Olentangy board hears benefits of essays, poetry


Some Olentangy students have recently found they are being inspired beyond the four walls of their classroom by writing an essay or reciting a poem.

Sarah Zettler, an English instructor at Olentangy High School, had a few of her students describe the benefits they have received in two classes — advanced placement language and composition; and speech and advanced speech — at a recent Olentangy Board of Education meeting. While the results weren’t as dramatic as, say, the film “Dead Poets Society,” it was clear that at least a couple of students learned something about themselves while working on their assignments.

“I’m very proud to be here because I represent this group of students who take two classes that are of their choice,” Zettler said. “In the past three months, the students have been engaged in two authentic assessments I am particularly proud of.”

In the composition class, students were asked to write an essay for “The Atlantic” magazine about an evocative visual work of art. Six students wrote well enough to have their essays submitted for possible publication in September’s issue and a $5,000 prize.

Student Elizabeth Halter said she wrote about the painting “The Garden of Earthly Delights.”

“I compared the message it sent to the ‘Hell is Real’ billboard on I-71,” Halter said. “I talked about the repercussions of our actions and our words. This assignment gave me the chance to write about it.”

“These assessments are a great way for us to get our words out there,” Olivia Gornichec said of her essay on the Lee Teter Vietnam War Memorial painting “Reflections.” “I like the idea of sending it out so someone else can appreciate it.”

Spencer Kruse estimated he rewrote his essay 20 times. “A lot of students in high school are apathetic, trudging along trying to get that A,” he said. “But I think when you give students an assignment that reaches beyond the walls of the high school and into the real world, that people are motivated to work a lot harder.”

Madison Lucas said she “rediscovered learning” in the course of writing her essay.

In the speech class, students were asked to recite a popular work of poetry for a “Poetry Out Loud” contest. OHS junior Ali Ziegler was one of 12 finalists in the recent state finals.

Luke Bishop said he was nervous after he read the first couple of lines of his selected poem and a cellphone went off, yet he was able to complete his recitation.

“This experience helped me grow as a person,” Bishop said.

Michael Carter admitted that he wasn’t a big fan of poetry, and that it took him two attempts to feel the W.E.B. DuBois poem he chose.

“It taught me you need to be open-minded in the real world,” Carter said.

Emily Grether said the poem she chose wasn’t outspoken, yet “I went from being all over the place, to slowing my words down and make you feel everything that I say. … For me, it was a big deal. I learned that having confidence was not how loud you could be. This assignment gave me an introduction to the real world.”

Olentangy Local, like other districts in the county, is on spring break this week.

By Gary Budzak

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Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.

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