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An Episcopal, co-educational 100% boarding school in Middletown, Delaware for grades 9 – 12



Our academic program is built around a sequence of requirements in the core subject areas of English; history; science; mathematics; classical and modern languages; religious studies; and the arts. Course curriculums strive to be interdisciplinary: that is, in developing coursework, faculty consider what else a student is learning in that particular school year, and attempt to connect that work across classrooms, putting disciplines and methods in conversation with one another.

In all disciplines, coursework is intensely focused on the teaching of writing, critical reasoning and scientific investigation. Our course offerings reflect our goal of connecting students with contemporary issues, technologies, and innovations of the wider world, and our deep belief in the world's religious, philosophical and artistic traditions as a lasting source of wisdom and hope.

What’s Going On In Our Departments?

Michael Giansiracusa to Join St. Andrew’s as Head Chaplain

Earlier today, Head of School Joy McGrath ’92 announced to the community that the Reverend Michael Giansiracusa has been appointed as St. Andrew’s head chaplain, effective July 1, 2024. She thanked the dozens of community members who participated in the search, including members of the student vestry, the student interfaith council, and a faculty search committee of Ana Ramírez, Terence Gilheany, and Dave DeSalvo.

As head chaplain, Michael will lead spiritual life at the school, direct the school’s chapel program, and be responsible for defining, preserving, and promoting the school’s Episcopal identity to all constituencies. In overseeing the school’s chapel program, Michael will preside at services three times each week, and manage the student-led chapel guilds and vestry, as well as the chapel team.

Michael joins St. Andrew’s with extensive experience in spiritual leadership and campus ministry. He currently serves as chaplain at Doane Academy, an Episcopal K-12 school where he also teaches World Religions, and as vicar at St. Gabriel’s, a mission church in Philadelphia. Prior to Doane and St. Gabriel’s, Michael spent 13 years leading urban and suburban parishes, including Episcopal Community Services (Philadelphia, Pa.), where he engaged in a variety of nonprofit work; the Romero Center (Camden, N.J.), where he led college and high school mission retreats; and St. Mary’s (Ardmore, Pa.) where he served as rector.

Earlier in his career, Michael taught religion, English, and film at various secondary schools including St. Mark’s (Wilmington, Del.), Malvern Prep (Malvern, Pa.), and Bishop Eustace Prep (Pennsauken Township, N.J.). It was during this time he spent teaching that he discerned a call to the Episcopal priesthood, attended Episcopal Divinity School, and earned a doctorate in Ministry. Michael is an ordained priest in the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Michael attended LaSalle University, where he studied communication arts with minors in philosophy and English; and Villanova University, where he earned an M.A. in religious studies. Michael is a rabid Philadelphia sports fan, enjoys film and cooking, and is an animal rights advocate. He is father to a son, Michael, who attends Villanova University as a VUScholar.

“Of course, I knew of the excellent reputation that St. Andrew’s has for academics, the chapel program, and the varieties of sports and activities available,” Michael said. “What was eye-opening to me was the honest effort not to rest on reputation, but to actively look to create opportunities to be better. Although this is a community that is firmly rooted in faith, St. Andrew’s does not forget that, in the end, beyond any accolades and traditions, a community is about relationships and the care and concern community members have for one another. There is no substitute for the support, safety, and love of a community. This is what convinced me that St. Andrew’s is where I wanted to be.”

Joy wrote in her announcement to the school that, “Michael stood out in an impressive field of candidates as a person with both a lively Christian faith and a calling to serve adolescents in a religiously diverse Episcopal school setting. Students and faculty alike identified him as the next person to lead St. Andrew’s chapel program and spiritual life.”

Michael was identified as St. Andrew’s next head chaplain from a field of outstanding candidates in an exhaustive and inclusive national search. He succeeds The Rev. Jay Hutchinson as chaplain. Jay Hutchinson retired from St. Andrew’s in June 2023 and joined St. Mark’s School in Massachusetts. Previously retired St. Andrew’s Head Chaplain Rev. David DeSalvo P’00,’04 has returned to lead the school’s chapel program in the interim.

