9/14: Science Department: Two subjects are better than one

Original article: http://www.elestoque.org/2017/09/14/news/science-department-subjects/ 

Make new friends, but keep the old.
One is silver, the other is gold.

For chemistry and physics teacher Emily Fitzgerald, the proverb applies a little differently: her “silver friend” is physics, a new addition to her repertoire of classes, and chemistry — as she is hardpressed to distinguish a favorite among these two “friends”, an old and gold subject.

“There are parts of both that I really enjoy. I think physics is really fun because you can do a lot of hands-on things and see it happening,” Fitzgerald said. “Whereas [with]chemistry, it’s really interesting to make models that can interpret what’s happening on a tiny, tiny level.”

The retirement of physics teacher Mike McCrystal encouraged Fitzgerald to request a section of physics from the administration as she readied herself for a second year at MVHS. Her fellow staff members had assured her the first year of teaching is always the hardest, but Fitzgerald’s case is an exception. Fitzgerald had taught six classes of chemistry her first year, but is now assigned four classes of chemistry and an addition of two physics classes. Double the subjects equates to double the work, as Fitzgerald phrases it, despite both subjects qualifying as a “science” and requiring similar skills of experimentation or making hypotheses.

“I think [physics is]a very intuitive subject so you can actually observe physics happening [if you]drop a ball and see it fall down,” Fitzgerald said. “But with chemistry, it’s not quite as intuitive, so I have to come up with ways for my students to see what’s happening even though they can’t see it in person.”

Before she even became a full-fledged teacher on the West Coast, Fitzgerald was all the way across the country in New Jersey, earning teaching credentials in both chemistry and physics. The former she earned in a rather unprecedented way: Fitzgerald was under the impression that her teaching credential program focused on chemistry, until she realized that physics constituted the bulk of material. She was quick to sign up for an additional, chemistry-centered course. Regardless of the past confusion it evoked, she is very grateful for the mishap, as it has rewarded her with valuable insight and experience in teaching two subjects.

There’s one slight change, however, Fitzgerald can’t quite adjust to.

“I’m still learning how to be [at]the D building which is always on the back of the school,” Fitzgerald said, “and the E building which is in the front of the school.”



3/7 Beats: All-American Junior English courses


Co-written with Gauri Kaushik 

Starting next school year, rising juniors will be limited to a choice of three English courses: American Literature, Honors American Literature or American Studies. Rising juniors can no longer take British Literature or Myth, which are now only available to rising seniors.

According to English teacher and department chair David Clarke, it had been a challenge accommodating the diverse range of students, previously consisting of seniors and juniors, in the British Literature and Myth classes.

“You have kids coming in on one end with everything from World Core to American Lit Honors and then on the other end [juniors with]… another year of lit,” Clarke said. ” … It made it very difficult to look at what the [British Literature and Myth courses] were meant to be in terms of goals.”

Junior Megumi Pennebaker is one of the many students who skipped taking an American Literature course to take Mythology. She says that, in class, she can’t see the divide between the students that Clarke mentions.

“I think we’re all on about the same level, and to be honest I don’t really know who’s a junior and who’s a senior,” said Pennebaker. “It’s definitely limiting [the sophomores’]choices.”

As a result of this change, collaboration between teachers may also become more cohesive. Clarke believes that if the teachers are responsible for a more “homogenous group of students” — in other words, all senior students instead of a mix of juniors and seniors — it will be easier for British Literature and Myth teachers to decide how their course will play out in terms of units and class expectations.

“Everybody [will be]teaching the same book in the same order with the same assessment,” he said. “The collaboration just becomes much easier all the way around.”

According to Clarke, the English department has always strived to give students freedom in choosing their classes. Now, however, incoming juniors can only choose between “three flavors” of American Literature, which means students can no longer take both British Literature and Myths classes and “avoid” an American Literature class during the course of their high school career.

“It feels like [American literature] is a collective sort of knowledge that all kids should have,” he said.

He acknowledges that there may be a certain amount of disappointment from the current sophomores, but also believes that within a few years, students won’t even know there was a change even made in course selection.

“American Lit is the course that’s really going to change in some sense,” said Clarke. “Giving that there are [currently]only three courses [of American Literature], I would assume that [that’s the] course that’s really going to expand.”

