In his recent book on educational reform, Focus, Mike Schmoker argues that high-quality literacy instruction should be central to everything that schools do in every subject. In his chapter on the particular importance of language arts instruction, Schmoker quotes a comment by Mark Edmundson, Professor of English at the University of Virginia, in support of this claim: “Literature makes significant life possible… [We] construct ourselves from novels, poems, and plays as well as from works of history and philosophy.”
As we finish the first quarter of the 2011-12 school year, we find much to celebrate in the richness of our own language arts program—in student performance, experiential learning, and professional development. Read on for some of the great news. We are proud to announce the success of our students on the Advanced Placement (AP) English Exams administered at the end of the 2010-11 school year. Last May, 149 students took an exam in AP English Language and Composition or Literature and Composition, reflecting an increase in AP enrollment of approximately 65% since the 2007-08 school year. In the AP Language class, the highest-level English course offered to juniors, the students had an average score of 3.9 on a 5-point scale; in the analogous course for seniors, AP Literature, students had an average score of 4.0 on a 5-point scale. Of particular note is that 36% of our students earned the highest score, a “5,” an impressive accomplishment when compared to the global percentage of 5s on the exam, 8.4%. Many congratulations are in order—to our students, for their hard work and enthusiasm; to our teachers, for their passion, expertise, and hours of dedicated work; and to our administrators, for their support of this vital program and their efforts to encourage more students to take on the most challenging coursework. The results on the AP Exams indicate that students are taking advantage of the rich experiences we offer in literary studies.
From October 17th to November 3rd, Michael Cohen, English department supervisor, hosted visiting high school principal, Maria Cecilia Martínez, from Córdoba City, Argentina. This visit was the first part of Mr. Cohen’s International administrator exchange program, which was sponsored by a grant from the U.S. Department of State and the Argentine Fulbright Commission. The 3-week visit began with a conference in Washington, D.C. that focused on school leadership, cross-cultural communication, and getting the most out of the exchange program. The purpose of this exchange is to provide a professional development opportunity for the participating educators to share best practices on issues of mutual interest to their schools, students, and communities. Individualized through collaboration between partners, the exchange focuses on teaching strategies/instruction, the development of joint educational projects, personnel administration, school systems and management, global issues and culture, curriculum development, student affairs, and educational policy. While Ms. Martinez was in Tenafly, she shadowed Mr. Cohen and participated in his various professional activities, including observations of instruction, meetings with individual students, and common planning time meetings with teachers. In addition to her work with Mr. Cohen, Ms. Martinez worked with Ms. Donna Lewis in Student Services; taught advanced Spanish classes with Ms. Terri Caust; visited classrooms in all disciplines; discussed American public education with groups of students; planned a collaborative project with Ms. Pat Pacheco, which will include exchanges of artwork between students in Córdoba and Tenafly; and delivered a presentation to students, teachers, and administrators on Argentine education and culture. When they were not working, Ms. Martinez joined Mr. Cohen and his family on a tour of the New York area, including visits to museums, landmarks, and other areas of cultural interest. In late July of 2012, Mr. Cohen will visit Argentina for the reciprocal component of the exchange. Mr. Cohen would like to thank his colleagues and the district administration for supporting this exchange and for their hospitality in receiving Ms. Martínez.
Mr. Stanley Flood, the English Department’s resident actor, is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Theatre at Montclair State University (MSU). As part of his graduate Independent Study course, Mr. Flood will be performing in the role of Dr. Randall in MSU’s fall production of Ferber and Kaufman’s “Stage Door.” Interested members of the school community may catch Mr. Flood’s performance at MSU on November 18th, 19th, 20th, or 21st. We also congratulate Mr. Flood for completing 25 years of service to the Tenafly Public Schools!
