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AP course registrations opening VERY soon-- including a new 2nd section of AP World History!
Gwen Umbreit Smith, 2/12/2013

Editor's Note from Susan Richman:  I was so delighted to hear very recently from a PHAA graduate and former AP US History online student, Gwen Umbreit Smith. I know she's going to add wonderful energy to our terrific line-up for AP Online courses for the coming school year-- she's both an experienced online learner and teacher! Be sure to head over to www.aphomeschoolers.com by February 15th, when we unveil our totally renovated website sharing info on all of our 2013-2014 Advanced Placement classes. You'll find full course descriptions (and photos of each teacher!),full info on how to apply, how to pay tuition fees once accepted,  and maybe most helpful of all, student reviews of each course. I think you'll all really like the 'new look' of the website, too! (Much thanks to our daughter, Maya (Molly) Richman Inspektor for her help with the re-design!). And now here's a chance to get to know our newest teacher, Gwen Smith!  

It is with great excitement that I am joining the AP teachers for PA Homeschoolers!  I will be partnering with Mrs. Gloria Harrison to offer a second section of AP World History for the 2013-2014 school year.   In a way, I am “coming home” by teaching my first class with PA Homeschoolers.  In 2001, I walked across the stage at The Forum in Harrisburg to receive an accredited PHAA diploma from my parents who had tirelessly devoted the past nine years to homeschooling me. I am still in awe of the time and resources they dedicated to homeschooling so that I could earn a quality high school education.  I am sure the decision to enroll me in multiple online AP courses was not an easy one, but I am forever grateful that they did. The online AP courses I took were a crucial part of my high school education and I am confident they set me up for the successes I’ve had in my continuing education and career.

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June 2001, Harrisburg, Pa: Having fun taking pictures on my graduation day with fellow homeschool friends. L-R: Annie Blakeslee, Hannah Richman, April (Smelser) Starr, Gwen (Umbreit) Smith, Meghan (Bishop) Paher. 


In the summer of 1999, I cracked open a seemingly unending textbook and embarked on my first online AP course offered through PA Homeschoolers.  Under the tutelage of Susan Richman, I read and wrote more than I ever had before.  And though learning how to write for an AP course was hard and frustrating work, it was incredibly rewarding.  I received invaluable feedback from my teacher and classmates – I had never had that before!  The only feedback I was used to was my mom’s.   Receiving comments and critiques from a teacher and peers challenged and grew me in ways individual study never could have done.  Gradually the course work shifted from a challenging task to my favorite part of every day.

Through the relationships I built with my classmates and the guidance of Mrs. Richman, the coursework began to click by late November.  As the winter chill set in, the AP assignments piled on and I spent hours each week nestled up by the fireplace pouring through my text and primary source reader.  The historical figures that shaped this great nation came alive as I learned about the challenges they faced and decisions they made in the historical context of days gone by.  Come exam day, I was nervous but I was prepared!  I knew that I was well prepared as soon as I opened the booklet and read the first page of questions.  I earned a 4 on my first AP course offered by PA Homeschoolers.  My senior year, I would take two more online AP courses and by graduation I was heading into college with 9 credits.  In addition to the academic growth my AP courses provided, the friendships I made with fellow classmates were life changing.  

The love of history that had been cultivated during my AP US History course carried with me to college where I declared a history education major.   Having credits already fulfilled, I had flexibility in course scheduling and was able to pursue unique opportunities such as an undergraduate research grant. After a rich four-year experience, I graduated with a Bachelors degree in Social Studies Education and immediately accepted a position teaching World History at a reputable private Christian school in the greater Philadelphia area.  While teaching, I went on to earn my Masters in Secondary Education.  Over the past eight years, I have worked in both the traditional classroom setting and as an online teacher for World History and Geography courses.  Though I have had much success in my career, including leadership positions in curriculum development and teacher training, I find the true joy of teaching every day in the relationships I build with my students.  Graduation is still a special day each year as students that I have invested in embark on the next step of their lives.

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June 2009, Glenn Mills, Pa: Graduation means something different now as I watch students who I have invested in accept their diplomas.  This graduation was particularly special as it was for the first freshmen class I taught.  

As your journey towards graduation draws near, I would highly recommend enrolling in an AP class.  AP World History may be the perfect class for you to take next fall.  While the task of studying the entire history of the world in a fast-paced, college level course may seem daunting, the design of the exam focuses the class on studying key concepts rather than facts, events and dates.  By dividing World History into six chronological time periods and viewing it through a conceptual and thematic lens this course will foster a deep level of learning about the progression of human history.  In many ways, a comprehensive study of the world in one year offers students a fuller understanding of history than other courses offer.  In doing so, analytical and critical thinking skills are developed in students that not only will help them to be successful in AP courses but also in college.  As you consider which AP course to take, consider what credit you are hoping to satisfy, most liberal arts colleges require one – if not two! – World History credits.  

What can you expect from my class? Drawing from my years of experience, I will offer a blend of structured assignments and creative projects that allow students to really dive into the material and build their understanding of the key concepts.  I believe each student has a unique perspective to offer and I will encourage student participation and interaction that creates a community of learning like the one I benefitted from as an AP student.  In research, I will encourage student interest and natural curiosities to guide their comprehension of course themes at a deeper level.  Additionally, I will provide feedback and tools to help each student succeed in the course, so they too will go into exam day prepared!  

In many ways, the successes that I have experienced in life after high school graduation can be traced back to the day I first cracked open my AP US History textbook.  Taking an online AP course is an incredible experience that I truly believe impacted my future education and career for the better. I am very happy to be able to offer a second section of AP World History and hope to work with many of you in the coming school year!


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