On whether or not taking American Literature is even significant, Clarke believes an element of cultural literacy is important for students.

“It feels like [American literature] is a collective sort of knowledge that all kids should have,” he said.




2/8 How To: Chinese calligraphy

Bored of watercoloring? Try Chinese calligraphy, known for its vivid and fluid brushstrokes! Chinese Honor Society met on Jan. 27 to paint fishes and Chinese characters, and officers also gave out traditional Chinese New Year candy to members. Scroll through the step-by-step pictures to learn how to paint your own fish!

Budapest (17) Budapest (18)

IMG_3538 (1) IMG_3540

Budapest (19)


Budapest (20)


Budapest (21)

  To make your own Chinese character stencil: search Google Images for “chinese character stencil printout,” print, and cut out. The character used in the picture above means “respectable.”






12/13 Beats: New book added to World Core Curriculum

Next semester, sophomores in World Core will start reading “Waiting for An Angel” by Helon Habila, a new nonfiction addition to the curriculum. Taking place in Nigeria, the novel follows the story of a young journalist and his struggles during the 1990s, a time of political unrest and restraining dictatorship.

According to World Core teacher Jackie Corso, the book was first piloted last year by former World Core Literature teacher Hannah Gould and current World Core literature teacher David Clarke to see whether or not it addressed skills the teachers wanted to work on. According to Corso, the pilot went very well, and the whole staff decided to incorporate the novel into the curriculum.

“I’m excited to teach it,” Corso said. “It’s something new.”


10/27 Beats: The basics of DECA roleplay.

The closest competitive DECA conference may be next January, but officers are already training members in roleplay in preparation for them. “Roleplaying” consists of a ten minute job interview, in which members are randomly assigned a job in a business and must explain why they are capable for this specific position. Members incorporate common business concepts, such as finance, marketing, hospitality and management into their roleplays.

Junior Priya Kale, Director of Resources, references Apple’s marketing as a prominent roleplay example.

“[Marketing roleplays are] the first interaction the company has with customers. For example, the people who don’t have an Apple product themselves know that the Apple company is known for simplicity and elegance. If you were applying for Apple (your roleplay), I would make sure to uphold the brand image of Apple,” she said.

With 200 to 300 people in each event, a winning roleplay boils down to natural charm, first impressions and the ability to summarize what you can offer to the company in 10 minutes. In order to practice, members can review a document with “practice PI’s,” or “practice role plays.” Similar to a roleplay is a “written plan,” in which members also create a brand image for a company, but already know their topic and prepare a presentation before the conference.

“[An impromptu role play] is a high stress situation. If you screw up you’re like ‘Oh no no’, but at the same time, that’s what makes it so exciting,” sophomore Palak Jain says. “It’s like natural, free and a lot more fun than a speech or anything.”

While DECA trainees should be informative and analytical in presenting their company’s brand image to the judges, officers also encourage members to give off a “personal side.” Last year, in Kale’s own “Kay Jewelers” roleplay, her group advertised that it isn’t a ring the company is selling, but a promise between you and your partner.

“It was super sappy and general,” Kale says, “but like it was something different than what everyone else was doing.”

As for her number one tip? “Smile.”

9/22 Beats: Tips and tricks for Chinese Honor Society.

With a stash of lotus mooncakes and pepperoni pizzas in Room A204, the Chinese Honor Society was eager to satisfy the appetites and questions of prospective club members on Friday, Sept. 16th.

Attendees were informed of the background of CHS and the membership process for both the national chapter and Monta Vista’s CHS. To be recognized as a national member of Chinese Honor Society, students should have taken Chinese 3 or higher and must pay a $4.00 induction fee. However, Chinese 1 or 2 students can still qualify for the local MVHS chapter.

“We’re known for high scholastic achievement, good character, as well as being leaders and providing service for the community,” Director of Membership sophomore Meijie Liao said, and of course, by the looks of the first club meeting, also tutoring and mooncake-munching.

CHS accomplishments lie in the dedication and credentials of the members, who are asked to sign up for tutoring shifts to help Chinese teachers Kathy Wang and Vivian Ju, the club’s advisors, and other students taking Chinese, during tutorial. Over the course of one year, students must gain a total of five points, with each shift or activity worth one point.

Instead of tutoring for five successive shifts, a student can also do the following to earn points!