Teaching Anew: Educators of JHS Give Insight Into their New Courses

By: Aaron Siebert

School has returned once again, but it’s not the same JHS we once knew. The COVID-19 pandemic had an unpredictable effect on the curriculum last year, forcing the Jenks staff to adjust to changes, and some teachers to even retire from their positions. 

But hard times create new possibilities, the possibilities in question being classes. The 2021-2022 school year differs from last year in terms of both the curriculum and protocol. Clubs are operating at higher capacity than last year, and many courses are returning after a hiatus or are being taught for the first time. 

Multiple classes were not taught in-person during the 2020-2021 school year. A perfect example of this is AP Economics. 

The previous AP Econ teacher was Tim Sloan, who taught the class for many years, but once he retired due to the pandemic, Kody Engle decided to step up and resurrect the in-person economics teaching.

“When Mr. Sloan retired, I quickly got it in my mind that I wanted to throw my hat in the ring to become the next AP Economics teacher,” said Engle. “In large part because I always like a new challenge and a new course to keep me sharp, which is one thing that incentivises me to continue progressing as a professional.”

The class was offered virtually during the 2020-2021 school year, but the experience of learning economics in-person is often essential to truly understanding the subject as a whole. 

“I think being able to take any economics in-person and having the foundation of rational decision making is of paramount importance to our students,” said Engle. “The idea of getting into the habit of rational decision making and understanding why you are making decisions and what are the plausible outcomes based on the resources, if you wanna use economics terminology. I think the in-person element gives an added value to where you are verbalizing and engaging in conversations about those decisions.”

Mr. Engle teaches economic elasticity to his students. “I think the in-person element gives an added value to where you are verbalizing and engaging in conversations about those decisions.”

But not all new classes this year are former ones that were brought back from the grave; many have never been a part of the Jenks curriculum before. One of these is the new Poetry & Power, a completely original class that was formed by Karen Workun, an AP Lang and English 11 teacher. 

“Poetry & Power is a new English elective,” said Workun. “We really wanted to open up the opportunities for students who are interested in writing and needed an elective to help them with that.”

You may read the name of the course and be intrigued as to why it is called Poetry & Power. Well, the answer lies in the practice. 

“The poetry that we’re writing seeks to examine the power structures that exist in the world,” said Workun. “The power that we all possess individually and how we can wield that individual power to bring change in the world.” 

But starting an entirely new class is a process not everyone is up for, so why did Workun feel the need to form this elective? 

“I did volunteer work outside a school with an organization called ‘Poetic Justice’ where we did therapeutic writing classes with incarcerated women,” said Workun. “And in that setting we write a lot of poetry. So I saw the transformative power of that kind of writing where people could tell their stories. And so to give students that space and that agency to elevate their voices, we’ve seen some really tremendous things happen.”

Ms. Workun’s students working on their poetry writing. “The poetry that we’re writing seeks to examine the power structures that exist in the world.”

Some new classes are returning, and some are still fresh, but other’s ride a fine line between the two. Such as Randy Williams’ English pilot course, which is a new subject that still falls under the languages arts umbrella, and fills the requirement for an English 12 credit. 

There are many different options that fill an English credit, but what makes English pilot stand out from the rest? 

“I did a lot of research exploring what this class could look like and what about it was needed,” said Williams. “So I decided there definitely needed to be a writing course since there’s a lot of research that shows students are unprepared for writing in college or their career. So, this is an English course that has a focus on preparing students for the writing they’ll be doing in the future.”

Williams was already an English teacher before creating the class, but he felt like the forming of this pilot course was essential.

“I would have students come back from college to visit me and we would have natural conversations about their first year writing programs,” said Williams. “So I thought they had a lot of choice in the structure in their courses and so I thought it would be amazing if we could bring that here to the high school. So I looked at all the English classes here and decided that there should be a course that will help students with that transition towards college.”

Jenks High School has been around for over a century, but even in its most recent and turbulent years it’s teachers are adapting and adding to the curriculum in order to provide students with the best opportunities possible when they fill out their enrollment forms. 

So when you’re weighing your schedule options next year, or desire to change an hour next semester, just keep in mind there’s always new additions to the school such as these previously mentioned three among many others.

For questions about these classes, the teachers can be reached at the following emails: 

Kody.Engle@jenksps.org

Randy.williams@jenksps.org

Karen.workun@jenksps.org

The course planning guide can be found here: 

HS Course Planning Guide 2021-2022

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