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Academic Lens: Exploring Proctor's English Curriculum

Scott Allenby

Every student at Proctor engages in an English course every trimester they are enrolled. This graduation requirement is directly tied to an expectation of colleges that all high school students are enrolled in English or literature classes at all times, but for Proctor’s English Department, it provides an amazing opportunity to teach elective courses in a variety of areas. 

English Department Chair Shauna Turnbull has empowered her talented group of educators - Mark Tremblay, John Bouton, Morgan Salathe, Peter Southworth, Tom Morgan, Jennifer Summers, Ellie Sperry, Melanie Maness, and Josie Sanchez - to build a curriculum that is as diverse as their interests. Formerly structured around the genres of American Literature and British Literatures, the evolution of Proctor’s English offerings over the past decade have afforded teachers the opportunity to teach to their passions, while bringing students along for the ride. 

Proctor Academy English Academics

During the first three weeks of the Fall Term, students and teachers are already deep in their hands-on discovery of how literature can come to life in today’s world, while connecting us to those of generations prior whose stories we need to hear. Check out a few highlights from the English Department’s curriculum this fall below: 

Art of Expression

Art of Expression aims to enhance student eloquence in a variety of public presentation styles by studying the art of rhetoric, prosody, and prose; composing and delivering original pieces; and understanding the basic background of the theories, purposes, and principles of public speaking. Through the crafting and delivery of various speeches, performance poetry, and oral storytelling, students will hone their creative and critical writing skills while learning techniques to improve their posture, diction, enunciation, and projection. Jen Summers’ class recently had the Education Director from The Huntington Theatre (Boston) come to give a workshop in class in preparation for the group to attend Fat Ham on October 5. Students will have a talk back after the show and will work alongside a curriculum guide as they read both Hamlet and Fat Ham, prior to attending the show.

Proctor Academy English Academics

AP English Language and Composition  

In both Mark Tremblay and John Bouton’s AP English Composition classes, students are engaging in a “Books You Choose” project where students choose their course of study for the term. Each student is asked to read, understand, and appreciate the artistry of an appropriately challenging, sustained work of nonfiction. Through active reading and participation in small group activities, students work to hold one another accountable for their understanding of their chosen text. This fall, small groups of students will read Braiding Sweetgrass, Liar’s Poker, She’s Not There, and Piper & Katy writing several reading responses, blog posts, short essays, rhetorical analysis, and finally comprehensive reviews of the works. 

English Elective: Poetry

In John Bouton’s Poetry class, students will be traveling to Eagle Pond Farm in the coming weeks to learn about the life and work of poets Donald Hall & Jane Kenyon at their longtime home in Wilmot, New Hampshire. Later in the term, a visit from a local poet will amplify the work in the class prior to John’s continued participation in the Nossrat Yassini Poetry Fellows’ Professional Day at the University of New Hampshire that will prepare the class for the fuller event in April. 

Proctor Academy English Academics

Culture and Conflict 

In this consecutive-blocks honors level course, students explore themes involving the family, politics, war, alienation, gender, migration, and issues of cultural assimilation. The aim is to examine cultures and ensuing conflicts from the perspective of various ethnic/racial/national backgrounds and to investigate how people of differing environments make ethical decisions during desperate times. Students will examine nonfiction work/critical essays, primary-source historical images, film, political cartoons, poetry, novels, stories, and music. Teachers Ellie Sperry and Melanie Maness brought students to the local historical site honoring Hannah Duston during the first week of class. This exploration of meaning and impact of a statue honoring the English colonist taken captive by Native Americans in 1697, during King William’s War afforded students not only the opportunity to get off campus, but to further explore the complex messages, meanings, and lasting impacts of statues of this nature. 

Proctor Academy English Academics

Athletes in Literature

In this course, students learn how literature captures the unifying power of competition through an exploration of the connection between athletic competition and the written word. Reflecting on a wide array of athletic endeavors, students will strengthen their understanding and application of sport and writing. Last week, Proctor alum and current Mountain Classroom Instructor Emi Morison ‘14 visited classes to talk about her experience as a support runner in ultramarathons. The class is currently reading the Badwater Ultramarathon in The Year's Best Sports Writing 2022. Emi was fantastic sharing her journey and experience in relation to the students’ current reading assignment. 

English 9 and 10

All ninth graders take English 9, a course designed to expose students to various genres and themes in literature while honing their ability to discuss and write about literature in a cogent and critical way. Students study the short story, poetry, drama, and the novel as a means to understand the complexities of written expression, become familiar with literary terminology, and acquire new vocabulary. In addition, students hone their grammar and writing skills through homework, in-class exercises, and regularly scheduled critical analyses, creative pieces, and personal narratives. 

English 10 affords students the opportunity to explore primarily the American experience through myriad - often underrepresented - voices, combining a thematic examination of significant cultural moments and movements with a critical approach to the literature born out of such epochs. A primary goal of English 10 is to prepare students for the rigors of upper level English classes by honing their analytical thinking, speaking, and writing skills through focused classroom discussions and regularly scheduled critical papers. During the spring, all English 10 students study rhetorical devices in preparation for the Hays Prize Speaking Contest.

Proctor Academy Academics

Check out Proctor's complete course catalog HERE! 

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