On September 11, 2011, two THS students collaborated with Mr. Cohen and Ann Moscovitz, former Mayor of Tenafly, in the planning of the Tenafly Borough’s ten-year memorial service commemorating the terrorist attacks on the U.S. in 2001. Julie Rodriguez, a sophomore, wrote a short story about 9/11/01 from the perspective of a kindergartner, addressing the plight of approximately 3,000 children whose parents were killed in the attacks. The story, “I Don’t Wan’ Go,” was distributed to guests at the memorial service. Donna Lee, a senior, created a painted collage entitled "A Decade in Remembrance." The collage, which emphasized the global nature of the attacks and people’s heroic responses to them, was displayed prominently at the memorial service and appeared in The Record on the following Monday.
On Saturday, October 22nd, Ms. Moia Packer attended Fairleigh Dickinson University’s (FDU) Annual Shakespeare Colloquium, which focused on Othello—a tragedy that Ms. Packer uses in her sophomore classes. Workshops were offered throughout the day by English professors from the tri-state area, addressing such topics as Renaissance ideas on confession and how they relate to Iago’s character; the role of racism and social harmony in the play; and ideas of friendship in Shakespeare’s time.
Sophomores in Ms. Hampson’s World Literature II class are currently preparing for their upcoming trial of Oedipus the King. The State of Thebes charges Oedipus with making conscious choices by his own free will that perpetuated the fulfillment of the oracle’s prophecy and determined his tragic downfall. The defense will respond by arguing that Oedipus was doomed to fulfill the curse that Apollo brought upon his family, rendering him powerless to prevent the fulfillment of the cursed prophecy. Therefore, the gods controlled everything that happened to Oedipus. All students will participate in the trial as an attorney, witness, or juror. This activity and its corollary writing assignment will allow students to reflect upon Sophocles’ "big life question" of whether or not man has control over his own destiny.
Seniors in Mr. Gary Whitehead and Ms. Mimi Tang-Johnson’s Essential Topics in Literary Studies class participated in a video conference with contemporary author of fiction, Shann Ray, on November 3rd. Having read “Mrs. Seacrest,” a short story from Ray’s volume of short fiction, American Masculine, Mr. Whitehead and Ms. Tang-Johnson’s students discussed the story’s symbolism and other literary devices, and then wrote alternate endings to the story. The video conference gave students an opportunity to share their alternate endings with Ray, hear about Ray’s formative years as an author, and learn about his writing process. Throughout the conference, Ray discussed the way his fiction attempts to address Americans’ discomfort with intimacy, tenderness, and affection. He also explained how, in the courses he teaches in psychology in Spokane, Washington, he emphasizes the way true leadership can empower people by making them more autonomous—especially after the worst has happened to them.
The English Department congratulates two teachers who have recently published their writing. Ms. Dana Maloney co-authored an article on professional learning communities with Terry Moore, a retired Tenafly elementary school teacher, and Monica Taylor, Associate Professor of Curriculum and Teaching at Montclair State University. The article, “Grassroots Growth: The Evolution of a Teacher Study Group,” appeared in the October issue of Learning Forward, a journal of the National Staff Development Council. Mr. Gary Whitehead will have his poem, “Lot’s Wife,” published in a forthcoming issue of The New Yorker. This will be Mr. Whitehead’s second appearance in the high-profile, weekly publication. Those who read The New Yorker online will have an opportunity to hear Mr. Whitehead recite his poem, which he recorded last week at the magazine’s headquarters.
Social Studies The social studies department welcomes our newest member, Ms. Agapi Schmarge. Ms. Schmarge is currently filling in as the leave replacement for Ms. Barker, but will then fill the position vacated by Mr. Luther’s retirement in December. She is a veteran teacher, with nine years of experience at Palisades Park High School before coming to us in Tenafly.
Ninth grade students in Mrs. Phommathep’s World History East classes are working on a research paper on Africa. In preparation, they learned about Modern Language Association citation protocol and worked with our library media specialist, Mr. DiGregorio, to learn about how they can best use our library’s extensive resources.
Sophomore Humanities students in Mr. Barrett’s and Mr. Hutchinson’s classes will be visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art on November 9 as part of their study of Ancient Greek and Roman history and culture. The museum has one of the world’s finest collections of this material.
We are planning for a visit from Penny Colman, author of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: A Friendship That Changed the World and other books. She’ll be speaking to Mrs. Kratz’s 11th grade USI classes. Our friends at Womrath’s bookstore helped to arrange this.
