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University High's English program is a sequential five-year study of literature, writing, public speaking, and media. The curriculum begins with a three-year core sequence focused on broad geographic, cultural, and historical themes, then moves into a final two years made up of four semesters of required but choice-oriented courses. These semester-long classes center on a variety of specific themes and topics that build on foundations laid in the first three years of English classes and are open to both juniors and seniors. In addition to the five-year program, the English department offers electives: Creative Writing, Journalism, Current Topics in Social Justice, and Gender Studies. In all of our core courses, literary selections are either classics (ancient and modern) or contemporary selections of high literary merit. Every year, students study works in a variety of literary forms: prose fiction (novels, short stories), nonfiction (essays, autobiographies, and memoirs), drama, poetry, and film. Teachers take care in selecting literature appropriate to the developmental level of students and works that complement other offerings in terms of theme, historical time period, and cultural diversity. Students acquire not only knowledge and understanding of literature but also the tools to critically analyze new texts in a variety of forms and genres. Writing is a central focus of the English department curriculum. The English faculty approaches writing as a process--one that is creative and work intensive, initially messy but evolving toward ever greater levels of focus. We teach students to aspire toward an end product that is detailed, unified, and coherent. We emphasize content and clarity over length. Most importantly, we encourage writing that expresses a fresh, individual voice. We stress the fundamentals – structure, mechanics, research, documentation, and citation – as crucial steps toward developing a distinctive and original voice and articulating an individual point of view. At each level of the curriculum we emphasize purpose, audience, thesis, invention, organization, drafting, providing support, seeking feedback, and intensive revision. In the course of our five-year curriculum, students will gain an awareness of their own strengths as writers and the flexibility to write successfully in a wide variety of contexts, from composing a concise, well supported argument essay to crafting an incisive piece of literary criticism, a persuasive letter to the editor, or a compelling personal narrative. Students will graduate with the understanding that they have something worthwhile to say and the skills to say it with authority and panache.

English Faculty

Dr. Phillip Ernstmeyer (pernstm2) teaches Sophomore English. He received his B.A. in English from the University of Nebraska at Kearney and his M.A. and Ph.D. in English from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is assistant coordinator of the Writing Center, and sponsor for both Philosophy Club and Political Activism Club.

Carol Lombardi (clombard) teaches two sections of Journalism, is the Gargoyle advisor and works for the Advancement Office. She earned a B.A. from the State University of New York at Oswego and an M.S. from the University of Illinois.

Dr. Letitia Moffitt (
teaches 19th Century English.

Dr. Elizabeth Majerus (emajerus) is the Executive Teacher in the department of English. She teaches The Nineteenth-Century Novel, Non-Fiction Writing, Poetry, Native-American and Chicano Literature, and Creative Writing. She earned her B.A. in English and Integrated Liberal Studies at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and her M.A. and Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The blogs for her classes are the following:

Matthew Mitchell (mtmitch) teaches Language and Literature 2 (Freshman English), African American Literature (Junior/Senior), and History as Fiction (Junior/Senior). He earned his B.A. in English at Rutgers University in 1994 and his M.A. in English at the University of Illinois in 1997. His current class blog is:

Dr. Valerie O'Brien (
teaches Freshman English and Nonfiction writing.

Kathleen Rodems (krodems) teaches Subfreshman English, Gender Studies, Social Justice, and Nonfiction Writing. She earned her B.A. in English from the University of Illinois at Springfield and her M.A. in English from Eastern Illinois University.

Gale Walden (
is the creative writing instructor for the 2019-2020 school year. She holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Arizona and an MS in journalism from the University of Illinois. She has taught creative writing at several Universities including Salem State, Roosevelt, and the University of Illinois. She is the author of two poetry books.