English Department
The teachers in the English Department are talented, dedicated people who enjoy working together. We work hard to make sure that each student receives the support and challenges he or she needs to grow intellectually and emotionally and to experience success. We know that our students are ambitious and want the quality of education that will open doors in the future. We set our expectations high because we know that our students can meet them. However, if circumstances should arise that interfere with a student's ability to focus on academics, please let us know, so we can help find a solution.

Senior English Options

One of the benefits of becoming a Senior is getting to choose from eleven different options for English credit. Students may select two courses from the nine semester course offerings described below or full year courses in AP English or Journalism.




Composition Comments from Mr. Kenney: The Senior Composition course is designed as a focus on both the content and process of expository writing.  The process angle offers students the opportunity to develop persuasive skills essential in their world beyond Newtown Public Schools.  These skills come in the form of writing and speaking.   The content used to hone these skills is centered on using various topics to answer the question, "What are the aspects that help humans live a well-lived and meaningful life?"  This question is approached from four basic tenets: pursuit of happiness, global gender perspectives, education, and wealth/poverty/social class.  The ultimate goal is to help students explore the world around them and to be able to discuss the issues that pervade it.  Students enjoy the discussion as it deals with societal issues drawing from articles in our current media spectrum.  In fact one student recently said, " I like this class because it is so different than any other English I have taken here. You select topics that I really care about or that I probably should care about.  I also feel that I have the tools to argue my own points."

 Creative Writing Comments from Ms. Ottomeyer: If you have ever found yourself working on a creative piece for English class in high school (be it a memoir, short story, poem, or play) and noticing as you write that the time and the pages have flown by, you are probably the right person to take Creative Writing.  Many of us (students and teachers alike) have worked hard to become better writers and teachers of writing, but we often are forced to neglect creative writing for more formal analysis.  Creative Writing is the senior elective where we can let that inner artist out and allow him/her to flourish and grow.  Students who enjoy this course tend to be students who love to read the work of others and to share the work they create.  Many students who enjoy this course are people who like the process of writing but never thought they were very talented at it.  In Creative Writing we learn that, while talent is nice, Art Is Work, and it can always be improved!

Drama Studies Comments from Ms. Hanna: Students who want to know about different movements/eras in theater would love the class. The emphasis is on studying drama rather than on performing.

Applied Humanities This unique course is team-taught by an art teacher and an English teacher. The course meets in an art room and pairs visual art with reading and writing. This is the perfect course for a student who already enjoys art; however, no previous art courses are required so the course is also a great opportunity for a student looking for an interdisciplinary approach to English. There is an alternate version of this course called Theoretical Humanities that is not team-taught but includes literature, art, philsophy, and history.

Modernism and Mythology Comments from Dr. Toby: This is a great class to take if you have a strong interest in myth, fantasy literature, folklore, and fairy-tales.  The class explores the world of the imagination and imaginary worlds.  Students explore the patterns (motifs and archetypes) within and between texts, as well as the psychological dimension of these tales.  Students also explore the ways that 20th century artists, writers, and filmmakers approach these ancient stories in new ways.  Students use creative, personal, and analytical writing to explore the texts.  Independent learning is a vital component of this course.  Since the course delves deeply into mythology, it is a good choice for you if you love the subject matter.

 Poetry This course invites students to become familiar with a wide range of poems and poets, to engage in sustained study of the work of a specific poet and, of course, to write poetry in a workshop setting.

Public Speaking Students master the skills of listening, analyzing, researching, organizing, and delivering a message. Developing these linguistic skills helps sharpen thinking. Students gain confidence from learning to speak confidently, with authority and clarity. Students will be able to transfer these skills to college and/or career.

Sports Literature (Possible Pilot) If this course is piloted in 2011-12, it will ask students to use various fiction, nonfiction, and poetry sources to examine the sociological impact of sports on American culture.  Specifically, students will examine the relationship between sports and gender issues, class issues, race relations, and the media.    During the process, students will produce various oral and written responses, ranging from literature analysis to a multi-format final project where they develop a new sport. Students cannot enroll in this course at this time; however, students who are interested in this course should notify Mrs. Miller in the English Office.