Another guest speaker, Louis DiPaolo, will be speaking to Mr. Morrison’s senior American Mind classes on November 17. Mr. DiPaolo is a World War II veteran Marine who fought at the battle of Iwo Jima.
Advanced Placement test scores arrived in July, as they do every year. Tenafly students excelled in the social studies AP tests, as they do every year. In May of 2011, THS students took three social studies AP tests: World History (10th graders), American History (11th graders) and American Government (11th and 12th graders). Thirty one students took the World History test (compared with 22 in 2010), earning an average score of 3.5 on the five point scale. Note that these students had not taken a World History AP course, but were prepared for the test through our two-year world history program. Seventeen of the students scored 4 or 5, and another 9 earned a 3.
Thirty two students took the American History AP test, with an astonishing average score of 4.9 out of 5.
The twenty students in our elective course on American Government took the AP test for that course, and averaged a 3.5, with 16 of the students earning 3 or higher.
Mathematics It has been five days since a winter storm that set record snowfall amounts for October, left hundreds of thousands without power, and has students from Smith Elementary roaming the halls of Tenafly High School… Greece was bailed out, but then defaulted. Corzine bet on the economic recovery, a failed bet. The stock market plunged… Unemployment is at a record high. Presidential approval is on the wane. Many Republicans have tossed their names into the ring for a nomination… Through it all, numbers define the situations - inches of snow, number of power outages, dollars needed, percentages of approval and support. At THS we daily study and explore the world of numbers.
Students who took the AP Calculus AB, Calculus BC and Statistics exams last May had outstanding results. The average score on the AB exam was 4.65 with 72% or the students earning a 5. On the BC exam the average was 4.02 with over 75% earning a 4 or a 5. On the Statistics exam the average was 3.77 with 91% of the students earning a 3 or above.
The Math Team, under the direction of Peggy Wissler, will compete in the annual Seton Hall University Mathematics competition on Saturday, November 19. This full day of math is a highlight for students each year. In the past, Tenafly students have fared well; a THS team member finished with the third highest overall score in 2010. The first BCML competition was hosted by Dumont on October 27; the second is slated for November 17 at Tenafly. In addition the annual AMC contest will be administered on December 7. These competitions also offer students an opportunity to meet and share with students from neighboring high schools.
Jiyoun (Jennifer) Ha participated in the Math Prize for Girls competition on Sept. 17th at MIT. There were 276 participants from across the country who qualified for this contest. The qualification was based on Jennifer’s AMC score, among the top 10 scores for girls in the nation.
In the classroom, students in Geometry have now completed Chapter 2 with its 36 theorems and are completing proofs in earnest. These prepare students for the rigor of the Geometry questions on the SAT exam. Students in Algebra 2 have completed systems of equations. Students in Precalculus are beginning the graphs of the six trig functions and will complete the study of trigonometry by January.
Mr. Scanlon, out on a medical leave, has been resuming his teaching duties and will be back full time at the start of the second marking period. His students have benefitted from the expertise of math teachers in the district to cover classes during his absence but look forward to having him at the helm.
Mark your calendars for 11/11/11; mathematicians love it when numbers are aligned!
Science During the past summer, several THS Science teachers participated in exciting research opportunities with the hopes of bringing real world science problems into their classrooms. Ms. Helen Coyle and Ms. Carol Pastushok were accepted into the Research Experience for Teachers program at NJIT sponsored by the National Science Foundation. The purpose of this program was to introduce teachers to current research that is going on at the university level and to bring new lessons and resources back to their classrooms. During this 6 week program, Ms. Coyle and Ms. Pastushok researched the creation of pharmaceutical drug polymorphs and their different levels of stability. Ms. Coyle researched acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol and Ms. Pastushok researched the different polymorphs of Ibuprofen. From this experience, the teachers received a $500 gift to purchase equipment for a lab investigation designed to be implemented in their classrooms this year. What a great opportunity for our students to be engaged in real life research problems.
