09 May

Writing an essay in Mr. Leon’s class

Do you remember writing a book report in high school? Do you remember sitting at your desk at home after school, turning the essay into your teacher and getting a grade back with a few notes written in the margins?

In Jacob Leon’s, class things are different. Students are engaged from the start, get feedback along the way, go at their own pace and are in charge of their own learning.

Mr. Leon is a founding teacher and student mentor at Summit Olympus High School in Tacoma, WA where he teaches Advanced Placement (AP) English. At Summit Olympus High School every student takes at least six AP courses and one AP exam before graduation. Jacob’s students wrote a literary analysis about the theme and the plot of the book the Great Gatsby.

Each day the class read a chapter and discussed a chapter in the book. Once the students finished the book, they wrote their first draft of their essay. Like most first drafts, it gets revised with feedback and one-on-one help. Jacob meets with each student to review their essay and make it stronger by citing evidence from the book to backup their writing and show they understand the book.

“I want my students to be good writers, but also know good writing when they see it,” Mr. Leon, a Tacoma native said. “It’s important that they are always growing so they are set up for success when they go onto the next grade.”

After the first meeting, the student takes a few days to revise their first draft in class and tighten the structure and organization of their essay. During this time, students work independently and at their own pace. Mr. Leon checks in with each student during the class on their progress and help each student one-on-one. Students are encouraged to ask for help when they need it. Teaching students to advocate for themselves will help them succeed in college when there aren’t teachers there to check in on them on a regular basis.

Students are also encouraged to collaborate with other students to improve their writing. While meeting deadlines is encouraged, Jacob knows that some students will need a extra help along the way to master concepts. In Jacob’s class the focus of the grade is learning the content and the skills, not meeting an arbitrary deadline.

“Time management is important, but student growth and mastering concepts is one of the most important things students can learn,” Jacob said. “What they learn in my class doesn’t stop at my classroom door – it’s reinforced in their other classes at Olympus.”

Want to see great teaching and a tight knit student community in action? Schedule a visit to Summit Olympus today. Learn more, schedule a tour, or enroll your child here.

What’s your favorite book and what lesson did you learn from its theme? Tell us your story in the comments.

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