Hudson's Bay teacher honored for lessons beyond math, physics

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

Published:

 

Did you know?

Advanced Placement allows students to take rigorous college-level courses in high school. Students can earn college credit and placement into upper-level college courses by taking AP exams. Many universities consider a student’s choice to take AP courses when making admissions decisions, according to the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

More than 20 students were hard at work in Eric Saueracker's classroom Thursday, graphing a trend line that shows wage growth over the span of several years.

Those students probably don't realize it, but they're also part of a trend line. It's an upward slope that represents the growth of Saueracker's Advanced Placement classes in calculus and physics at Hudson's Bay High School.

Saueracker's success in growing the AP classes has put him in the running to become the next Washington Teacher of the Year. The Vancouver Public Schools teacher is one of nine nominees, one from each of the state's educational service districts.

The state's teacher of the year will be announced Monday in Seattle.

The students hadn't heard about the honor, but Michelle McCallum certainly wasn't surprised when she was told.

After class Thursday, McCallum said she had been talking with her teacher a few days earlier. The Hudson's Bay senior said she told Saueracker: "You know you're the best teacher here, right?"

According to McCallum, he responded: "As long as you're learning."

In a letter supporting the nomination, Hudson's Bay Principal Bill Oman described Saueracker's contribution to the school as "transformational."

The trend line in Bay's AP physics class started a few years ago when five students took it as a 6:30 a.m. "zero hour" class; it was taught by a teacher who was based at Columbia River High School.

In 2009-10, Saueracker had one AP physics class with 20 students, he said. In 2010-11, the program grew to 60 students in two classes, and then 100 students in three classes in 2011-12. This year, he has 70 students in three classes.

AP calculus shows similar growth: from one class with 14 students in 2008-09 to this year's enrollment of 55 students in two classes.

'Dealing with … issues'

"This is even more impressive when you consider Bay is a school with a 60 percent poverty rate, where many students are dealing with significant life issues," Oman said.

And Bay students looking for an academic challenge have options. They can walk right across the street to Clark College, where many high school juniors and seniors take college courses through the Running Start program

Vancouver students also can enroll in Columbia River's prestigious International Baccalaureate program, or Skyview's math, science and technology magnet.

"Running Start is not a bad option," Saueracker said. "It is taught at a college pace: 10 weeks of instruction. Here, it's 20 weeks of instruction. It's all about choices."

Some students in the class have sampled those choices.

Christine Chen said she takes some Running Start classes at Clark, but also comes back to Bay because of Saueracker.

Saueracker said his goal is to "help students identify the relationship between hard work and success."

Bay senior Nathan Woodruff gets the connection.

"We're in charge of our education. He'll give you the resources you need," Woodruff said.

Ray won state honors

This is the second straight year the Vancouver school district has had Educational Service District 112's teacher of the year. Mark Ray, last year's Southwest Washington representative, went on to become Washington Teacher of the Year for his work as librarian/media specialist at Skyview High School.

This year, Ray is using his skills across the district as Vancouver's manager of information and instructional technology.

The 29-year-old Saueracker is beginning his seventh year as a teacher, all at Hudson's Bay. He also is National Honor Society adviser and an assistant coach for cross country and track.

Occasionally, some of those roles bump together. Oman cited a Saturday morning when Saueracker held a 7 a.m. study session for his AP students, and then helped out on the National Honor Society's prom dress drive.

While Saueracker appreciates the growth in his AP enrollments, he has more in mind. It involves boosting another trend line.

"The next step is to increase the passing rates" for Bay students who take the Advanced Placement exams, Saueracker said.

"We're below the national averages, which are about 50 percent. In AP physics, we're below 25 percent; in AP calculus, we're around 30 percent."

Just taking Advanced Placement courses helps the students' academic growth, he said. But Saueracker is working with fellow teachers to develop courses that will prepare students for the AP challenge -- and elevate the trend line of that passing rate.

Tom Vogt: 360-735-4558; http://twitter.com/col_history; tom.vogt@columbian.com.