All About Glenbard West’s Newest -and Much Needed- English Class


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Mrs. Tina Shah is the teacher of West’s very first African American Experiences in Literature class. She has been at Glenbard West for 8 years, and now teaches AP Language and Composition along with African American Experiences in Literature (AAEL). As one of her AAEL students, she was more than happy to have a discussion with me about how the class came to be. 

The idea actually stemmed from Mr. Brian Melton at Glenbard North, who proposed the course 2 years ago, although it was not approved until last year. Although the course was available, not enough students signed up for the class to run in 2021. Mrs. Shah was involved in the early conversations of starting this course since she “does a lot of equity work at West”, so she would have plenty of “input on what the course could potentially be about.” So, she was excited when her students would say, “‘Mrs. Shah, I’ve signed up and have told all my friends!’”

Although she was a little hesitant to teach this new class as she had never taught a senior elective before, her sister told her “It would be crazy not to.” So, Mrs. Shah jumped right in, despite not knowing what to expect from a senior elective environment. “I want to be up front when I say that I’m not Black,” she added. “I’m learning too, and I think the students are receptive to that.” She made sure to “focus on building a community and a relationship between [her] and each student,” instead of getting “caught up in content”. Instead, she wants to “ask the right questions and create the right scenarios for students so that they can learn from each other’s experiences.”Mrs. Shah plans on covering Kindred by Octavia E. Butler -a novel about a woman in her late 20s who gets transported from the 1970s to an antebellum south slave plantation- later in the semester. In the meantime, she refuses to solely disscuss “the slave narrative of pain and struggle,” but address the multifaceted “narratives of the Black experience” as well, whether that be through art, music, or personal reflection. By the end of the semester, she says  “[she] [wants] the students in this class to [be able to] show, teach, or create something that shows their learning to the school community.”

Photo acquired from Pixabay. All rights reserved.