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The Crossroad of Passion and Scholarship

William Lin ’24 on the spark behind the essay that made its way to The Concord Review

From the moment his parents bestowed on him a hand-me-down iPhone 4 when he was younger, capturing beauty with a camera has fascinated William Lin ’24. 

But his first year at St. Andrew’s was a turning point for his hobby. He honed his photography skills and deepened his passion for the art form as he traveled around China taking pictures of “different scenes, different people, [and] different cultures.”

Lin spent his first year at St. Andrew’s in an atypical fashion: abroad in his home city of Beijing, China, as the COVID-19 pandemic forced students to forgo a normal year of school. 

A year later, he was finally on campus and in Dean of Studies Melinda Tower’s history classroom, taking “A World at War,” an advanced study course that explores 20th-Century wars and why they started, the way they were fought, and why they ended.

The gears started to turn for Lin. In the classroom, with conversations centered on photo censorship during World War II, he found himself at the intersection of his love of history and his passion for photography.

This brewing interest in censorship followed him into his V Form year. While taking “Research Seminar,” an advanced study history course that immerses students in scholarly research and challenges them to write a thoughtful research paper, he decided to explore the topic that piqued his curiosity in “A World at War.” 

When Victor Cuicahua, a former St. Andrew’s faculty member and then-instructor of the seminar, read Lin’s paper, “Whitewashing the War: U.S. Censorship of Photography during World War II,” he was impressed.
Lin remembers that Cuicahua pointed out the exceptional nature of the paper, and urged Lin to submit it to The Concord Review, a highly selective quarterly academic journal, the only such journal that exists that offers secondary students the opportunity to submit academic history papers. Emboldened by his instructor’s feedback, he pushed “submit.” And then the waiting game began.

“I got the news during senior orientation on my watch,” Lin recalls of the beginning of this school year. “My watch is one of those where you get the text but it doesn’t show the entire text, so I was looking at it, and it was like, ‘Dear William, I’m writing to tell you that your paper has been’ and it just cuts off there.”

The anticipation was almost unbearable for the next several hours as Lin sat through orientation, waiting to read the remainder of that email. He exercised one of the many virtues of Saints: patience. 

It paid off: his paper had been accepted for publication. His essay was one of 11 featured in the fall issue of The Concord Review, written by student scholars around the world. It was published in early September.

In the paper, Lin argues that the U.S. government instituted a “carefully managed censorship regime” during the second World War for a two-fold purpose: to minimize racial tensions and conflict in the United States by hiding racism in the military, and to conceal the degree to which racial integration was present in the military to avoid angering prejudiced Americans. 

Reflecting on the thought-provoking classroom conversations that shaped his paper, Lin remembers a particular conversation with Tower regarding a Dorothea Lange photo—the unmistakable “Migrant Mother” photo from the Great Depression. Lin discovered through this conversation that the photographer had taken that photo without permission, and that the woman in the image disputed the photo as she refused to be seen as a symbol of the Depression. 

Conversations like this one with Tower—as well as with Cuicahua and Dean of Students Matthew Carroll, the other faculty member heading the seminar—illuminated for Lin that there are complex depths behind a simple photo: layers of interpretation, censorship, intent, and more. 

Through a historical and artistic lens, Lin brought these layers into dialogue with one another in his research. Beyond what he discusses in the paper, Lin also recognizes implications of historical censorship on contemporary issues. 

“I think [censorship of photography] is going to be a relevant topic, even though censorship is not necessarily a main thing that is happening right now because there’s so many avenues with the internet and social media [for images to spread],” Lin says. “But with generative [artificial intelligence] and generative imaging, it’s more of an issue of deep fakes and misinformation. I’m certainly looking forward to looking deeper into this in college and finding a new direction.” 

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Introducing Our 2023-24 New Faculty!

Head of School Joy McGrath ’92 announced and welcomed the new faculty who will join St. Andrew's in the 2023-24 school year. The school is grateful to Emily Pressman, Ana Ramírez, and the many department chairs and faculty members who engaged in the faculty hiring process this year. 

