PHILADELPHIA – It’s not often you see high school students and teachers learning side-by-side in a classroom, but that’s what happened during Immaculate Heart of Mary Sister Alice Hess’s Statistics Summer Institute held at Archbishop Ryan High School Aug. 31-Sept. 4.

The students were 15 honors pre-calculus students who will take advanced placement (AP) statistics during the school year, hopefully for college credit.

The high school teachers, two from Lansdale Catholic, one from Ryan and one from Conwell-Egan, were there to learn things that they can take back to their own classrooms from an expert. Sister Alice is a nationally recognized expert in her field who has received numerous awards from the president on down.

The institute was sponsored by the Archdiocesan Office for Catholic Education and the Office of Nonpublic Federal Programs of the School District of Philadelphia.

Topics discussed during the institute included univariate and bivariate data, least square line, probability, simulations and inference. Please don’t ask what any of that means.

At any rate the students had an edge on the teachers because much of what was covered during the week had already been discussed when they were juniors. This week would serve as a refresher after the summer break so that they could hit the ground running when school opens for the fall semester.

“I’ve done this type of program before,” said Lansdale Catholic AP statistics and mathematics teacher Mike Dinneen. “I’m surprised how much these kids know.” As for how he would otherwise be enjoying a summer morning if not at the class, “I’d be sleeping,” he said.

Anne Templeton, who teaches pre-calculus and algebra II at Lansdale, said “It’s phenomenal, these guys have great ideas; it is neat working with them and we are having lots of fun.”

As a practical matter, “I get to learn the student perspective; when I get back to my class I’ll know what to expect,” she said. “It’s fun when I don’t understand something and ask them why. By their explaining it, it helps them to understand and me to understand.”

“It’s interesting how we work with each other and explain to each other what we do,” said senior Joanna Shen. “It’s helpful reviewing what we learned last year, things that I kind of blew out of my mind during the summer.”

If not at the institute, “I would probably be sleeping or helping my dad at a restaurant,” she said.

It was a little bit different way to spend the tail end of summer, Ryan senior Anthony Scholl conceded. “My friends are down at the shore or hanging out at their houses and they’ll say, will say, ‘Yeah, we did this and this,’ and I’ll say ‘I went to school.’ The course is pretty interesting. We touch on a lot of things we learned last year and some new concepts in pre-calculus and statistics. I never thought I would have a chance to help a teacher and now I’ve gotten a chance to do that.”

Senior Mark Wallace who would otherwise have been in Wildwood, said “This is a great experience. We are learning everything we need to know about statistics and about teachers too. It’s a new aspect of the learning experience.”

While the teachers will go back to their classrooms with new knowledge and perspective, the students will have a special challenge. At the end of this school year they will take the AP exam, which, if passed, will let them forego taking the college course.

“They have big shoes to fill,” Sister Alice said “We just got word from last year that every single one of AP students passed and most of them got (top score) fives.”