Wonjen Bagley Urges Calm For Nervous AP Students

Standing above the notoriously small desks and staring out at hundreds of nervous students, Wonjen Bagley begins to read the instructions for yet another AP exam. For the Phillips Academy students crammed into the narrow desks, it is a traumatic experience, but for Andover’s AP Administrator and Director of Standardized Testing, it is only the beginning of another day at work. Ms. Bagley holds what some consider the most tedious job on campus – she administers the dreaded tests that Phillips Academy students find themselves taking around this time of year. The PSAT, the ISEE, the AP, the SSAT, and the SAT – she coordinates them all. But according to Bagley, even testing has a lighter side. “With my job, there are a lot of i’s to dot and t’s to cross… but there’s nothing like the look on student’s faces – a look of completion and relief – when they finish. It’s always nice to see that, in some small way, I’m helping these students,” explained Ms. Bagley. Testing may be a serious matter, but after holding her position at Andover for only a year and a half, Ms. Bagley is already learning to laugh at some of the more humorous situations that have arisen during her time giving exams. “I remember one of the things that we used to ask was for students to bring their cell phones forward. I did that once, and suddenly, about 300 students started walking towards me. It’s kind of funny that the testing industry hasn’t caught up to the fact that everybody has a cell phone now,” she explained. Ms. Bagley was not always a test administrator. Prior to her arrival at Phillips Academy, she worked for 13 years in Social Work, serving first as a substance abuse counselor but eventually rising to be the Director of the Boston Regional Office of Substance Abuse Services for the Department of Health. She also taught social work at nearby Gordon College. The mother of two children, she ultimately decided that she wanted to spend more time at home. Retiring from her career in Social Work, she took up the duties of stay-at-home mom. But when an opportunity at Andover arose, she elected to return to the work force. “When I heard that there was a position available at PA, I was eager to return to work. Phillips Academy’s reputation was very strong, and the idea of working in a place with such high energy really appealed to me,” Ms. Bagley remarked. Since Ms. Bagley lives in the Andover area and has her children enrolled in nearby schools, the opening seemed all that much more appealing. So, after a brief period of training under her predecessor, she finally joined the Phillips Academy community as the Director of Standardized Testing. Since then, she has come to appreciate a job that many might just see as boring. Ms. Bagley said that, while students may have their own opinions, one of her favorite tests is the SSAT, an exam taken mostly by middle school students applying for high school. “The SSATs are always nice because the kids are younger, and often, they want me to help them. Students will ask me what different words mean, and though, of course, I can’t tell them, the innocence is nice to see.” Her least favorite? The APs. “APs are the hardest to give just because there are so many of them in such a short period of time. But then, some of the foreign language, art, and music APs are really amazing because you can see the talent these kids have – they sing, speak the language, and reply. Some of the kids are just so talented. It’s great to see them so strong in a subject,” Ms. Bagley commented. Meanwhile, as Ms. Bagley continues to look at the lighter side of her job, she did have some serious advice for students that will soon be sitting in the narrow desks, nervously waiting for her to administer an exam. “Come on time. Have a picture ID and a #2 pencil. We do have the luxury that some people know each other, but it’s still important to bring a picture ID. Dress appropriately – layers to take on and off are always a good idea so that you can be as comfortable as possible during the test.”