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A Mini-Interview with Jane An, HW English Teacher

By Tatiana ’21

As my final year at Harvard-Westlake comes to a close, I have found myself reflecting on all the amazing people I have interacted with over the years. One of the most quintessential parts of the Harvard- Westlake experience in the teachers and staff around you. I was lucky enough to have some of the most wonderful teachers on campus throughout the past four years. I figured the best way to communicate that sentiment was to interview a teacher that has a had a profound impact on me and my education.

Even in the midst of a global pandemic, Ms. An has been able to stay true to the integrity of a Harvard-Westlake English class. Over the course of the past few months, my AP English Language class has engaged in lively debates about artificial intelligence, race relations, religion, and so much more.  At times, I forget that having class via zoom is not normal because our class flows just like it would in person. I meet with my class two to three times weekly to examine how the English language can be used, our class specifically reads Dystopian and Utopian novels which adds to the intrigue.  I asked Ms. An, who is an upper school English teacher, a few questions about her experience at HW that I hope will give your insight into the HW experience.

What excites you the most about Harvard-Westlake?

The students. Every year, I’m moved by the students’ eagerness and determination to learn. Sure, the standards and the workload at HW might sometimes dampen that excitement, but the students here know how to take advantage of the opportunities and resources at HW to make the most of their learning experience and overcome such challenges. It’s always amazing to see young people constantly push themselves to grow, learn, and reach their potential. It’s a privilege for me to witness and, on my good days, maybe even contribute to that!

How would you define the teacher – student relationship?

The teacher-student relationship at HW is one defined by mutual respect and trust. This is essential in establishing the optimal learning environment in which both students and teachers can express themselves as freely and creatively as possible without fear of judgment. It’s not a one-way, or top-down, relationship; I think I learn from my students as much as, if not even more than, they learn from me.

What do you find unique about an English class at Harvard-Westlake?

I wouldn’t say this is necessarily unique to English classes, but because discourse is such an essential part of our curriculum, an English class is inevitably often, if not always, student-centered. Even when we teach multiple sections of the same course, no two classes go exactly the same way because the ideas that the students of that class bring to the table will often determine the direction of the lesson. While our curriculum provides structure by leading and guiding with open-ended questions meant to deepen the discourse, the richness of the learning experience is really possible because of the sophisticated critical thinking developed and expressed by HW students.

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Tags: Last modified: August 31, 2021