Ms. Anat Firnberg was accepted into and participated in the Rockefeller University Outreach Program, Modeling the Molecular World. During her week long study of the invisible work of molecules, Ms. Firnberg explored how proteins “know” what shape they should fold up into following their syntheses as linear polymers of amino acids. Ms. Firnberg learned to use the Jmol, a computer visualization tool to expand the concepts of protein structure to create physical models.
Dr. Ron Schreck was one of 19 middle and high school science teachers from 16 NJ communities to complete the Honeywell and NJ Audubon’s professional development program, Honeywell Institute for Ecosystems Education this past summer. This program combined classroom instruction with diverse outdoor experiences throughout the Hackensack watershed helping educators to transform textbook curriculum into new and inspiring lesson plans designed to promote a hands on approach to learning about our environment.
World Languages Three new teachers joined the World Language faculty in September. They are Mr. William Paris, Mr. Paul Roncagliolo, and Ms. Ruby Yao. As of November 2nd, Mr. John Salierno is serving as the leave replacement teacher for Ms. Beatriz Peláez-Martínez, who will be on leave through the end of January.
Mr. Paris, the new teacher of Japanese, comes to THS having previously taught Japanese at both Ridge High School and William Annin Middle School in Bernards Township. He holds a BA in Japanese Language and Literature from Connecticut College and an MA in Teaching from Montclair State University. He studied abroad in Osaka, Japan and served as a teacher in The Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme. Mr. Paris is teaching Japanese III, III Honors, IV Honors, and AP Japanese. Mr. Roncagliolo, a new teacher of Spanish, comes to THS having taught at the middle and high school levels in both Montclair and Teaneck. He holds a BA in Broadcasting and Spanish from Arizona State University. He is teaching Spanish I and Communication and Culture II at THS and 6th and 7th grade Spanish at TMS. Ms. Yao, the new teacher of Mandarin Chinese, holds a BA in Economics from Rutgers University and an MPA from Fairleigh Dickinson University. A native of Shanghai, China, Ms. Yao has taught at weekend Mandarin language programs in both Middlesex and Bergen counties and has served as an adjunct professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University. Ms. Yao’s assignment includes Mandarin Chinese I, II, II Honors, III, III Honors, and IV/IV Honors. Finally, Mr. Salierno comes to THS with over 30 years of experience teaching Italian and Spanish at Passaic Valley Regional High School. He holds a BA in Italian and Spanish from Rutgers and an MA in Counseling Education from NYU. He is teaching Spanish II, II Honors, Communication and Culture III, and Italian I while Ms. Peláez-Martínez is on leave for the duration of the 1st semester.
In October, Ms. Vélez-Prikazsky and Ms. Bilali attended Advanced Placement workshops sponsored by the College Board. Held at Hasbrouck Heights High School, these workshops outlined changes that will take effect on future AP exams and provided time to share and examine strategies in order to best prepare students throughout the AP course and the upcoming exams in May 2012.
Cecilia Martínez, Fulbright Exchange counterpart to Mr. Michael Cohen, presented lessons to Ms. Terri Caust’s Spanish V Honors classes. These lessons focused on Argentine culture, history, and literature. Students in the Spanish program translated parts of Ms. Martínez’s presentation to faculty and students on October 27th. Thank you to Gal Spiegel, Daniela Archila, Allison Torsiglieri, Ioanna Moriatis, Angela Wang, Alina Yaman, and Ian MacArthur for their superb translation for the audience.
Students in Ms. Williams’ French II Honors class recently completed a video representation of their daily routine. This project required students to use the digital recording technology in the language lab and to create an authentic representation to share with the class and their French pen pals. Remember all of the Francophone countries and their influence during National French Week, which takes place November 8-14. Sponsored by the American Association of Teachers of French (AATF) it is a time to celebrate Francophone culture.
