Hometown: York, PA (Home of the Peppermint Patty!)
Universities Attended: Bachelors, English (Major) and Philosophy (Minor), Franklin and Marshall College; Masters, English Literature, Columbia University
In what ways do you see your students develop and advance in your class through the school year?
I hope students leave my classroom with a few main ideas. First, I want them to become more attentive readers. I encourage each student to notice nuance in language and care about theme and metaphor. I want them to revel in novels and plays and short stories and poems. I stress the importance of "talking back to the text." Second, I hope my students leave my classroom feeling as if they are stronger writers. I work really hard to make sure they can communicate their thoughts clearly and directly and with little error. I work in the paradoxical realm of concision yet depth of thought. Lastly, I hope my students have a greater empathy after reading the literature our English curriculum provides. The work we teach is designed to have the students place themselves in a different context and wrestle with dissimilar lifestyles and viewpoints. The goal is to mesh these ideas together to help inform their own worldview.
What is your favorite novel, author, or unit to teach? Why?
My favorite novel to teach is As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner because of its loose narrative structure, interior monologue, and stream-of-consciousness technique. Faulkner is so different stylistically that it's fun to see kids grapple with a type of writing that is very new and unusual to most of them. By the end of the unit, they have a creative writing assignment where they write in his style, and their pieces are always incredible. The novel itself has 59 chapters and 15 different narrators. Each narrator is dealing with his or her mother's/wife's/friend's death in a different way. It's great to see how students connect to (or despise) the different characters. The text is also super existential so it's entertaining to get in conversations about the meaning of life as well.
Why is it important/beneficial for today's students to learn about (or write) poetry?
Today's culture is efficient and direct. It's important to get to the point in fewer than 140 characters. In a similar fashion, poetry is reducing language to its bare bones while concurrently remaining expansive. It cuts and peels away all the fluff and leaves the important stuff. So, the words may be few but the meaning is large – a beautiful paradox.
Poetry is language, and it revolves around being creative and artistic and inventive. It challenges us with this question: What can you say that hasn't been said? Poetry revels in the beauty of language, which is especially important to preserve. I can say a lot more, but Robin Williams (with the help of Walt Whitman) says it best.
What is your favorite thing about teaching at EA?
My favorite thing about teaching at EA is that I can teach, not babysit. I'm given a large amount of freedom to explore new units, new novels, and new ways of teaching. I've "taught" at schools where I had to be a disciplinarian or teach the same robotic curriculum year after year. At EA, I go into a classroom of 15 kids and we sit around a Harkness table and the students are ready to roll. They have their novels annotated and are eager to participate. We then use literature as a catalyst to discuss life. It's beautiful.