AHS English Update


Shelbee Burke, Web Editor

This semester, there has been a change in the English curriculum. Rather than a full year of standard English separated by grade, first semester was taught by through a typical English setting and second semester is an English elective. Students could choose between a variety of classes that can meet their interests. This new way of teaching helps students stay engaged in what they are learning about. 

Classes are taught by the four teachers in the English department, senior teacher Mrs. Ramos, junior teacher Ms. Smith, sophomore teacher Mr. Wurdeman and freshman teacher Mrs. Green. All electives can be taken by any student in any grade. Smith explained, “All of the main English skills will be taught, just in a different way.”

Smith explained why the decision was made to make the change saying, “It came up in our department discussion one semester that we know there are a lot of kids where English is not their favorite subject, kids that don’t like to read or write maybe. We thought well what if we offered more classes where kids had a choice.” Wurdeman agreed with this explaining, “There isn’t a lot of choice for electives here for kids and there could be more so we came up with the idea of this so that it adds more choice for kids.” Smith continued remarking, “Teachers decided ‘what do I love that I want to teach’, so we had all of these ideas but then we didn’t know how to execute them. That’s where the whole country school setup came. It’ll take some getting used to from the students and the teachers but it’s doable.”

The classes offered by Ramos this semester include Women’s Literature, Cultural Literature and ACT English Prep. She said, “My ACT English is about all of the ins and outs of the reading, writing and English portions of the ACT. [It’s about] Practicing and figuring out strategies to knock out the test.” She continued saying, “Women’s literature is reading books that have to do with women: women authors or women main characters. We’re reading Secret Life of Bees, The Help, those kinds of books.” She explained her final class saying, “Cultural Literature is the same kind of concept as Women’s. We’re mainly going to be reading. But they are going to be books that are more culturally diverse, whether it’s on Germany Nazi culture or Afghani culture.” 

Ramos stated, “I’m excited for the Women’s and Cultural Literature because I’m hoping people signed up for them because they like to read and because they’ll find an enjoyment out of reading the topics they’re going to be reading about.”

Smith’s classes include Literature of Love, Transcendental Literature and Creative Writing: Author Study. She remarked that in Literature of Love students, “are learning all about love, healthy love, not healthy love, crazy love, the kind of love everyone dreams about. We will be reading three novels, the Great Gatsby, Ethan Frome and the play a Midsummer Night’s Dream, along with lots of short stories. Everyone wants a good kind of love in their life and it doesn’t have to be romantic love, it can be love of a friend, love of an animal. We are going to study the effects of love.” She continued explaining, “Then I have Transcendental Literature, which is probably one of my all-time favorite things to teach. It is studying the words of Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, Dickenson and the Fireside Poets. [Students are] studying how we can be better people by following some basic principles, like getting out into nature and simplifying our lives. Right now with the chaos of all the things we have going on, I think that this class is going to be very important for students.” Smith said, “The other one I have is creative writing author study. That group is looking at famous poets; they’re studying the poet’s style and then they’re transferring that style into their own works. They will do a junk journal which is a way different process where they’re wrecking all the pages and tearing things apart. Kids are seeming to really like it.” 

When asked what class she was most anticipating, Smith explained, “I love them all, but honestly the transcendental literature is just life-changing. If a student really pays attention to the words of these people, they help alleviate the drama, relieve the stress and the worry that we always have. A lot of that is self-created, especially in our fast-paced world. These authors try to show us how to slow down and how to really take our life and breathe and enjoy every moment that we can possibly because we’re never guaranteed the next day.”

Wurdeman is teaching the classes Dystopian Literature, Leadership and War and Creative Writing: Short Stories. Wurdeman said, “Dystopian Literature covers Fahrenheit 451, 1982 and some short stories that deal with overreaching government control and societies.” He remarked, “I’m also teaching Leadership and War and we’re reading some novels that do with war, what the people did in them and leadership esque things that they used in war and then what they did after they transferred out of the service.” He stated, “The last will be Creative Writing: Short Story. We will be doing a children’s book and a short story.”

When asked what class he is most excited for, Wurdeman said, “I am not excited for one over the other, I think they’re all going to be fun in their own way. Being able to have our own pathways, us as teachers were able to pick what we wanted to teach in a way so I picked these three and I’m excited to teach all three.”

Classes taught by Green this semester are Creative Communication, Literature on Stage, Young Adult Literature and Creative Writing. Green explained, “I am teaching creative communication which is a public speaking class, literature on stage which is theater, creative writing and young adult literature.” She said, “Creative writing and young adult literature are happening at the same time. I have three sections of that with both classes running at the same time.”

Green remarked, “I’m excited for all of them. So far it’s been really great. I was really worried about having two classes going on at the same time but the kids focus and they pay attention and are working on their individual projects and it’s gone very smoothly.” She continued saying, “I’m very excited that speech and theater are back into the mix of choices that kids can take. I love the young adult literature class for kids that really love to read but they never have time to read in their lives.”

With the variety of pathways in English available, students can choose a class that will keep them engaged and actively learning. This new way of learning is a great opportunity for all students and will hopefully continue in the following years.