Following in the tradition of our Commander in Chief, I decided to use this post as an English Department equivalent to a State of the Union Speech. Staying true to form, I will open by saying, as has become the perfunctory refrain: the state of the union (department) is strong.
Over the past several weeks I had the opportunity to observe each teacher at length in their milieu. I witnessed courageous educators modeling lifelong learning behaviors while utilizing best practices. I watched as students engaged in thought provoking discussion and activities as they engaged with complex literature. I listened with delight as students worked to express their thoughts and feelings with eloquence and verve. If this reads more as a litany than a celebration, it is only that these educators have time and time again shown these things to be the norm and the rule. However, what did give me pause, and now cause to celebrate, was the unique passion displayed by each of these teachers.
Terrance Starnes continually demonstrates his commitment to doing justice by allowing students to reflect critically on their own lived experiences. He puts himself “out-there”; sharing his own life, the ups and the downs, and thereby giving license to his students to follow in his brave foot-steps.
If the phrase No Child Left Behind had not yet been sullied by cynical bureaucrats, I would say that John Stradley is a genuine embodiment of the phrase. In his classroom, each student is held to the utmost standard where no one is allowed to “opt out”. In fact, I heard the students using this phrase amongst each other when a classmate struggled to come up with an answer. It was not used as derision, but rather as an emboldening statement of solidarity.
Evan Chavez understands students. Going to great lengths to choose materials, examples, and “ways in” for his lessons, Evan has created a joyous culture of learning where students can genuinely “see themselves” in the curriculum. It doesn’t hurt that Evan understands the power of laughter and humor and uses those tools to the delight of his students.
Last, but certainly not least, Maria McDonald is one of the most focused educators I have ever observed. She knows where she wants the students to go and makes them work to get there. When Maria validates her students’ efforts and achievements, you know she is speaking with the greatest sincerity and with laser-like specificity. She provides her seniors with a classroom experience that requires they rise to the challenge of a more adult, college-oriented mindset.
As this school year come to a close, I find myself inspired and excited to work alongside these amazing educators to make further strides in the English Department. There is of course much work to be done and many challenges and changes yet to face. However, for all the reasons listed above and because of so many other things not listed, I am confident that next year, and each year subsequent, the state of the English department will not only remain strong, but will continue to get stronger.