A photograph of Anabel Barnett, 2023 Teaching Fellow in Spanish

Anabel Barnett joins St. Andrew’s as a teaching fellow in Spanish. Anabel graduated from Kenyon College in 2023 magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature (emphasis Creative Writing) and Spanish Literature and Language. In May 2023, Anabel received Kenyon’s annual Spanish Award for excellence in the study of Spanish literature. While at Kenyon, Anabel worked both as a Writing Center consultant and a foreign language assistant tutor. She was also an editor for Sunset Press, Kenyon’s student-run publishing house. Her own work has appeared in Spires Literary Magazine and she was a finalist for Driftwood Press’s Short Story Prize in Spring 2023.

Prior to joining St. Andrew’s, Anabel worked in Gredos, Spain, as an English-Spanish liaison at Equiberia, an equine tourism business. An avid equestrian, Anabel competed in multiple national equitation finals as a junior rider. She is a six-time 4H state champion and qualified for the North American League Junior Jumper Finals in her final year as a junior rider. Last summer, Anabel worked as an editorial intern at The Chronicle of the Horse, and she continues to cover and provide commentary for The Chronicle during national equitation finals.

In her free time, Anabel enjoys reading, writing, riding, and leading a writing workshop of fellow Kenyon Creative Writing alumni.

Amelia Browne

Amelia Browne joins St. Andrew’s as an English teacher and head volleyball coach. She graduated from Yale University in 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in English and a concentration in creative writing. While at Yale, Amelia worked as a reader for two literary magazines, The Common and The Yale Review, and served as a board member for the Yale Film Festival. She has studied with novelist and screenwriter Derek Green, who served as her advisor for her senior thesis, and the playwright Donald Margulies; has read scripts for Heyday Films; and participated in United Talent Agency’s summer extern program. 

In addition to her affinity for writing and literature, Amelia is an athlete at heart. She played Division 1 volleyball at Yale, where her team captured two Ivy League Championship titles and appeared once in the NCAA Tournament. Pre-college, Amelia’s club volleyball team won a gold medal at USA Volleyball Nationals in 2017, and she led her high school to two North Coast Section Championships as a captain. She has coached volleyball across the West Coast, including at Vision Volleyball Club and Santa Barbara Volleyball Club.

During her free time, Amelia loves to hike with her two dogs, Roxy and Lulu.

Connor Doughty

Connor Doughty joins St. Andrew’s as a teaching fellow in religion and philosophy, who will coach lacrosse and soccer. He is originally from Northbrook, Illinois. Connor graduated from Kenyon College in 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, focusing on the philosophy of religion. His particular area of study centered on how the language describing faith and belief affects the accessibility of religion.

Throughout his four years at Kenyon, Connor was a member of the men’s lacrosse team, helping bring the Owls to three consecutive conference championship finals and their first NCAA appearance since 2012. He spent his college summers working as an assistant defensive and face-off specialist coach with his high school’s lacrosse program, and helped coach the school to its sectional championship victory in the 2021 season.

James Garrett

James Garrett joins St. Andrew’s as an English and art teacher who will coach football and baseball. Originally from Sacramento, California, James attended the University of California Riverside, where he majored in sociology. After graduating in 2013, he pursued an Americorps placement with City Year Sacramento, followed by a placement at his former high school via Teach for America. In 2020, James received a master’s from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. 

James has experience teaching high school English and middle school social studies, and has coached and mentored students in athletic programs and community organizations. He is a reading, writing, and literacy scholar and a multimedia artist. He is passionate about student-centered teaching, coaching, and mentorship that supports students to become their most actualized selves. 

Before coming to St. Andrew’s, James, his wife Janay, their three children, Joie, James II and Janai, and their dog, King, and cats, Bas and Pebbles, have called California, Philadelphia, and Connecticut home. In his down time, James enjoys spontaneous family road trips, finding waterfalls and hiking trails, playing or making music, and cooking for the family.

