English department undergoes big faculty shake-up
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The high school English department is undergoing some major changes next year due to the loss of teachers in both the middle and high school.
With English teacher Patricia Fels retiring after 41 years of teaching at Country Day, teacher Jane Bauman will teach both regular English 11 and AP English Language and Composition (AP Lang).
Bauman, who has never taught any AP classes before, said she is very excited.
“I’m both terrified to teach AP next year and also relishing every moment,” Bauman said.
She said she will attend a four-day conference on AP Lang at Sacramento State University over the summer.
Bauman has also been working closely with Fels to develop next year’s curriculum.
“As an English department we always put our heads together to come up with a book list,” Bauman said. “Our books are always similar. They hit the same notes, but Fels has certain books she prefers, and I have certain ones I prefer.”
This year, Bauman taught Charles W. Chesnutt’s “The Marrow of Tradition,” a historical novel published in 1901, whereas Fels taught Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter,” published in 1850.
Although AP Lang and English 11 had different book lists this year, Bauman said she plans on having mainly the same books for both classes next year.
“But I will have different expectations from both classes, and the preparation of both classes will differ slightly,” Bauman said.
Bauman also plans on dropping the textbook that Fels uses, “Reading Critically, Writing Well.”
“Long ago I adopted the ‘Life Stories: Profiles from the New Yorker’ instead of a writing textbook,” Bauman said. “I think the book is completely appropriate for an AP class.”
“Life Stories” is a collection of profiles ranging from the ’20s and ’30s to the present.
Bauman also said she plans on altering the memoir essay, focusing on a remembered event rather than a remembered place or person, as Fels’s class did.
In addition to the remembered event, Bauman said students will write a profile at the end of the first semester.
“I want to have one short essay and one long essay per semester,” Bauman said. “In the first semester, the remembered event essay prepares you for the profile, and in the second semester the argument essay prepares you for the proposal.”
Bauman said she will also have essays and assignments based on the literature, though she wanted to wait until her AP Lang seminar to learn more about how to prepare for the exam.
But Fels isn’t the only teacher that won’t be returning to the high school.
With middle school English teacher Anthony Hagmann not returning next year, sophomore English teacher Kathryn LaComb will go back to teaching middle school full time.
In fact, LaComb already had to fill in teaching eighth grade this year due to Hagmann’s early departure. To fit in the extra class, LaComb gave up her middle school knitting elective (Latin teacher Jane Batarseh took over for the rest of the year).
Next year, LaComb will teach only seventh and eighth grade English, along with middle school teacher Emily Eustace.
Although LaComb enjoys teaching middle schoolers, she said she wishes she could have continued teaching seventh and 10th grade.
“I developed a 10th grade curriculum that I can’t use anymore,” LaComb said. “Now I need to develop a new eighth grade curriculum, which will likely take all summer.”
However, LaComb also said that teaching in both the middle and high school led to complications when it came to her schedule.
“The middle school is trying out a new form of testing: MAP (Measure of Academic Program) testing,” LaComb said. “We have a different schedule on some days because of it, which interferes with my sophomore class.”
MAP testing is a standardized test used by schools to gauge students’ academic skills in multiple fields.
Because of the schedule change, LaComb had to replan her 10th grade class on the two affected days.
“My high school class always has to come second, which isn’t fair to them,” LaComb said.
Taking over for LaComb is assistant head of school Tucker Foehl, who will be teaching alongside current 10th grade English teacher Brooke Wells.
Though this is his first time teaching at Country Day, Foehl has taught at other schools.
“I’ve taught English, history and interdisciplinary American and ethnic studies at both the high school and college level,” Foehl said.
Foehl said his previous experience teaching will help him take on this new endeavor.
“At the Baltimore School of the Arts, I taught as an administrator, and it was nice having a sort of refuge from my day,” Foehl said. “Having my class and a group of students is something I’m really looking forward to.”
Foehl added that he has wanted to teach for a long time but was unable to in past years due to the size of the high school.
“I wanted to offer some academic electives, but we can only offer a certain number of electives with the size of our student body,” Foehl said. “I didn’t want to be potentially taking students from other electives.”
Foehl and Wells are working together to develop next year’s curriculum. According to Foehl, they are trying to tie the curriculum into the sophomore project by focusing on California throughout the year.
Originally published in the May 8 edition of the Octagon.
—By Mehdi Lacombe