Advanced Placement tests are a big part of many high school students’ lives, and Lockport Township High School French teacher Tina Sochacki has made it her mission to help students excel at them.
As recognition for her work, Tina Sochacki has been selected to present at the National Advanced Placement Conference, set for July 26-30 in Washington D.C. It is a gathering meant to recognize contributions to professional development of the Advanced Placement Program and Pre-AP communities.
“We had to put in a submission,” Sochacki said. “I have been an AP grader. I graded the AP exam. AP is familiar with me doing that. It’s an eight-day process that exposes you—the teacher—to the information on the mindset of how to approach the exam. AP College Board endorses candidates [to deliver] presentations.”
Sochacki added she’s proven to be an “AP advocate for Illinois.”
The effort to push the State of Illinois to count all AP scores of three or higher toward college course credit resulted, in part, because of the lobbying she and others had done, Sochacki said.
“I think that helped me,” she said of receiving the nod to present. “I was very happy. A lot of people make submissions.”
Sochacki is to present on instructional strategies to prepare students for the speaking and writing portions on the AP World Languages and Culture exams. It consists of exams for French, Spanish, German and Italian.
The secret to performing well on the exam is through practice, Sochacki said.
“It’s important to start from level I,” she said. “That’s the way teachers approach it. We don’t have a French IV option [at LTHS]. The AP course is the capstone. We do activities that help them acquire [skills] for the exam. Outside preparation is necessary.”
Sochacki is in her 17th year of teaching professionally at Lockport Township High School and 28th overall. It is there she educates juniors and seniors enrolled in French III and AP French courses.
To encourage students to put their foreign language skills to use in the real world, the high school organizes non-school sponsored trips.
The trips usually sell out, and students enjoy seeing the progress they’ve made, Sochacki said.
Sochacki and other faculty members in her department often direct students to online resources, like podcasts, to further cement information.
“We work well together to develop this program where students are successful,” she said. “We have a high retention rate. Many study abroad in college each year. We have at least five students studying abroad. Some are pursuing a double major or a minor in French. I feel like language opens so many doors… That’s what I [tell] my students. Just the idea of travel, France is the No. 1 country in the world. As for our department, it is our hope students will travel and explore the cultures we’ve been studying.”
Sochacki added she loves teaching French and seeing firsthand when students get to the point where they can enjoy it.
“When my AP class is leaving, some might stay behind and my juniors will come in,” she said. “They’ll listen to me speaking to students in French. It’s motivating to hear them caught up in French passion by watching their peers.”