Method Test Prep Spotlight seeks to highlight MTP clients, friends, and acquaintances who are doing amazing things in education. For each installment of the Spotlight, we will select a dedicated individual or organization to profile, and will then interview the awardee to share their story. Through the Spotlight, we hope to develop a bank of successful experiences and practices for other schools and educators to learn from.
April's Method Test Prep Spotlight Award goes to Mrs. Kollette Hillard of Nansemond-Suffolk Academy (NSA) in Suffolk, VA. Mrs. Hillard began teaching English at NSA in 1997, and has served as English Department Chair since 2015.
Nansemond-Suffolk's College Counseling Department first discovered Method Test Prep's self-paced ACT and SAT program in 2015, a time of transition for the school’s test prep outlook: while primarily focused on the SAT, administrators and faculty recognized the growing prominence of the ACT, and thus understood the value of a program that would provide students the ability to prepare for both exams. NSA’s English Department decided to adopt Method Test Prep, taking a unique approach: sophomores would focus on SAT preparation, juniors on ACT preparation, and seniors on the program’s Vocabulary Builder.
In embracing the program, Hillard sought to help her students increase their standardized test scores through building their grammar skills. (As an ancillary benefit, using the program would also drastically reduce the paper waste normally generated during in-class exercises.) She quickly took advantage of MTP’s short, manageable tasks, finding they made for perfect 5- and 10-minute "bell ringer" activities. Her juniors, in particular, benefitted especially from passage-based grammar exercises. Hillard also noted that the program’s administrator reports allowed her to gauge task results in real time, helping her decide whether to move the individual work along or to stop and review a particularly challenging concept as a class. The ACT English Review Packets, available in MTP’s Resource Materials section, also helped Hillard’s students master concepts of English grammar and structure.
NSA implemented Method Test Prep directly in the classroom, where students can work in a controlled environment and teachers are able to assist when necessary. Mrs. Hillard shared that, “About 99 percent of students take the work very seriously and don't complain when it's time to work on Method Test Prep…once they use it, they take right to it.” She also cites growing usage within NSA’s math department this year. Hillard has received robust support from the College Counseling Office, which promotes MTP to students and parents, and whose counselors recognize the importance of leading by example.
Raising teacher participation at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy has paid real dividends in the form of both usage and results. 11 teachers using the program have each logged in over 20 times this school year; nearly half of the NSA juniors using the program have answered more than 350 questions each since this past September. NSA was proud to report that two of its students earned perfect ACT English scores last year; both of these students cited MTP’s program as having helped them feel prepared going into the test.
NSA's commitment to focusing on both tests is one that more schools should consider. Providing resources that allow students to prepare for both the ACT and SAT is a growing trend that allows students the significant advantage of flexibility when applying to college. Hillard remarks, "As an 11th grade teacher, I've never apologized about teaching towards standardized tests, since they test basic and necessary skills. The SAT used to be a little bit different, but with the [2016 revision], they've really made strides to line up with what needs to be taught in the classroom.” Hillard and her department see the value in using ACT and SAT material as a way to work towards mastery of basic English skills that their students will need to be successful on the next level—an approach we, at Method Test Prep, have promoted for more than 20 years. MTP VP of Education Evan Wessler recently provided an outstanding breakdown of how students should approach the ACT vs. SAT decision.
We congratulate and appreciate Kollette and the whole team at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy for their dedication to providing students with the tools they need to maximize their college options, and for focusing on improving basic math and English skills to help students improve their standardized test scores.
More About Kollette Hillard
Q: Is there a part of your job that you find particularly rewarding?
A: "The students, seeing students find their favorite authors, and watching them be proud of their writing. The idea of helping students accomplish what they're capable of."
Kollette also shared one of her favorite assignments with us. This assignment is designed to encourage students to read editorial content and follow syndicated columnists. Click here to download the assignment
Q: What are your biggest challenges in the classroom?
A: "Scoring enough essays. I just want them to write, write, write, which means I have to read, read, read. It can be tough to keep up with the students."
Q: Do you have any hobbies? What do you like to do in your free time?
A: "I'm a sailor! Every chance I get, my husband and I, along with our Labradoodle, sail on the Chesapeake Bay and take trips up and down the Atlantic Seaboard. It gives me a lot of time to read and work on Cryptoquips." (Hillard's love for Crytoquips may have been fostered by her father, who was a cryptologist for the "other" NSA (the National Security Agency). Cryptoquips or Cryptograms were new to us, but we're finding them an incredibly interesting brain building exercise. Click here to try some!
Thanks again to Mrs. Hillard and everyone at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy for being a shining example of great things happening in education.
If you would like to nominate an individual or organization working with MTP to be considered for a Spotlight Award, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line Spotlight. Please also share this story with people in education as well as with parents and other interested parties!
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