Sunday, April 11, 2010

Literacy initiatives at my old high school

Heritage Regional High School, formerly Macdonald Cartier High School, where I attended the now-unavailable International Baccalaureate program, was written up in the Gazette recently for some upcoming literacy initiatives.

First of all, due to re-shuffling since I left (and MCHS was always big), the school's catchment area is now roughly the size of Northern Ireland. Yikes!!

I have many very, very fond memories of teachers, especially in the English department, from my time at MCHS, including Carol Tynan, Carmen Woolgar, and Mr Jones (I still think of you when I hear the Counting Crows song) in the English department. Woolgar and Jones had enough faith in me, despite shyness and general uncoolness, to cast me in the school play, and Mrs. Tynan, especially, encouraged my writing. I still remember her obstinate ways, too, including making us all memorize passages from Antony and Cleopatra ("You'll remember these later and thank me!"), exhorting us to learn the rules before we break them (using the story of Picasso scrawling something abstract on a napkin as payment at a bar. When an observer points out he could have scrawled something similar, Picasso admits, "Yes, but first, you draw a horse!") and making us listen to Leonard Cohen's "Chelsea Hotel #2," refusing to explain the opening lines, and making sure we didn't tell our parents we heard them.

Another thing I always found interesting when I looked back at my time at MCHS was that we had a very large library, staffed by an actual librarian or tech (I confess I didn't much care at the time, but as my Math teacher frequently pointed out, she was young and hot). It was two floors, no less. I should really go back and investigate. It's just so hard to find a reason to visit St. Hubert, across from the military base. A real tourist destination, let me tell you.

Anyway, the Gazette piece profiles a new(ish) English teacher's efforts to galvanise interest in literature among the students, including talks by Mike Boone (about journalism and hockey), Endre Farkas (about poetry), Sheree Fitch (about writing), Norman Nawrocki (about multi-media creativity), and the Montreal Shakespeare Theatre Company's Dany Lopez (about Shakespeare). English teacher Mary Eva's other big project is a Hemingway Six-Word Short Story contest (oh, for God's sake, if you don't know what that refers to, look it up).

Love it!

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