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Upper School Academic Departments


The program approaches the study of literature in a manner that balances traditional skills, such as critical reading and expository writing, with 21st-century literacies, such as creating and analyzing multimedia texts. Covering a variety of media, including literature, film, and comics, the curriculum emphasizes the skills necessary for effective communication and critical thinking in a complex and changing world.

Specific goals include clear and creative thinking in discussion and in composition, a mastery of literary content, and the acquisition of a rich vocabulary. The study of writing as a process is practiced intensively throughout the four years in the Upper School.

English courses emphasize class discussion, multimedia presentations and group work as well as frequent writing in the form of essays, journals, and blogs. The objectives of the curriculum aim to help students develop both a strong confidence in reading and writing skills, and a lifelong love of literature.

The ninth grade focuses on literature of identity, the tenth grade expands into world literature, the eleventh grade surveys American literature, and the twelfth grade offers a variety of semester-long seminars tailored to students’ interests.

Honors sections are offered in the tenth grade, and Advanced Placement courses are offered in the eleventh and twelfth grades.
  • English 12

    All twelfth grade students must select two (2) one-semester seminars to fulfill their English credit for the year. Students will receive a separate English 12 registration form on which they list their top three choices for each semester. Every effort will be made to place students in one of their three choices. 

    Note: Students requesting AP English must make that their first choice for first semester and leave the second and third choices blank.

    Please see Upper School Curriculum Guide for more detailed descriptions of each class.
  • Journalism

    Grades 9-12
    Full Year
    1 credit
    This course teaches students to be savvy consumers of the news as well as reporters who help inform the school community. Students are expected to follow the news daily, be prepared to discuss current events, and comment on how stories are covered. The class will compare domestic and international news, and discuss local angles on national and global stories. The class will explore many types of news sources (print, broadcast, podcast, social media) as well as genres of reporting (sports, op/ed, entertainment, photojournalism, etc.) Students will learn news writing skills and also be encouraged to experiment with voice, style, form and subject. Beyond working on writing, students will gain the skills of interviewing, editing, layout and design. This class also places an emphasis on creative collaborations – all students have a voice in what stories they think the class should report on, how pieces should be reported, how pieces should be edited, and what delivery of stories should look like. The class will publish regular issues of the school newspaper, The Voice, and utilize contemporary storytelling platforms such as 3D film, Instagram, and podcasts.
  • Chronicles of Combat: True War Stories from Vietnam

    One Semester
    ½ credit
    The Vietnam War, which lasted twenty years from 1955-1975, played a significant role in the explosive 1960s. On the home front, there were protests, riots, and assassinations, there were experiments with drugs and “free love,” and all the while, there were tens of thousands of Americans fighting and dying in a tiny, tropical, southeast Asian country ten thousand miles away. This seminar will look at the war stories that came out of that conflict, the literature and film that sprang from the ordeal of it (e.g., Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now,” Herr’s “Dispatches,” and Stone’s “Platoon”).
  • City Stories: How We Shape The Urban Environment and It Shapes Us

    One Semester
    ½ credit
    This course explores how cities are designed and how their design impacts our lives. Literature of the city and theories of urban planning will be the lens used to examine the urban condition. We will cover fictional texts such as Teju Cole’s “Open City” and Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing,” as well as the work of urban theorists such as Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses. The nearby city will serve as our laboratory where we will travel to explore physical space and the people who live and shape the urban community. Ms. Davis will be a regular contributor to the class.
  • Creative Writing

    One Semester
    ½ credit
    This course focuses on the writing of poetry, short stories, and creative non-fiction. Students will read and discuss poems, stories, and memory pieces by published authors, then produce works of their own for critique by the teacher and fellow students. Special attention will be paid to learning to manipulate figurative language and the elements of fiction (plot, setting, character, point of view, symbol, etc.). Students will maintain a writing portfolio; at the end of the course, they will be required to submit their three best pieces for possible inclusion in the school literary magazine, Fire & Stones.
  • English 9

