Photo montage showing, from left to right, Tony Hale, Janet Yellen, John Quiñones, and Valerie Jarrett


AP Master Class Is In Session

Tony Hale and Janet Yellen kick off a program of high-profile guest speakers dropping in on live lessons

For the last month, AP students have been completing their courses and preparing for exams by attending online Advanced Placement courses. Sixty-five of the best AP teachers in the country were recruited to teach live Online AP Daily Classes and Review Sessions on YouTube, which could also be watched on demand. And lots of people have watched. As of April 30, more than 2.7 million people have tuned in to the virtual AP classrooms.

Recently, students started seeing something new on the AP channel: guest stars. AP Master Class began on April 20, and in these special classes teachers are joined by some of the leading experts in their fields to discuss the power of education in their lives and work. Those experts also happen to be recognizable celebrities.

Screenshot from an online class with Tony Hale

The first AP Master Class found actor Tony Hale joining AP English Language teacher Dawn Knight. The star of Arrested Development and Veep spoke with Knight and her students about argumentation and how to find your bearing when you read something for the first time. He explained that when he gets a new script, he always wants to figure out what motivated the writer. Knight immediately identified that strategy of identifying the rhetorical situation as a useful tool for the AP English exam.

Hale also took time to reassure students who may be feeling confused, overwhelmed, or scared by the moment they find themselves in. “The value you have right now is tremendous,” he said. “This is a very small chapter, and your story will continue to unfold.”

Screenshot from an online class with Janet Yellen

A day later, economist and former Chair of the Federal Reserve Janet Yellen spoke with AP Macroeconomics teachers Jennifer Raphaels and Matt Romano and their students about monetary policy. Yellen shared her experience with economics and her journey from teaching the subject to helping guide the nation’s economy at the Fed. She explained that she fell in love with economics because it “had the logical reasoning” she was attracted to, as well as “a very practical focus on things that hugely impact the quality of people’s lives, like jobs, poverty, and education.”

As the class wound down, Raphaels asked Yellen how their AP Macroeconomics class could help students become “full-fledged members of our body politic.” Yellen hoped that students would continue to study economics in college. But more than that, she hoped studying economics would help students “understand the forces that are so powerfully shaping your world.” Yellen drew out the profound relevance of learning about economics to our current moment. As the nation works its way through our current crisis, she said, an understanding of monetary and fiscal policy will help students be sensible and responsible voters, a vitally important role when it comes time to help revive the economy.

Screenshot from an online class with John Quinones

Next up was veteran reporter John Quiñones, who joined Laura Zinke’s AP Spanish Language class to talk about how understanding multiple languages and cultures helped him be a better journalist. Quiñones grew up the son of migrant farmworkers and was the first in his family to go to college. He told Zinke that he was drawn to journalism because of his love for “chismoso [gossip, telling stories]” and a desire to tell different stories about the heroes in his community of San Antonio. “I knew just the right person to tell these stories,” he said. “That person would be me.”

Quiñones provided some advice for students interested in broadcast journalism. “Read as much as you can get your hands on,” he said, but also practice speaking publicly, watch professional journalists to see what they do, and get an internship in the industry. He explained that his first “job” in journalism was taking care of some horses owned by a local country radio station. From that humble start, he went on to become a television correspondent. He told students to remain confident that they can, like Henry David Thoreau once said, “live the life they imagined.”

Screenshot from an online class with Valerie Jarrett

Valerie Jarrett, who served as President Barack Obama’s senior adviser, closed out the first week of AP Master Class. She joined AP U.S. Government and Politics teacher Jennifer Hitchcock for a stirring conversation about the nature of civic action. Jarrett celebrated the power of “ordinary people [to] get together to do extraordinary things.” And, like her fellow guest speakers, pushed students to find their voice.

One important way students can do that is through civic education, which Hitchcock noted was being de-emphasized in the curriculum in some states, which was a “huge mistake,” Jarrett said. “I think we should bring back civics education robustly, but I also think that until we do it’s up to us to educate ourselves.” Hitchcock agreed, noting that the AP Government class gives students “the foundations” but they also need to take that knowledge and use it outside the classroom.

The AP Master Class program continues through May, led by Tony Award-winning Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and statistician Nate Silver. Visit the Advanced Placement YouTube page to find updates about upcoming Master Classes and archived videos of all the Online AP Daily Classes and Review Sessions.