The student news site of Highlands High School

The Hilltopper

The student news site of Highlands High School

The Hilltopper

The student news site of Highlands High School

The Hilltopper

Unsung heroes: the power of a word

A collage of the English department teachers’ plaques.

They are a brilliant sight, full to the brim with so much meaning. Colorfully cheerful but can also be darker than ever imagined. 

Words are the basis of emotions, the essence of our communication, our happiest moments, and how we express our tears. They encompass our deepest thoughts and yield our expressions. Enticed by their meaning, and how to use them, students learn how letters go together, commas are sprinkled throughout sentences, and periods are placed in conclusion. People who educate us most fundamentally in these concepts are not always recognized. These are our English teachers. 

Here at HHS, our English-teaching crew takes on everything from English 1 to AP literature—from building simple sentences to comprehending complex works of writing, crafting persuasive arguments, and more. These are delicate tasks that will serve students for a lifetime. 

However, these lifetime lessons can be forgotten when other events get in the way. 

According to the Washington Post, kids’ reading comprehension has declined significantly since the COVID-19 pandemic; in fact, a CNN article reported that reading on standardized tests has “nose-dived.”  

The HHS English department consists of teachers Brady Dowling, Angie Gintonio, Shannon Henson, Laura Taylor, Jennifer Nash, Beth Brubaker, Katie Simon, and Katie Stewart. 

Angie Gintonio, chair of the HHS English department, said that, even though teaching is sometimes a challenge, adapting to students’ needs, and even after the pandemic, she wouldn’t have it any other way. Educating is her passion. 

“We all take on big tasks, (making sure kids are up to speed and on level where they need to be) but we understand each other and communicate as teachers… we’ve made an effort to get together frequently.” 

Communication seems to be the key factor in this.

“We meet every week for meetings with the whole English department, carrying out teaching strategies and catching up,” said Gintonio.

However, these teachers do not always get the credit deserved by students for their efforts in the classroom. 

“As it is my job, I don’t expect a lot of thanks or praise from my students but it’s always nice when someone recognizes what I do,” said Gintonio. “It makes me realize why I do what I do.”

Why they do it seems very clear to Beth Brubaker, who brings it back to the kids.

“I love empowering students, helping them be self-sufficient and confident in their voices.”

From our delicate English language comes the heartfelt words and supportive phrases we hear daily from our dedicated teachers, who demonstrate the value of words when lifting another up or building connections and trust.

To connect people, help us express our opinions and beliefs, and challenge others to be more curious and compassionate—these are the powers of words, the lifelong gifts of our HHS English teachers.

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