    Grade 9
    Full Year
    1 credit
    This course explores identity and our relationship to the world around us. It provides an introduction to several genres of literature and to writing the formal critical essay, and it lays the foundation for the advanced study of expository writing and
    literary analysis in the upper grades. In addition to analytical writing, students write personal responses and creative non-fiction pieces. Students examine a range of texts from various
    cultures, such as a modern novel, a graphic narrative, short fiction, poetry, a memoir, and drama (Shakespeare). Relevant terminology and grammar are incorporated into the study of the writing process.
  • Sports Leadership and Management

    One Semester
    ½ credit
    This course introduces students to the leadership techniques, tools, and theories associated with leaders and managers in the sports industry. It is designed to have students analyze management decisions and their impact, as well as the process of how decisions are made. Management issues and organizational behavior are examined, and students are presented with opportunities to develop and understand key leadership and management skills. The course’s association with a local professional franchise or intercollegiate athletics organization will provide a unique perspective into topics relating to leadership and management in the sports industry.
  • Detective Fiction

    One Semester
    ½ credit
    Students analyze the rise of detective fiction from the source through the Golden Age, matching wits with such classic detectives as Sherlock Holmes, Father Brown, Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, Lord Peter Wimsey, etc. Readings include detective works by Edgar Allan Poe, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, G.K. Chesterton, Agatha Christie, and Dorothy Sayers. For the final project, students create a presentation on a recent work of detective fiction. Films include Hitchcock’s classic “Shadow of a Doubt,” as well as episodes of the popular contemporary Holmes television series, “Sherlock.”
  • Film Adaptation

    One Semester
    ½ credit
    Ever heard someone say after seeing a film, “Yeah, but I preferred the book.” Well, this seminar will explore three novels and their film adaptations: E.M. Forster’s “A Room with a View,” William Peter Blatty’s “The Exorcist,” and Chuck Palahniuk’s “Fight Club.” The first takes us to Italy in the early 20th century with a “proper young woman” on vacation from England; the second explores the nature of faith; and the third wonders what humanhood is in a materialistic society.
  • The Gothic

    One Semester
    1⁄2 credit
    A family curse, a remote castle, a damsel in distress, a hideous monster, a live burial; these gothic tropes are so familiar that they are cliché. Going back to the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, this course will explore the origins of a genre whose goal is to create terror and horror. What made gothic literature so popular in its time and why have its tropes lived on into the present day? In answering these questions, we will explore themes such as superstition, rationalism, and the unspeakable secret. In this course, you will write an analytic essay, as well as your own Gothic story.
  • Literature of the Middle East

    One Semester
    ½ credit
    How much do you know about the Middle East? Could you pick out Syria on a map? What’s the primary language spoken in Iran? How is life different for a Lebanese teenager? How is it the same? By studying a variety of literature from this region and its ancient cultures, this course will attempt to create a deeper understanding, one that moves beyond generalizations and news headlines to the specific and personal, examining themes of tradition and modernity, myth and history, nationalism and globalization, gender and sexuality, war and revolution. We will start by reading selections from the foundational text of Middle Eastern storytelling, "The Arabian Nights", then quickly move to more contemporary readings (short stories, poetry, novels) from Israel, Egypt, Iran, Palestine, Lebanon, and Turkey. This course will also include the study of some Middle Eastern history, as well as contemporary Middle Eastern films and travel documentaries.
  • Theater for Social Justice

    One Semester
    ½ credit
    This course will explore relevant issues of social justice and how we can address them and raise awareness through theater and other forms of performance. The early part of the course will focus on researching social issues and learning the basic elements of theater. In the latter part, the class will work as a collective to create performance pieces and an original theater piece to share with the larger school community. Mr. Fodrie, Ms. Jagodowski, and Mr. Wade will be regular contributors to the class.
  • Women in Literature

