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The student voice of West Potomac High School

The Wire

The student voice of West Potomac High School

The Wire

The student voice of West Potomac High School

The Wire

New English Electives Struggling to Get Off the Ground

Black Perspectives in Literature and LGBTQ+ Perspectives in Literature seek to explore works not often discussed in the classroom.
Graphic created with Canva (Josephine Keller)

Of the many courses offered in the course catalog at West Potomac, not all courses actually run the following school year. Two of these courses are LGBTQ+ Perspectives in Literature and Black Perspectives in Literature, both of which are English electives. Neither ran last year despite being offered to students

Ms. Amie Gervacio, an English 9 and AVID teacher hoping to start teaching LGBTQ+ Perspectives next year, explained that despite being offered in the past, the course hasn’t run before and may not run next year.

“We had people sign up [last year]. I think we were at four or five [students] that signed up and we need at least 25,” Ms. Gervacio said.

Similarly, Black Perspectives can’t get the numbers. Ms. Symone Jenkins, an English 9 and English 10 teacher, hopes to run a class for Black Perspectives while Ms. Carinne Hackshaw, an English 9 teacher, gets another section.

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“If we don’t have enough members then we kind of [decide]: ‘Okay, who’s going to take that one section?’” Ms. Jenkins described.

At the Electives Fair, Ms. Jenkins observed the amount of Black students previewing the course. Ms Jenkins said, “I noticed a lot of my students also asked, ‘Oh, do you have to be part of a certain background to take the class’ and that’s not really the case.”

She clarified that the course is meant to teach students about the experiences of Black people and “assist with having an open mind and open perspective moving forward by looking at the struggles of others in our society and history.”

Ms. Gervacio described a similar goal for LGBTQ+ Perspectives.

“It’s important to expand your worldview, right? If you don’t push yourself to grow, and if you’re not uncomfortable in your growth, then you’re not growing,” Ms. Gervacio said.

The courses hope to explore an area of art not typical to the English classroom.

“We’re looking at LGBTQ+ representation, or lack thereof, or how it’s sort of been hidden,” said Ms. Gervacio. “In literature, movies, TV shows and all sorts of [cultural] mediums over the years.”

Both electives want their classes to explore content beyond written works. Ms Jenkins and Ms. Hackshaw even have plans for field trips to various locations nearby. Specifically, Ms. Jenkins mentioned the home of Fredrick Douglass, the African American History museum, and the Black Wax Museum in Baltimore. They also hope to see the play “A Raisin in the Sun.”

As electives, students could visit the classes during the Electives Fair. Both courses also had descriptions in the Electives Fair “Menu.”

LGBTQ+ Perspectives in literature was described as: “[Examining] the history of the LGBT+ community in and outside of the US from the mid-20th century through today. Themes of growing up queer, coming out, families, relationships, communities, homophobia, loss, and identity formation [will be] explored in various literary forms and media.”

Black Perspectives in literature was described as: “[Surveying] literature from the 1700s to the 21st century. This course will explore the role of literature using the unique socio-political experience of African Americans in the U.S. We will capture the breadth of historical movements and its effects on the African American community.”

While the specifics of both courses haven’t been fully realized, the teachers hoping to run the courses already have some content in mind.

“Per quarter, it’ll be a different focus. The first quarter is all about gender, sexual identity, and just establishing a baseline,” Ms. Gervacio described.

Additionally, the course hopes to give students an opportunity to research on their own for a passion project at the end of the year. Ms. Gervacio was adamant that the course wouldn’t have tests, as “[the course] is supposed to be a fun class in which we are exploring [the LGBTQ+] community through different forms.”

Ms. Hackshaw wants Black Perspectives in Literature to explore policies that have influenced artistic works.

“I think it’s all integrated and a lot of things that you will see in African American literature really connects to what’s going on throughout the country,” Ms. Hackshaw explained.

Ms. Jenkins added that Black Perspectives in Literature would have a unit focusing on the historical struggles of Black women. However, without the numbers to run the course, these subjects can’t be explored.

“The course is open to everyone and I would encourage all kids to come and take the course. We’re talking about history and how we’re all connected by history,” Ms. Hackshaw said.

Ms. Jenkins, Ms. Hackshaw, and Ms. Gervacio all hope students sign-up for the course.

“Realizing that your world is not just confined to you, your family, and your immediate friends. There’s a much bigger world out there that is just as beautiful, just as accepting, just as warm, as welcoming, that maybe before hasn’t been. People haven’t been offered an entryway into it and this course is a way in…” Ms Gervacio described.


To ask questions about LGBTQ+ Perspectives in Literature, contact Ms. Gervacio and Ms. Wheeler.
To ask questions about Black Perspectives in Literature, contact Ms. Jenkins and Ms. Hackshaw.

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