The Integration Sensation

The New Push Towards Integrated English and History Classes

Vista del Lago: A new school with fresh ideas and concepts. Need an example? Vista has integrated AP English 11 and AP US History, and starting next year, Honors English 10 and AP World History will be merged as well.

‘Integrated’ is currently taught by Kelly Hillesland, the AP English 11 teacher, and Kelly Baquero, the instructor of AP US History. Next year, AP World History teacher Michael Messersmith and Honors English 10 teacher Tyler Fuentes will correspond for sophomore integration.

Why the shift?

Fuentes said that it is “[e]xciting. There’s a lot of crossover between the two disciplines. It just makes sense to transition.”

Messersmith had similar feelings about it. “It’s definitely a model we want to follow,” he said.

Andrew Gao is taking integrated as a sophomore next year.  “[It will be] Harder because you have to learn both things at once,” he said, anticipating that it will be very interesting.

Mixing classes is not a widely practiced form of education. “I couldn’t tell you who does,” said Messersmith, when asked whether or not other schools integrate. The linking of these subjects is an idea first executed by Vista in our district, and other teachers were not aware of other schools practicing integration.

While students are attracted to the challenge of the year-long integration, it has can be stressful. “It’s an AP class. It’s gonna have its difficulties when it comes down to the actual material,” said junior Caprina Pipion, when asked about the challenge of integrated.

From the teaching angle, there are some pitfalls as well as benefits.

“We don’t have as many potential spots,” said Messersmith. Also, handling an extra 35 students can be a challenge.

“It’s hard for them at the beginning,” said Baquero, in reference to the students struggling because of procrastination. Another con mentioned by teachers is that the students and the separate teachers only see each other 2 or 3 times a week.

However, Hillesland does not think that students feel overwhelmed. “They have two nights to do [homework].”

This class solves a common problem among students: normally, they stand the risk of getting their AP class first term, and then spending four months away from the material. This way, students are constantly being refreshed on the subject.

Also, “Integration of the curriculum — it assures that there’s that link,” said Baquero.

Hillesland agrees. “Kids see the natural correlation,” she said.

Since you have the entire year, it is also possible to go at “a slightly more relaxed pace,” said Messersmith.

Overall, students and teachers feel this method is successful. “The students feel like they are a part of something special,” said Hillesland. “You have to have teachers who want to do it — like me, like Baquero. Fuentes and Messersmith want to do it.”