    One Semester
    ½ credit
    Mother, Daughter, Sister, Wife, Prude, Slut, Witch, Princess, Pioneer, Heroine. Portrayals of strong female characters—from The Wife of Bath to Lady Macbeth to Hermione Granger—are an important part of literary fiction. This course will examine the ways in which female authors, poets, and filmmakers reflect and comment on the diverse roles that women play in the society of various historical periods. How have these roles changed? How have they stayed the same? Can literature contribute to their evolution or merely echo their stasis? Our study will examine short stories, poems, and novels by and about women who are coming of age, seeking love, struggling with questions of identity and purpose, and inspiring others through their wit, heart, and bravery.
  • English 10

    Grade 10
    Full Year
    1 credit
    This course explores the significance of memory and stories, examining the English language and the roles that discourse plays in contemporary life. The course includes several genres, including drama, the graphic novel, poetry, short fiction, and satire, that focus on themes such as power, agency, social criticism, and identity in our globalized world. As students explore the features of the literature through discussion and composition, they develop broader philosophical reflectiveness and improve as critical thinkers and writers. English 10 builds upon the fundamentals of written expression developed in 9th grade, focusing particularly on constructing larger, more complex arguments and expressing oneself in a wider variety of written forms. The department offers Honors sections of this course in which material is covered in greater depth and breadth. Honors enrollment is subject to departmental approval.
  • English 11

    Grade 11
    Full Year
    1 credit
    As a survey of American literature, this course explores how the United States has defined itself through its literature, film, and music, following the cultural history of the country. Students further their study of novels, plays, poems, and short stories and are also introduced to literary essays, political documents, sermons, and slave narratives. The course focuses on advanced critical thinking and the further development of writing skills as well as a deeper understanding of the language of film.
  • AP English Language & Composition

    Grade 11
    Full Year
    1 credit
    Prerequisite: Departmental Approval.
    Following a similar curriculum to English 11, this course surveys American literature. Students enrolled in this course will also prepare for the AP English Language exam with focused examination of rhetoric and other modes of writing in order to enhance their skills as critical readers and writers.
  • AP English Literature & Composition

    One Semester
    ½ credit
    Prerequisite: Departmental approval
    This course focuses on deep literary analysis. The aim is that students welcome the challenge of difficult texts and unfamiliar kinds of writing. The class is taught as a seminar, so students
    are expected to prepare themselves for and participate in daily discussions of the readings. The course prepares students for the AP exam by emphasizing mature critical thinking, writing, and advanced editing of written work.

Department Faculty

  • Photo of Annemarie Cranford
    Annemarie Cranford
    English Department Chair
    University of Virginia - B.A.
    George Mason University - M.A.
  • Photo of Valerie Carlson
    Valerie Carlson
    English Teacher and Theater Production Manager
    SUNY@Geneseo - BA w/ NYS certification in secondary education
    Emerson College - MA
  • Photo of Avram Gurland-Blaker
    Avram Gurland-Blaker
    English Teacher
    Temple University - PhD
    New York University, Gallatin School of Individualized Study - BA
  • Photo of Roberta Klein
    Roberta Klein
    English Teacher
    Smith College, Northampton, MA - A.B.
    University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA - M.A.
    University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA - Ph.D.
  • Photo of Jill McElroy
    Jill McElroy
    English Teacher
    Boston University - B.A.
    University of Southern California - M.A.
    University of Dayton - M.A.
  • Photo of Susannah Nadler
    Susannah Nadler
    English Teacher and Associate Dean of Students
    Georgetown University - M.A.
    Wesleyan University - B.A.
  • Photo of Derek Sanders
    Derek Sanders
    English Teacher
    Baylor University - B.A.
    Yale Divinity School - M.A.
  • Photo of Andrew Sidle
    Andrew Sidle
    English Teacher
    Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL - BA
    North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC - MA
    Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL - PhD
Age 3-Grade 12 coed Episcopal day school in Alexandria, Virginia


List of 3 items.

  • Lower School

    Age 3-Grade 5
    400 Fontaine Street
    Alexandria, Virginia 22302
  • Middle School

    Grades: 6-8
    4401 West Braddock Road
    Alexandria, Virginia 22304
  • Upper School

    Grades: 9-12
    1000 St. Stephen's Road
    Alexandria, Virginia 22304