Alec Hill ’12

Alec Hill ’12 joins St. Andrew’s as a teaching fellow in English who will coach cross-country and crew. At St. Andrew’s, Alec ran cross-country, wrestled, and rowed, and contributed to The Cardinal and The Andrean

Alec graduated summa cum laude from Sewanee: The University of the South with a bachelor’s degree in English and forestry. He ran track at Sewanee, earning two conference championship medals in the 800 meters. He was also president of the Order of the Gown, the local academic honor society. After college, Alec joined the staff of the Sewanee Review, one of the most prestigious literary magazines in America, serving first as an assistant, and later as managing editor, and editing fiction, poetry, and essays.

For the past three summers, Alec has served on a wildland firefighting crew. He has fought wildland fires across the American West, spending time on both a helitack and a hotshot crew, and using the winter season to write fiction and train for ultramarathons. In his free time, Alec likes to (no surprise) write and run, as well as practice meditation.

Alex Horgan ’18

Alex Horgan ’18 joins St. Andrew’s as a teaching fellow in science, and will teach biology and environmental science, and coach cross-country and crew. He is originally from Wilmington, Delaware, and graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies and a minor in English. While at University of Delaware, Alex served as a captain of the club cross-country and track and field teams, and worked as a research assistant on a project collecting the oral histories of the Lenape Tribe in Cheswold, Delaware. Prior to returning to SAS, Alex was a natural lands fellow at Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library, where he conducted forestry work and invasive species removals in the meadows and woodlands. In his free time, he enjoys running, cycling, and cooking. 

Ben Kang ’13

Ben Kang ’13 joins St. Andrew’s as a math teacher, who will coach football and lacrosse. Born in Philadelphia and raised in Seoul, South Korea, Ben has always called St. Andrew’s his true home ever since he graduated in 2013. Ben attended Haverford College, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology. At Haverford, Ben was a member of the men’s lacrosse team for two seasons and also competed for the Korean National Lacrosse Team during the 2014 World Lacrosse Championship in Denver. He recently received a master’s degree in teacher leadership from Mount Holyoke College; his capstone project focused on supporting and retaining teachers of color in independent schools.

Ben has taught math at Perkiomen School in Pennsburg, Pennsylvania, where he also served as a dorm head and student advisor and coached lacrosse and football, and has taught seventh and eighth grade math at Germantown Friends School in Philadelphia, where he was also the Korean language instructor, a member of the DEI Committee, and an AAPI Affinity Group leader. 

Aside from teaching, Ben is an avid fan of horror movies and Korean TV shows. He is a die-hard Philadelphia Eagles fan. 

Bradley Skeen

Bradley Skeen joins St. Andrew’s as a history teacher and a coach of soccer and basketball. Bradley attended the University of Virginia, where he received bachelor’s degrees in political philosophy, policy and law, and Africana studies. He completed an honors thesis exploring hate speech jurisprudence in the United States and South Africa, conducting a comparative analysis informed by his experience studying in Durban, South Africa, as an undergraduate. He recently earned a master’s degree from the Relay Graduate School of Education in New York, New York. 

Prior to joining St. Andrew’s, Bradley lived in Washington, D.C., where he worked as a public interest consultant and taught social studies. In addition to reading and spending time with family and friends, Bradley enjoys biking, traveling, hiking, and playing a wide variety of sports. 

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When Science Meets the Stage

In its fifth year, the McLean Science Lecture Competition continues to inspire students to boldly go down the rabbit hole and report on what they find.

Balancing the demands of academics, athletics, club meetings, and all the other miscellaneous responsibilities at boarding school can be a difficult load to carry for a teenager. It was one of the main concerns from colleagues when Science Department Chair Dr. Ashley Hyde first proposed a lecture competition that would require students researching topics outside of class.

“There was a big question if students were going to have the time and give the effort to do a big project like this,” says Hyde. “I just said, ‘Trust me, the students will blow you away if you let them run with it.’”

