How Do Teachers Impact Freshmen Academic Success?

Hannah Field, Special Editor

     High school freshmen have a history of standing out. Plenty of upperclassmen have acknowledged the poor academic decisions that they have made that impacted them in the future and how they wished they had performed better as newbies. Freshmen have heard the same piece of advice: do your work, and do it good, so it doesn’t bite you back later. However, it takes more than a student to produce a good grade and affect their high school career.

     Teachers have a large impact on the success of their students and the pathways they form. Their responses can make or break the success of their students.

“I feel like my good teachers have been the ones to write on my papers, have emailed me, and come talk to me,” says freshman Georgia Rogers. “I wouldn’t say I’m horrible as a student, but I do struggle a lot, so even if my teachers are holding me to high expectations, I’m glad they think I can do something.”

Rogers isn’t the only student with her beliefs.

“I don’t learn stuff as fast as all the other kids, it takes me a second to process until I can take all of my stuff home to get help from my parents. I come in before class and ask my teachers, ‘What are we doing?’ so I can prep for the day,” answers freshman Tanner Cartwright.

Freshman teachers make an impact in many different ways, often shown in the way they teach their classes.

According to a 2005 article about the impact of an effective teacher on students’ progress by Pamela D. Tucker and James H. Stronge, an effective teacher produces greater results in students opposed to less effective teachers. Students who learned from highly effective teachers experienced a percentile gain of 29-45 in academic achievement and enjoyed learning more, enough so to follow academically-inspired careers.

“A lot of times, especially the first semester, I’m trying to teach students how to be better students,” said science teacher Lucas Risinger. “Determination is a skill that I think actually has to be taught.”

     Risinger also emphasized the significance of freshmen who crumble academically. When a new high schooler is faced with an obstacle or academic challenge, it’s easy for them to lose the motivation and drive to do well.

     When a student loses their motivation, there are two paths: either they can fizzle out academically, or they learn how to move past their difficulties. Without guidance, however, it’s less likely that a student will recover.

     Freshman Madison Slocum carries on in the face of adversity by understanding her stance among classes meant for upperclassmen. She is the only freshman in her biology class.

“They don’t know where I come from, so they don’t know if I should be here or not—they just know that I’m here,” Slocum states.

“They don’t know where I come from, so they don’t know if I should be here or notthey just know that I’m here,” Slocum states. Slocum recognizes the support she has from her teachers, and they make her feel extremely capable of her work.

“Pretty much all students feel discouraged at one point or another,” adds math teacher Ashleigh Johnson, “We’re all trying to get better and it’s okay to make mistakes. I don’t know everything, at all, but I try to get my students to learn what works for them.”

     Students who pursue higher-level classes due to an increased amount of academic excellence may go out of their way to sign up for one of social studies teacher June Morris’s AP classes, like AP European History or AP Human Geography.

“I tell them sometimes it’s hard the first six weeks and you don’t like the grade you’re going to get, but if you stick it out the entire semester, you learn from every one of your mistakes,” Morris says. 

     She continued to explain that students who take the classes she offers often do so for the challenges they provide. Morris is also here to support her students and help them through the difficult courses she offers. 

“They give me good feedback on the work I do, they help me, they give me the resources I need to complete my work,” says Justin Pohlschneider, another freshman. “They support me just like any other student.”

     Without someone to teach, there’s nothing to learn. The lessons incorporated into today’s freshman classes are more than the subject being taught; beneficial study habits and significant academic growth are starting to shine through individuals, in excelling classes or not, because of their educators.

     Freshmen make a lot of choices that impact their high school career and sometimes the career they pursue afterwards. There’s a lot of advice for new high schoolers to follow but the most important lessons come from their own educators. The teachers at West Albany want every student to succeed, and it begins with a bit of hard work, persistence, and some teacher help.