Granoff brings enthusiasm to his English classes

September 11, 2019 — by Angelina Chen and Tiffany Wang

“The headline ‘Dennis and the Menace’ from the New York Post on March 1, 2013, referred to a meeting between which two people?”

This is one example of the daily trivia questions that new English Matt Granoff is challenging his classes with as a warmup exercise. (The answer: former NBA basketball player Dennis Rodman and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un) 

This year, he is teaching three sections of AP English Language and Composition and two periods of English 10. Granoff said he is thrilled to see his students already invested in the curriculum. He taught English 9 at Menlo School in Atherton last year. Before that, he taught AP Language Arts and Rhetoric at Nova Classical Academy in Minnesota for several years.

“At Saratoga, the students are excited about and interested in the sorts of things we talk about in class,” Granoff said. “It makes the class really fun because we get to play with it, and I don't feel like I have to spend my time here dragging the students along.”

Granoff grew up in Moraga, California, and went to Miramonte High School there. He became interested in English because of his AP Language Arts teacher during his senior year of high school. After graduating from Harvard University with a degree in Folklore & Mythology, he worked an essay editor, and he eventually realized that he wanted to focus more on teaching English.

“I discovered that I like the explaining part of teaching much more than doing the editing work for people,” Granoff said.

His passion for teaching displays through his upbeat, expressive personality. However, Granoff admits that he has to make sure his passion for conversation does not “overpower students’ enthusiasm.”

Aside from English, Granoff also enjoys philosophy, which is a major part of the AP English Language and Composition curriculum. His friend and former roommate Ada Palmer, an award-winning science-fiction novelist, introduced him to philosophy, and he has been interested ever since.  

“I have not taken any formal classes on philosophy but I've been an amateur enthusiast for well over a decade now,” Granoff said.

Granoff also loves reading books and blogs about the history of thought. Other than philosophy and comics, Granoff also enjoys video games. He jokes about one of his proudest accomplishments is achieving the lowest skill rating possible in the game Overwatch. 

Granoff is aware of the high expectations students have for him from their experiences with Ken Ngyuen, the previous English 10 and AP Lang teacher.

“I know I’m replacing Mr. Nguyen, who was legendary, so I'm not even trying to be the new Mr. Nguyen,” Granoff said. “But I hope by the end of the year the kids won't be disappointed that they missed out and that they got an equivalent experience.”

Granoff plans to integrate himself into the school’s culture by coaching the speech and debate team, and he is already advising the Quiz Bowl team. 

“I want to find where I fit in with the community and start really contributing to it and being a part of it,” Granoff said.

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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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