Five years later, the science lecture continues to blow people away. Hyde, who directs the project with the help of the entire science department, reviewed a number of topics this year from students that included the science behind faith, fusion energy, and its engineering, and technology and cognitive functions in adolescents. After hearing numerous auditions, the science faculty selected four finalists to present in front of the school on March 24. Those finalists and their topics were:

  • Lia Miller ’23 - Biotechnology and the Deep Ocean Genome
  • Zachary Macalintal ’24 - Oncolytic Virotherapy [OV]
  • Angela Osaigbovo ’24 - Bioremediation
  • Sarah Rose Odutola ’23 - Xenotransplantation

By virtue of their titles, these aren’t breezy subjects to present to peers, let alone engagingly discuss. Hyde likens the presentations to TED Talks: students not only have to master the scientific understanding of their subject, but also communicate the research in an engaging way. It’s no accident that this year’s winner, Odutola, has a background in musical theater.

“[Acting] helps you think outside the box,” says Odutola. “Reading the textbook is important, but there has to be an element of creativity to your thinking. You can’t just be formulaic with everything.”

Odutola’s inspiration for the project started while reading about blood and organ shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic. She was stunned when she heard about xenotransplantation–the use of non-human animal parts (cells, tissues and organs) to replace human parts–and was equally amazed to find out it’s been going on since the 17th Century. In January 2022, surgeons at the University of Maryland School of Medicine performed the first transplant of a pig heart to a human. The surgery captured Odutola’s interest in the subject.

“My mother is a doctor, and I've always been in fun conversations about immunology and the future of transplants,” Odutola explains. “What I'm most excited about is I got an opportunity to share what I learned with my classmates. Then, I got really excited about how excited my classmates got about it.”

Like Odutola, the three other finalists were passionate about their topics. Macalintal researched OV because his brother, Austin, was diagnosed with cancer in 2017. He explains how using viruses to attack cancer cells is a valuable form of target therapy that helps other therapies work their magic. 

Osaigbovo’s topic also hit close to home–she grew up near both the polluted Hudson River and a Superfund site (an area plagued by hazardous materials) in New Jersey. Watching cloudy water stream out of her facet led to her interest in bioremediation and how microbes can be used to break down pollutants in different elements like air, groundwater, water, and soil. 

Miller’s interest in nature led her to an internship with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod last summer. One day, she found a research paper in the lab about deep ocean genomes that detailed the fragility and strength of life in high-pressure, under-resourced parts of the ocean. That passion led to extensive research outside the classroom. 

For the students presenting to the department in the hopes their lecture would be green-lit, free days and weekends were spent reading and watching videos to find relative material. Then, the fine-tuning aspects kicked in as the students prepared for their auditions. Science faculty were available to answer questions about particular material and give presentation tips, but the onus of communicating their research was solely on the students.

“It’s not only that they are passionate about science and understand it, it’s that communication piece, which is so important in science,” says Hyde. “How many times in a high school science class do you get to exercise that muscle? Not often. And it’s really important. The ability for scientists to explain complex ideas to the public is critical.”

Odutola’s topic is a bit unsettling, yet she started with humor. Her final presentation was titled “Xenotransplantation: Coming to a farm near you!” and she started with a trigger-warning slide, telling her audience the next picture “is not for the faint of heart, so close your eyes if you are squeamish." She then flashed a picture of surgeons performing open heart surgery on a patient. The audience gasped, and Odutola, recognizing the moment, chimed in with an “I told you so!”, which prompted laughter. With the crowd at ease, she let her natural stage presence take over. The presentation explained the importance of xenotransplantation in solving organ shortages, its history in medicine, how it works on a cellular level, and the moral and future implications of the research. Throughout the presentation, she interacted with the audience and offered comedic relief to the topic, ending the presentation about pig-to-human heart transplants with the Looney Tunes closing sequence from Porky Pig: “That all folks!”

“That combination of really mastering the material, the confidence of teaching her audience, and the ability to bring joy and fun into a topic that others might have found squeamish. … She made it so no one wanted to check out,” says Hyde.

Indeed, Odutola was approached by some classmates who were enthralled by her presentation and looking to learn more about it.

“That made me so happy,” says Odutola. “It made all the work I spent, all the hours I spent, more than worth it.”

After the competition, Hyde and the finalist celebrated and reflected at Playa Bowls. Hyde asked how much time each student spent on their projects, and was amazed at the answer: “We don’t know.” Turns out, to them, it didn’t feel like work at all.

