Elective courses return for coming school year

May 20, 2019 — by Neeti Badve and Kaitlyn Tsai

The 2019-2020 school year will see returning electives including Introduction to Business, Chinese 3 in the Global Community, AP Music Theory, AP Art History and Creative Writing.

Because of physics teacher Kirk Davis’s schedule and the popularity of Introduction to Business, which he is set to teach, the course will be the only one among the returning electives that has two periods instead of one. Davis, who was an executive in industry before becoming a teacher, said the class will cover marketing, sales, finance, management and operations.

To better help non-native Chinese speakers, Chinese teacher Mariam Fan will teach Chinese 3 in the Global Community. Although the curriculum will be similar to that of Chinese 3, Fan said the students in Chinese 3 in the Global Community will be assessed differently, do different activities and focus more on their listening and speaking skills as well as deepening their knowledge of the language and culture.

“In particular, we really want to help students who are learning Chinese for the long run,” she said. “No matter in which class, even if the levels are different, we really want to help the students reach what they can reach instead of having them take the classes solely for preparing for the AP exam.”

Dr. John Felder, who taught AP Music Theory in previous years, may return to SHS to teach the course in the fall. (Nothing has been finalized as of mid-May.) Aside from providing students with a deeper understanding of music theory and vocabulary, the class will allow students to develop their musical analysis and composition skills.

Sophomore Tiffany Huang, who has played piano for almost 12 years, said she chose to sign up for AP Music Theory because she enjoys music and decided taking the AP class will allow her to further her interests. Still, Huang anticipates the class will be time-consuming and difficult because of what she heard from previous years.

“I’m expecting around three hours of homework, but I think the difficulty of the class will help me improve a lot,” Huang said. “It’ll be tough but worthwhile.”

The coming school year will also see the introduction of AP Art History. Media Arts teacher Joel Tarbox will be teaching the class, which he has experience teaching at Pacific Collegiate School in Santa Cruz. He said that although the College Board has changed the curriculum since then, the updated content should provide students with a better understanding of art history.

The curriculum now includes images outside of Western culture, such as Asian art, African art and Oceanic art, which Tarbox is currently studying. He plans to teach AP Art History chronologically rather than thematically because of how self-referential art is; he said he looks forward to sharing this curriculum with his students.

“I think it’s a lot of work, but it’s the most rewarding class I’ve taught,” Tarbox said. “It’s a really rich offering for a school like Saratoga. We live in a very visual culture, and this class can help students understand these roots. It really rounds out a student’s education nicely.”

Aside from AP Music Theory and AP Art History, students can take another artistic elective, Creative Writing, to be taught by English teacher Amy Keys. Her interest in teaching the class stems from her own love for reading and her fascination with discussing reading with her students, and she looks forward to fostering her students’ creativity.

“We spend so much time writing critically and analytically, but those two things work together — the more you think analytically, the more it fires your desire to create, and the more you try to create, the more it helps you understand critically what you’re looking at,” Keys said.

Keys plans to allow her students to dabble in a variety of genres, such as personal narrative, creative nonfiction, poetry, fiction, playwriting, novellas and satire. Once they have experimented with these genres, they will create and present major projects of their choice.

Aside from writing, Keys also plans to engage her students in peer reviewing and workshopping, submitting their works to magazines and competitions and listening to guest speakers discuss different genres.

Since Creative Writing will be open to all students, Keys said differentiating each student’s skill level and giving feedback, lessons and prompts that engage them all may be challenging. Still, because English teachers rarely get the opportunity to work with mixed levels, she looks forward to undertaking this challenge.

“I’m excited for all of it,” she said. “It’s so exciting to teach something new. I’m excited to teach a class where people are choosing it, it’s not, ‘I have to take this class because I have to have four years of this on my transcript.’”

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At UC Berkeley, PhD student Abrar Abidi and research assistant Yvonne Hao have embarked on a goal of creating hand sanitizer for the Bay Area's most vulnerable populations, including the homeless and the incarcerated. Their hand sanitizer includes glycerol mixed with other products, in accordance with a formula from the World Health Organization. So far, they are producing 120 hundreds of gallons of sanitizer each week. Photo courtesy of Roxanne Makasdjian with UC Berkeley.


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