Jeff Isola can’t remember his score on the AP Government exam his senior year, but when he took the test he knew what he wanted to do — be an AP history teacher. For the past 15 years that’s just what he has done, teaching all levels of history at Riordan while also serving as department chair from 2008-2009 and 2012-2015.
“Mr. Isola teaches from both points of view, but also respectfully states his views on the issues,” said senior AP Government student Chang Liu. “I enjoy his class because he finds a way to connect with the students and makes us actually enjoy learning factual content.”
Isola’s passion for teaching and his desire for professional development opportunities led to his appointment to the AP US Government and Politics Development Committee, the body responsible for creating content for the test taken by more than 300,000 high school students each year. Students who take this and other rigorous AP courses can often earn college credit by successfully passing the exam.
The invitation to join the Development Committee was a rare one. Isola was one of eight educators selected, one of only four from a high school, and the only one from a private high school and from California. His team is charged with creating a new exam for the spring of 2019, and the committee will also modify the curriculum and framework for AP Government courses taught across the country.
This is not the first time Isola has worked with ETS (Educational Testing Service), the organization that administers AP exams. For the past 10 summers, he has traveled around the country to places such as Salt Lake City and Daytona Beach to serve as an AP reader where he has graded countless essays, and also led and trained other readers. Salt Lake City was chosen as it is the home of the Salt Palace, a former Olympic media center that is large enough to house all those reading and scoring the AP essays.
Isola’s success as a reader earned him a promotion to table leader. As such, he ensures that all the readers follow the same standards when grading essays, making for a fair evaluation of what can be a subjective measure.
This experience has translated to classroom innovations back at Riordan, where he has found new ways to prepare students to take the AP exam, including early morning sessions to practice free response essay questions and in-class time to review sample essays.
The work has paid off, as students honed their writing and sharpened their analytical skills which translates to a high pass rate. Perhaps more valuably, many students go on to pursue political science majors or work in government.
“My proudest moments are when former students have chosen a career in politics, either through civil service or directly working for state legislators and congressmen,” said Isola. “It’s truly a humbling moment to see students take the lessons they’ve learned in the classroom and apply them in order to affect positive change in our society.”
“Mr. Isola’s appointment to the AP committee is a testament to his hard work and passion for the subject,” said Miguel Guerrero ’12 who studied politics and economics at UC Davis and is now working for Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi. “His mentoring and teaching, in conjunction with the Marianist emphasis on education for service, justice, and peace, inspired me to pursue a career in public service. Jeff is truly one of Riordan’s greatest educators.”