“Giving them the time and freedom to go down rabbit holes, a lot of them will have a dead end; but the ones that don’t, they will surprise us,” says Hyde. “The most important thing is that they can surprise themselves. What all four finalists said was how much fun it was. They got that experience out of it and realized they could do this.”

“I really loved my science classes [at St. Andrew's],” says Odutola, who graduates this spring. “Learning about science has always been eye-opening since I was a little kid. You don't even think about something, and then you learn about it and it changes the way you see the entire world. That's what I love about science class.”

Watch the entire 2023 McLean Science Lecture Competition here.

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The Independent Approach to the Senior Exhibition

In the early afternoon light, Trinity Smith ’23 stands cross-legged against the hallway wall in Founders. She taps her No. 2 pencil against the back of her hand and peeks into Mrs. Reddy’s classroom a few times, waiting for her turn to enter. In a few minutes, Smith will embark on her capstone English assignment as a St. Andrew’s student: the senior exhibition.

“It’s a big deal,” says Smith. “I’ve seen students walk out of their exhibition and start dancing on the Dining Hall tables.”

Although it has evolved many times since its inception in the early 1990s, the senior exhibition has always consisted of a student meeting with English faculty members to discuss an eight- to ten-page analytical paper on a text they write independently over the course of the winter of their senior year. The goal of these discussions is to give students the opportunity to self-evaluate and re-evaluate their writing process and thesis.

“Somebody described it to me as the difference between practice and game day,” explains English faculty member and alum Will Porter ’96. “An exhibition is a game day for papers. It raises the stakes of a regular paper in a great way.”

Porter is one of those rare people to experience an exhibition as both a student and a teacher. As a student, he remembers sitting across from the entire English department at a large, round table, fielding a variety of questions about his paper on The Brothers Karamazov, an 800-page, drama and theology-filled mammoth of a Russian novel.

“It was pretty intimidating,” says Porter.

Smith feels similarly as she enters the classroom. Opposite her are Neemu Reddy, the English Department’s chair, and Dr. Martha Pitts, her teacher. She’s still fidgeting with her pencil when Pitts opens the exhibition by expressing how grateful she is to have taught Smith. Reddy, who taught Smith freshman year, quickly follows suit by complimenting the confidence and conviction in Smith’s writing. Suddenly, Smith is smiling and laughing, free of any tension she entered with.

“All they know is that it’s the biggest moment for them,” says Reddy. “We, as the classroom teachers, take the opportunity to tell the student everything we appreciate about what they’ve given to the classroom and the school during their time here. We speak to specific moments or examples of their lovely scholarship and it’s really special.”

Every member of the English Department sits in on exhibitions, but it’s especially rewarding for Reddy. In addition to her duties as department chair, Reddy teaches freshman English. From laying the groundwork to helping her colleagues implement the curriculum, Reddy has a wide perspective on the full English experience at St. Andrew’s.

“From freshman year to junior year, we’ve taught students how to read a book, build an argument, write their argument, refine it, discuss it, and then go back and revise it,” says Reddy. “By senior year, they're doing that intensive work in the first half with Toni Morrison's Beloved, a really difficult book. In many moments during that first half, teachers start to loosen the reins. The students are continuing to do oral exhibitions, and they're really investigating the work independently.

“The senior exhibition is the final, overarching project. We are saying to students, ‘We've shown you all the moves. We've taught you how to read a book. Now, try to do it yourself.’”

The project starts with students selecting a book from an array of texts curated by the department. After reading it and formulating topics they’d like to write about, students meet with teachers to refine the central question their papers will argue. Students write a first draft, review it with their teacher, and then submit their final paper. After that, they await their oral exhibition. 

“They are showing up with their own agenda and their own plan for this,” Reddy explains. “If they haven't seen what's missing in their paper, then we are there to ask questions.”

Typically, as St. Andrew’s English classes progress through books, teachers facilitate round-table discussions where students interpret passages and offer ideas. The big change for this final paper is the absence of class discussion. Suddenly, students are forced to develop and articulate their own ideas without communal feedback. 