ELL The beginning ELL students are concentrating on developing the four English language skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing. In most cases, these students come to us with little to no English language skills in place. As a result, their task is extremely difficult. Students worked on a project entitled A Book About Me in which the new arrivalsare introducing themselves to their classmates. Ms. Edelman’s intermediate ELL students discussed Helen Keller and the obstacles she had to overcome. They discussed other obstacles people have to overcome in their lives. Students read about the life of Frank McCourt and obstacles he had to over. Ms. Edelman’s advanced ELL students discussed characteristics of a utopia. They read the story, Brook Farm, and compared the utopian environment that existed on the farm with the world today. They also analyzed how utopians from Brook Farm would react to contemporary issues.
Ms. Grady’s beginner language arts class read the story, Wolf. They compared the main characters using a Venn diagram. Students wrote about the story elements and then made inferences and drew their own conclusions about the story. Intermediate language arts students focused on a thematic unit on suspense in the short story reading The Lady or the Tiger. They also began a unit on poetry, reading Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken. The advanced language arts students have been reading pieces of literature focusing on American history. Students read an essay by Jean de Crevecoeur entitled What is an American? They also read Frederick Douglass’ autobiography, My Bondage and My Freedom.
Ms. Kim’s beginning HSPA class identified strategies and points to consider when reading a narrative text. They read the narrative, Gift of Magi, using their new strategies. They also discussed similes, metaphors and personification in the story. Intermediate / advanced HSPA students in Ms. Edelman’s class identified main ideas and supporting details in their reading. Ms. Grady’s intermediate / advanced HSPA students were focusing on identifying analogies and looking for context clues in the reading to help them find their meanings.
Special Education The Special Education Department was delighted to welcome back Mrs. Mimi Tang-Johnson this fall after her leave at the end of last year. We welcome Caden Huh into the world, born July 1, along with his proud parents, Dinah and Mark. The department looks forward to the return of Mrs. Huh after the Thanksgiving break.
Fine Arts Ms. Pacheco’s Art Experience students created Keith haring figures out of construction paper to be part of a class poster. This was done to promote the Common Bond project. In her painting class, students learned to identify primary colors and create secondary and intermediate colors. They created creative color wheels first in pencil and then by going over the lines with a sharpie.
Ms. Nagel’s drawing students learned how to translate information about three dimensional objects into a two dimensional surface. They also focused on seeing forms in their wholeness and of seeing relationships among the parts. These activities served to strengthen their eye/hand coordination. In Portfolio Honors, students made a three to five minute presentation to the class about a painting they had selected. Students discussed the structure and composition of the piece as well as the place in time the work had been created.
Ms. Kirschbaum’ s Computer Graphics class found internet images and brought them into the Photoshop application. Students learned what tools are available to the Photoshop user. They worked on exploring the features of each tool. In Computer Animation Honors, students observed a Power Point presentation entitled “Prehistory #1” which explained the various breakthroughs in film and Animation. One of these breakthroughs was the invention of the “Thaumathope.” After viewing the presentation, students created their own thaumathope.
On Thursday, October 27th, 26 students from Mrs. Kirschbaum’s Drawing, Computer Graphics, and Computer Animation Honors classes, along with students from Mr. Whitehead’s Creative Writing class, visited the Rockland Center for the Arts to participate in a gallery tour and hands on sculpture workshop.
Students received a guided tour of the current show entitled “Toy Story” . This toy themed exhibition includes paintings, sculpture, digital art, primitive photography and installation art from the studios of several area artists. Each piece includes a toy somewhere in the composition.
Upon completion of the guided tour, students entered the studio to create their own toy themed sculptures. The results were amazing and reflected students’ talent and enthusiasm.
Daly Flanagan directed both the tour and workshop. She and her assistants were excited upon seeing students’ final results. Sculptures were left behind at the center to dry and will be delivered to THS in the coming days.
A few days after our visit, Mrs. Kirschbaum was notified that the director of the Rockland Center was so impressed with student projects, she asked to include 7 student sculptures into the show, which will run until December 18th. The THS students who will be exhibiting their sculptures are Chris Pandolfo, Iris Park, Itai Ben Amram, Paul Hur, Alex Pattison, Stephanie White and Randi Siegel. Congratulations to these students and all the others who participated in this special event. They are all to be commended for their great work.