Women’s Studies Comments from Ms. Hanna: Probably what I love most about teaching the course is when students see the relevance of Women's Studies to their own lives—to "see" with a feminist lens. 

Comments from former male and female members of the class of 2007: I loved when we made connections to the texts.  Through writing poetry, I was able to take what we were learning and relate it to real-world situations.  I'll never forget when I began to understand why my ex-boyfriend wanted me to treat him like his mother did (like cooking for him and keeping him in line) until our class discussion on Freud's theories. … I loved connecting what we've learned about women in our society to women in other cultures. … I find the things I have learned in this class affecting how I interpret other literature I read. …What I liked most about the class is how some of the ideas women have were finally brought to my attention.

World Literature This is a course for students who appreciate the power of literature to take us to distant times and places and, simultaneously, deep into ourselves. Although students of World Literature will become acquainted with some of the world’s most important writers, this is not a survey course. The readings are organized around compelling themes. Students leave the course with greater knowledge of the world and of themselves. This course is especially recommended for students who intend to major in English or Humanities in college.

Writing through Film Comments from Ms. Hanna: The students who really love the class are the ones who enjoy wondering, "Why did the director do that?" Comments from Mr. Lye: Writing through film is a class for those of us who go to the movies to be entertained but also look for more than just explosions and shootouts.  For people who love a storyline, characters, and dialogue, this is the class for you.  Writing through Film not only offers you the chance to debate the merit of a film but to ask the question, "Why?"  Why did the director choose to shoot the film that way?  Why did the actor choose to say the lines with such angst?  Why is that song playing right now?  This class is perfect for those who love great films, not just from our time but from all-time.  This class allows me to introduce you to films that I love and you may not be aware of,  films like The Godfather, Casablanca, The Graduate, and Star Wars.   This class also stresses quality, college-level analytical writing.  You will think about films and writing in a way you never have before.  Comments from Mrs. Kaplan: The type of student who most enjoys this course is the student who loves to analyze and think deeply.  If looking at character development, themes, and symbols in literature has always been something you've enjoyed, or if hearing the perspectives and interpretations of others is something that energizes you, then this will carry over very well into Writing through Film.  I often say that the course is basically like the conversations and arguments you might have with your friends at the diner after a particularly thought-provoking film, except taken to a higher level.  My favorite thing about this course is the opportunity it affords me to introduce the types of sophisticated works that I love and that many of my students may not have ever been exposed to before.  I would also like to stress that "writing" is part of the course title and that it is a large component of the class!  Be prepared for college-level analytical writing, and lots of it!  Every year my students say the same thing on their course evaluations: "The writing is hard, but I feel really prepared for college."

FULL YEAR COURSES (select one)

 AP English Literature and Composition This advanced placement course invites students who enjoy challenging literature to read, discuss and write analytically about poetry, drama and novels from a wide variety of time periods. Former students especially love reading John Milton’s Paradise Lost. Advanced study in literature and composition is especially recommended for students who intend to major in English or Humanities in college. Students who are currently taking AP Language and Composition as juniors will automatically be recommended for AP Literature (but may opt for semester courses instead of or in addition to AP Lit.).Juniors who are not taking AP English but are interested in the challenge for next year should make sure the current English teacher is aware of this interest.

Journalism Students in Journalism produce NHS’s award-winning newspaper The Hawkeye. Students who have already taken one year of Journalism may apply to be editors or continue as staff writers in CPA Journalism II. Application forms are available in the English Office.


English Department Head

Mrs. Abi Marks


Mrs. Joanna Diaz
Mrs. Kristin English
Mrs. Ellie Hanna
Mr. Michael Jones
Mrs. Jacqui Kaplan
Mr. Marc Kenney
Ms. Wendy LaBarge
Mr. Rick Lye

Mrs. Sayward Parsons
Mr. Jim Rovello

Miss Kathy Swift
Mr. Brian Tenney

Mr. Jacob Thomas
Dr. Michelle Toby
Mrs. Tammy Zukowski

English Department Secretary

Mrs. Carol Villodas