“Figuring out what I wanted to say was actually really hard because unlike past classes, I had to interpret everything on my own,” says Smith. “I never had discussion-based classes before I arrived at St. Andrew’s, but I really loved it. It didn’t feel like an English class sometimes; it just felt like you were talking about a book.”

This summer, the department revamped the project with the idea of having students read the texts multiple times. As a result, they chose five novellas, ranging from James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room to Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams.

Smith chose Nella Larsen’s Quicksand, a novella based in the 1920s that chronicles the life of Helga Crane, a mixed-raced woman who struggles to find her identity while moving from the Deep South to Harlem and eventually to Copenhagen. Smith’s paper, “A Lifestyle Driven by Nonconformity to Societal Expectations,” argues that Crane’s nonconformity to societal constraints derived from gender expectations ultimately led her to submit to those burdens that Black women often face alone. 

“On a big project like this, where you're doing everything by yourself, it can be daunting,” says Smith. “You are unsure if you're interpreting a passage correctly.”

Her writing, however, is assured. She explores the symbolism of Crane’s stylish fashion, the patronizing messages from men in power, her objectifying experience living as a Black woman in Copenhagen, her failed search for love, and her submission to motherhood. It’s a forceful paper that wrestles with a book whose themes extend beyond its time.

“I think that the list of books we have is really extraordinary,” Porter says. “They are real gems with a wide range of topics and voices.”

Porter has methodically sculled the project forward over the last 13 years. He’s helped change and tweak it with the idea of scholarship in mind. He spearheaded the transition to novellas; the genre's shorter page counts allows for a deeper investment in the material on multiple readings–a far different approach from his days as a student when he had to make sense of 800 pages. This year, most of Porter’s students were able to read their book twice, which he says made a big difference in the drafting process, which was crucial for Smith.

“After I got Dr. Pitts' comments on my rough draft, I was really able to pull it together,” says Smith. “I have a habit of over-complicating things and Dr. Pitts' main comment on my rough draft was ‘go smaller and be more specific.’ I ended up cutting so many passages, but I was able to write a really good paper as a result.”

Smith’s copy of Quicksand brims with notes, underlined phrases, and starred passages. Smith opens the exhibition by talking about Crane’s parents–a white Danish mother and an absent Black West Indian father–and how she reclaimed some individual autonomy in Copenhagen. Smith wanted to write about this, but was unable to fit it in her paper, she explains. Reddy and Pitts listen attentively, and Pitts comments on Smith’s excellent analysis of the male presence in her paper. Then, graciously, she asks Smith to consider what female characters might have been models for Crane. Like a scholarly reader, Smith offers her thoughts and dives straight into the text for supporting evidence.

The conversation ebbs and flows with Pitts and Reddy gracefully landing Smith at pivotal parts of the text while asking open-ended questions. Smith offers a few more of her ideas that didn’t make it into her paper but were scribbled in the margins. They discuss Crane denying parts of her mixed-race identity in different environments, her desires in relation to her reality, and who is really to blame for Crane’s situation at the end of the book. It becomes apparent they are enjoying themselves.

“We were talking very professionally about my work,” says Smith, “but it felt accessible and easy to talk about my ideas casually. When I was confused, I felt like I could be honest.”

“The goal with these exhibitions,” says Reddy, “is that you're never done writing. There's always another draft that can be done. So after submitting it, now we're going to revise it and rethink it.”

“Pretty much every exhibition, if everybody's really bought in, yields a breakthrough,” says Porter. “That's such an incredible experience. That's why we love teaching.”

Smith’s exhibition doesn’t end poetically; rather, someone notices they’ve conversed well past the allotted time. No one is ready for it to end. There are more ideas to discuss, more scenes to unpack, more connections to be made. Really though, they just want to spend more time together.

“Having both of them there, together, was surreal,” says Smith. “It felt so good having two people who have seen my trajectory and journey from where I started and then where I'm ending. I built pretty meaningful relationships with them over my four years. To be there, talking about this culmination of what I've learned at the end of my senior year, it felt really reassuring and made me feel like I can handle college.”

