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New Chapter for English

By Aparna Shibu

New Hyde Park Memorial has witnessed various new comings so far this year, from faculty to events and clubs. Under the efforts of English teacher Ms. Katz and the English department, the initiation of the English Honor Society is in the works, giving an opportunity for students to showcase their literary intellect. In addition, Mr. Graham Otton has joined the NHP administrative team as the new English department chairperson.

Q: What was your reaction when you found out that there was going to be an Honor Society for the English department?

Ms. Abbe Katz: I was so happy to hear that there was going to be a group to recognize our outstanding and dedicated English students.

Q: Since this is the very first English Honor Society at New Hyde Park Memorial High School, how was this idea introduced? What was the initiation process like?

AK: Ms. Rodriguez, the English Chairperson at the time, told us that she would like to start a chapter and asked for volunteers to advise the club. So, I volunteered! Then, I went to Mrs. Vosswinkel-Blum, and she told me how to go through the application process. I had to fill out some forms and choose a local chapter name, so I chose “The Literary Luminaries.”

Q: What is the application process like for the Honor Society? What are the requirements to be able to join?

AK: In order to be inducted in the Honor Society, you must hold an average of a 90 or above for more than three semesters. Also, the club is about character, so you must provide references and show leadership and community service activities.

Q: Currently, is there anything planned for the future of the Honor Society?

AK: I am hoping to have a few baked goods and candy sales to make some charitable contributions. Once I am able to elect an administrative board, we will discuss other ideas for the club.

Source by Anna Detke

New English chairperson, Mr. Otton, joins NHP's administrative team.

Q: How has your experience at New Hyde Park Memorial High School been so far?

Mr. Graham Otton: It’s been wonderful! I’ve been here since November 5, my first day. The first thing that gets me excited each morning is that I get to teach one section of English 9A . I have wonderful students who are studying “To Kill a Mockingbird,” as we look within the framework of civil rights generally and have students make connections to other points of injustice. I’ve been really impressed with the quality of their discussions, writing and insights. In short, their wisdom is beyond their years.

Q: What are some things you really like about the English department?

GO: Working with the English faculty here has been so wonderful. They’re a very dedicated group of teachers, some who have been here for a long time, with now an additional four new teachers. So, it’s a really nice mix of professionals here. Especially coming out of COVID, where students have had such an uneven experience over the last two years, I’ve been really impressed with the way teachers want to attend to their kids; the content is secondary to making sure the students are reacclimating to being in school, developing as students and people, which is the joy of teaching and interacting on this personal, human level. Being with students and the English faculty are essentially the two facets of my day, and I’m always excited to come!

Q: What experiences have prepared you to take on this role? Previous occupation?

GO: I was an Assistant Principal prior to my current position at another school. So, I did a lot of the same work I’m doing now in terms of working with teachers, trying to shape curriculum and thinking about how we deliver instruction. The difference is, in my previous job, there was a lot more going on in terms of administrative work, like handling registrations, which was essentially more general. On the other hand, in my current position, I’m able to focus more on the things that I love doing the most, which is why I’m so happy to be here! I’ve done a lot with teacher professional development, training and curriculum writing, which is considered my prior experiences.

Q: Do you have any plans, future opportunities or ideas for the English department and students’ involvement in their English classes?

GO: My first answer would be that all those ideas are already there! I really see my role as working with the department and students. I’m really glad that you asked about the students because to me that’s a vital part of developing the way we do English here. So, those ideas of how to make English even better, it’s already great, and I’m here to pull those ideas out and figure out how to to bring it to the next level. A couple of things that are exciting is that we’ve been doing some curriculum writing at the district level, as we have work going on for the junior grades, the electives for sophomores, juniors and seniors. The other thing that we might have coming for next year, which hasn’t been fully decided, is AP Capstone, with AP Seminar starting first for sophomores or juniors. This course is research-based, very student driven, all about inquiry and working on a team to find a topic for research. Another thing I’d really like to do is to get New Hyde Park involved with “Poetry Out Loud,” which is a program/competition where students ultimately memorize and perform poetry dramatically, and you watch some of the students who have won local, state and national competitions, which is amazing! Some people get scared away because the language can be intense and you have to unpack it, but that’s the excitement of it as you think about the holistic characteristic of language. Reading is really a training round, where you’re going to encounter different things in your life and inform yourself from reading experiences of others. So, literature helps to anchor you to ideas and perspectives that gives you time to think in a community.

Q: What do you most look forward to in your first year as the new English Chairperson?

GO: This year, for me, is really learning more about New Hyde Park, understanding the students and faculty as well as I can, and just really excited to learn about New Hyde Park as a community even better. I’m excited to go to plays, sporting events and even go into a classroom. Especially, when a chairperson goes into the classroom, it’s to see what the teachers are doing, but it’s more fun to see what students are coming up with. I’ve been so happy to get to know some wonderful people so far!

Q: What is an interesting fact about you, outside of being the English Chairperson? Hobbies?

GO: At the moment, my hobbies are my two kids! I have a daughter who is six and a son who is three. So, they really occupy me in the best way possible most of my time. I’m finishing up my Doctorate, currently in the process of writing my dissertation, which takes a good amount of time. I do love poetry, which is something very important to me. However, going back to my kids, being a dad is my primary hobby and privilege right now!


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