POUGHKEEPSIE – Growing up in Mexico, Poughkeepsie High School senior Johan Hernandez Agustin’s first language is Spanish. But, it wasn’t until he started studying Spanish at Poughkeepsie Middle School in seventh grade and later PHS, that he became immersed in the language and culture.
“Taking the classes gave me another perspective, as I was able to take a step back and analyze it and see the structure. I got a lot of value from the lessons and learned to appreciate the culture more than I did,” he said.
It was that appreciation that helped him earn one of the 247 perfect scores on the AP Spanish and Culture exam he took in May. The College Board, which administers the AP program, said there were 172,915 exams taken this year. In 2022, there were only 63 perfect scores out of 156,566 exams.
“We applaud your mastery of the content and skills of this AP course and wish you many future successes,” Trevor Packer, head of the Advanced Placement Program, wrote in a letter to Hernandez Agustin.
Hernandez Agustin said that he felt prepared for the exam from the moment he went in, but then felt some uncertainty. Clearly, it was unwarranted.
Angelica Bailon has been teaching the AP Spanish class for about 12 years and praised Hernandez Agustin for his dedication to learning. She said this is only the second perfect score she has seen at the school, the other one was from Alejandra Bautista several years ago.
Hernandez Agustin had a strategy for doing well on the exam: “If you want to make sure you get a good grade you must have an interest in the class,” he said.
Bailon encourages her students to explore the language and culture outside of class as a way to more fully engage students, and that is something Hernandez Agustin did.
“I’m glad she had us concentrate on the cultures so now I understand it better,” he said. “If you’re learning a second language, don’t limit yourself to classes. Find a way to connect what you are learning outside of school,” he said, adding that one way to do so is to watch movies or shows in that language or listen to music in that language.
“Learning about the culture gives you more passion to learn the language beyond the words and that gives you the motivation to learn more,” he said.
Hernandez Agustin said Bailon is a great teacher. “The way the lessons are structured are so unique, and the conversations we have in class are so helpful.”
Looking toward the future, Hernandez Agustin wants to put his skills to use by becoming an interpreter either in the military or any field, especially in Poughkeepsie where there is a large Latino community.