RAHS English courses start a new chapter

The 2017-2018 RAHS school year will bring drastic changes in the English Department. As Mary Ciccone-Cook leaves, current Sophomore English teacher Sarah Fitzpatrick will take on AP Language and Composition, and current Freshman English teacher Wayne Storer will take on AP Literature and Composition. The two will split Sophomore English.


All these changes have left Freshman Aviation English without a teacher, and Nuka Nurzhanov, who is completely qualified for the position, is excited to be stepping in.


“I am thrilled about teaching Aviation English,” said Nurzhanov, “as it will give me a unique opportunity in developing an exciting curriculum that will utilize remarkable aviation and aerospace resources from the Museum of Flight as well as from the notable aviation and aerospace periodicals.”


Her previous position will be eliminated throughout the district in the 2017-2018 school year. Nurzhanov looks forward to overcoming the challenges that the change of pace will bring.


“Challenges would be discovering and incorporating great ideas and effective strategies or instructional practices that work in engaging and exciting students about their learning in class,” said Nurzhanov, “as my professional credo is that all students are capable of learning when they have academic and personal tools to be successful.”


Even though there are always obstacles that come with change, there is a plan in place to make sure RAHS freshmen are as ready for their next few years in high school and the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA) as they have been in the past.


“A proposed Aviation English curriculum will be fully aligned with the state Common Core standards,” said Nurzhanov, “to ensure that our students are well-prepared for the state mandatory graduation test, actually exceed the state learning standards, and learn eagerly in the context of aviation and aerospace.”


For all the STEM enthusiasts who desire a stronger aviation connection in core classes, Nurzhanov is looking to get students excited about the field.


“I am excited to incorporate a lot of short reads,” said Nurzhanov, “about new innovations in technology, aviation and aerospace.”


With Nurzhanov holding down the fort in Aviation English, Storer and Fitz are working closely to balance Sophomore English and the extra workload of grading AP timed writes.


“The idea of partnering with a colleague that I like, admire, and respect was kind of the bonus in the whole thing,” said Storer. “I’ll be teaching two brand-new classes that I’ve never taught before, but I’ll be working with Ms. Fitz and I’ll be teaching AP Lit, which is my dream job.”


Fitz, who currently teaches sophomores, is thrilled about the idea of moving up with them and staying as their teacher.


“I am excited to work with upperclassmen and Flight 2 teachers, as well as reading and discussing a variety of nonfiction texts,” said Fitz. “I am also looking forward to teaching new curriculum and working with our incoming juniors, who I absolutely love—they are a special group of kids.”


The teachers will be planning meetings in the coming month with the previous instructors to prepare for their new positions.


“[Cook] has so many great resources and so many tools and has had success; it would be foolish to reinvent the wheel,” said Storer. “I’ll have a different approach because we’re not the same teacher, but I certainly will be borrowing liberally from Ms. Cook.”


Fitz, similar to Storer, is intent on learning as much as she can from Cook and AP U.S. History teacher Michelle Juarez about how the class should be run and what strategies were successful.


“I plan to ask her as many questions as I can think of and take copious notes in order to provide our students with the best experience possible,” said Fitz. “I have also met with Ms. Juarez, who has been helpful and very supportive. She has shared valuable advice and materials with me. I am beyond grateful for their willingness to share their experiences and wisdom, because without them, I would be lost.”


Even with the help of those experienced in teaching the courses, Storer is nervous for the pressure and challenges that come with developing plans for courses that are new to him while also maintaining his commitment to avoiding busy work.


“Part of it is making sure that what I give to the students in that class is worthy of the work that they put in,” said Storer. “I know that, in the end, it will be because I care so much, but I put a lot of pressure on myself.”


With quite a lot on her plate already with work and family, Fitz recognizes the time commitment that teaching an AP course will bring.


“I know that I will need to spend most of my summer planning and preparing to teach AP Language,” said Fitz. “I also recognize that there will be more grading and that I will need to devote even more time to providing feedback for students in a timely manner.”


Despite the nerve-wracking challenges that teaching new classes will bring to all the English teachers, their excitement is inspiring.


“If I only get to teach [AP Literature and Composition and sophomore English] for one year,” said Storer, “[they] will probably be my favorite two classes so far in my ten years of teaching.”



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