“My favorite moments as a teacher happen when I discover a student’s relationship to reading,” said Humanities teacher Jenn Billings, “because it opens a window into their world.” Creating legacies that last is a very special and treasured responsibility at The Academy at Penguin Hall. As The Academy is in its inaugural year, habits and values that are built into the framework of the school can continue to live on after the current students graduate. In much the same manner as how the ‘culture of kindness’ has become the foundation of The Academy, students are embracing a learning legacy born through reading, thanks to Humanities teacher Mrs. Billings.
At the beginning of the school year, Mrs. Billings developed a project for her students that married the goal of assessing them as readers and writers and the creation of a legacy of reading and writing at the school. Recognizing that this year’s students have the unique privilege of setting the tone for all of the students that follow them, she wanted to give students the opportunity to influence the future of The Academy.
“A legacy is something that we leave behind, almost as an inheritance to others,” said Molly Martins, President of The Academy at Penguin Hall, who shared her thoughts on the project.
This learning strategy contained several different components: a reading portion, where students were allowed to select a book of their choosing, a discussion portion, where students shared book suggestions and their thoughts on their books, and also an interview portion, where students interviewed a faculty or staff member, a family member, and a fellow student about their reading habits. To further incorporate relevant topics for discussion, Mrs. Billings asked students to compare their digital reading lives to their paper reading lives.
The students were so excited and empowered by being able to choose their own book for the project that it spurred a reading revolution, with students wanting to create a book club by the end of their project. Student Lily Johnson shared,”I liked the fact that we could create an experience here at APH that could affect generations to come.”
While this project definitely benefitted students, it was also a fundamental block in helping Mrs. Billings get to know her students. Their discussions regarding teens’ digital lives allowed the students to become the teacher, as they educated Mrs. Billings on topics, such as the unspoken rules associated with posting on social media. Continuing to ponder the value of reading books in this digital age, students concluded that reading is still valuable because it provides skills for analyzing text, organizing writing, and synthesizing information, all ways we prepare our students for college and life beyond.
With such a great start, it seems as though the reading legacy will continue here at The Academy at Penguin Hall, the only all girls college preparatory school, for years to come. More of the students thoughts can be found in the Powerpoint below:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dean Tsouvalas is a founding member of the leadership team and the Director of Advancement and Communications. He is so proud to be part of the incredible team at The Academy at Penguin Hall.