groups.”
Both faculty members accorded a large role in their success to their CSULB training.
“My preparation for teaching this course was nurtured by two exemplary world historians here at CSULB, history’s Tim Keirn and the Center for International Education’s Ken Curtis,” said Striegl. “They have been passionate about teaching global world history for years and have guided many CSULB history students in this emerging field of history.”
Neumann pointed to a 10-day training program for area educators organized by Keirn and Curtis that explored broad themes of teaching world history. “Having that training was helpful,” said Neumann. “Planning this course requires balancing issues of breadth versus depth, content versus skills. Without the training, it would have been a real challenge to teach this class.”
Another important reason for their success is what the educators perceived as a strong connection between CSULB and Long Beach Unified. Neumann explained that “LBUSD and CSULB rightly pride themselves on their commitment to seamless education, coordinating efforts to help students move through K-12 and into university.”
“CSULB and Long Beach Unified have worked in unison for years to improve history/social science instruction in the public schools,” said Striegl. CSULB’s commitment and connection to public schools created unique opportunities for professional development. This connection assisted me greatly in becoming more effective as a historian and as an educator. The LBUSD director of history/social science curriculum and instruction, Linda Mehlbrech, worked closely with many CSULB History faculty members to support the growth of teachers. She is also a long-time instructor in the College of Education at CSULB.”
Neumann believes that LBUSD is unique in the level and quality of professional development it provides to both new and experienced teachers. He also credited regular collaboration with Striegl, a practice strongly supported by Mehlbrech and the curriculum office, for success.
“We put together a common syllabus, we planned lessons together and we observed each others’ classes,” said Neumann. “We engaged in regular reflection on our teaching and asked ourselves what we could do to improve our instruction based on the results of student assessments.”
The two faculty members worked hard to find ways to challenge the students.
“We provided the scaffolding to support students who could succeed with some assistance. For example, we incorporated reading comprehension strategies into the curriculum to help students with a challenging college-level text,” said Neumann. The two worked to develop an inquiry-based approach to instruction. Neumann believes that “a couple of well-placed questions can make all the difference between a really exceptional lesson and a really deadly one.
Neumann recently became site director of The History Project, an organization housed in the Department of History at CSULB that provides professional development to K-12 history-social science teachers. He also continues to teach history-education courses for the department, where he finds faculty members collegial and welcoming.
Since his success at Wilson, Striegl has move to the Orange County High School of the Arts (OCHSA), a small and innovative charter school.
“While OCHSA has been an opportunity to grow and experience new things as an educator,” said Neumann, “learning of this success we had at Wilson has reminded me of just how special the Long Beach education community is.”