Students reveal the classes that challenge them the most

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Photo: Illustration by Emily Latham

Sophomore Gillian Garland finds that academic demands can sometimes maker her head spin. She says Honors Algebra II and AP U.S. History are her most challenging classes this year.

Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan once said, “… there are advantages to being elected President. The day after I was elected, I had my high school grades classified Top Secret.”

No doubt many Fairmont students also have received a grade they’d like to hide from their parents and college recruiters, but that’s not very realistic. A random survey of students and teachers reveals a closer look at which FHS classes are considered the most difficult and challenging.

For senior Ben Weidner, his toughest class is IB History taught by Tiffany Lobertini. “It’s weird because it’s an interesting class, but it’s hard at the same time. It pushes you to have an in-depth analysis of history that you usually don’t have from other history classes,” said Weidner. “Her expectations are for you to take a more in-depth view into the subject more than just a broad view.”

Weidner says he hasn’t had a specific assignment that was measurably more difficult than others. “Every one kind of has its own challenges; every single section of it has its own difficulties we have to work on to understand.”

Weidner describes IB History as a “unique” class, because students learn so much about Middle Eastern or Ottoman Empire history. “This is what makes it hard, because you don’t have any of that background that you had before with other subjects,” he said.

Sophomore Gillian Garland says her toughest classes this year are AP U.S. History (known as APUSH) with Jessica Kelly and Honors Algebra II with John Harvey “because of the details in the homework and the concepts in AP.” Garland says math is difficult and that there is a lot of homework, but it only accounts for 5 percent of the student’s grade.

“The teachers’ expectations are really just study and do the homework. They provide you with knowledge. I love both my teachers. Remembering those details requires a lot of effort,” said Garland.

The sophomore said her easiest class is Basic Computer Graphics, taught by Jared Parker. “It’s just software learning and art, which is easy for me,” she said.

Mark Liston, a junior, has his own idea of the hardest classes at Fairmont. “Freshman year was probably Geometry with Mrs. [Diane] Dieterle because she pounded things into us. Then I would also say German I was difficult because I was switching from Spanish to German, so no experience there,” he said.

Liston said German II was easier for him sophomore year, so his tougher classes were Honors Algebra II with Janet Johnson and Major American English with Virginia Becknell.

“My hardest class this year would probably be IB Music because it’s an IB course and it’s supposed to be difficult. The teachers’ expectations are all really high and basically they want you to succeed. They’ll help you however they can, but there’s also a certain amount of skill you have to have before you come to class,” said Liston.

The junior said his most difficult assignment was during his freshman year when he took an Introduction to Engineering class.

“It was fourth quarter and it was a quarter-long project. I had to work with one other person who was not in my class, so there was a fair amount of missing communication, and just the fact that I had to design something that was original, it was a learning experience.”

And what do the teachers see as their toughest teaching challenge?

Jessica Kelly said her APUSH class is fast-paced and rigorous. The students take a test a week and it is “very, very fast.” She says the toughest part for students is the writing because they have to write a thesis.

“At the end of the year in May, people take a test and, depending on their score, they can receive college credit,” Kelly said. She explained that because the students in her class are sophomores, they can opt out of the second semester exam, but not first semester. Kelly said most students pass the course, with usually just a couple who fail in the first semester.

Kelly said her APUSH class helps prepare students for college. “It gives them a sense of the amount of work that they are required to have for a college course,” she said.