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The Art of Looking Inward: St. Andrew’s New Creative Nonfiction Unit

Like most teenagers, Sasha DeCosta ’24 has some “stuff.” Stuff to process, deal with, reflect on, and work through. DeCosta also has the St. Andrew’s English Department, which, this year, offered its V Form students a new way to muck through all that stuff: Put it on the page.
English Department faculty members Will Torrey and Will Porter collaborated to create “Stranger in a Strange Dynamic,” a new creative nonfiction writing unit within the English 3 course for juniors that included work by stars of the genre like James Baldwin, David Sedaris, Roxanne Gay, and more.
“Even though it's so fun and important to read and talk about fiction and literature, we also want to keep things fresh and interesting for our students,” says Torrey. “Sometimes from their perspective, and even from ours, it just feels like, ‘Okay, now it's another book. Now it's another paper. Now it's another book. Now it's another paper.’ So much of what this course is about is to understand who you are and your identity through your own experiences.”
Adds Porter, “We noticed over the years that at [V Form/junior year] grade level, that age, the students have lots of questions. Looking to literature for answers is valuable, but so too is looking inward to have them think about how to tell their own story.”
For DeCosta, that story was one in which they weren’t the hero—and that’s precisely the point. “It’s hard to admit you've done wrong,” DeCosta says. “I think for a good essay, you can't paint yourself as a one-sided hero. In our class, we read a lot of personal essays where people weren't the hero or this perfect character, which made it easier for me to write about those times when I'm not perfect.”
While the culmination of the unit resulted in each student writing a 1500- to 2000-word essay, with additional writing and journaling exercises throughout the unit, there was also the non-rubric requirement to opt in.
“I think these kids naturally feel a little bit of reticence when there's this opportunity to write about their own truths or in some cases, their own families,” Torrey says. “But they really came to not only embrace that vulnerability through the writing process, but to also be present and listen to their classmates, who are talking about the mistakes they’ve made. It felt like something that was very useful, and powerful, and in some ways therapeutic, for them to participate in.”
DeCosta’s essay—which chronicled their failed attempt to eschew the “screenager” life and instead truly live in the moment at a concert they finally got permission to attend—used humor as a venue for deep self-reflection. “From the actual experience of missing an entire concert because I was trying to record it, I learned obviously living in the moment stuff. I was devastated for missing it, but was just going to move on and not think about it anymore,” DeCosta says. “But going through the writing process, I was forced to relive what happened, and to understand why I did what I did. I’ve never really reflected like that through writing.”
For her essay, Angela Osaigbovo ’24, the head of the school’s Creative Writing Club, wrote about a time she was in the spotlight at a national Scrabble tournament. Losing, her team rallied to win on the strength of some “crazy” words; the lesson there, Osaigbovo says, was not to give up.
“Since this was a recorded competition, it’s online, so I went back and watched myself and the decisions I made,” she says. “It is so weird watching yourself like that, but through the watching, and then the writing, I got to really relive the past in an interesting way.”
Osaigbovo, who took the course with Dr. Martha Pitts, says she wasn’t writing about “a big, emotional moment,” which is a notion Porter wanted to impart to all students in the unit.
“The main thing that matters is we're just looking for honesty,” Porter says. “We're looking for specificity. We're not looking for the sort of revelation where you have a day that changed your life, but look for a day where something small happened to you that made you approach an element of your life in a different manner.”
Osaigbovo appreciated the craft notes she received from Pitts, on elements like tone, narrative structure, tension, and mood.
“This is a completely new style of writing for me, and figuring out how to get your emotions and surroundings structured on a page in a way that makes sense, and that the reader can feel, was really helpful,” she says, “particularly right now as we are all juniors and have to think about college essays.”
Both Osaigbovo and DeCosta say they hope “Stranger in a Strange Dynamic” is on the curriculum to stay. “As we become seniors and leaders of the school, what we do in this class is really impactful,” Osaigbovo says.
“I just felt all of the best of St. Andrew's was encapsulated in the essays I read from my students,” Torrey says. “I felt so honored that the students believed me when I said that they could write about anything, and they could be vulnerable, and seeing that they trusted me enough with that—it was a joy. It was the highlight of my time with my juniors so far.”

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