As communication is a fundamental human activity, the English Department provides our students with a language program that develops confidence, competence, flexibility, and enjoyment of listening, speaking, reading, writing, and thinking. Our program underlines the interrelationship that exists among the language processes. While fostering a love of literature in our students, we emphasize close reading and critical thinking.
Our goals include: development of reading skills at the literal, figurative, and inferential levels; awareness of the writing process; mastering the mechanics and process of writing to accomplish fluency, clarity, and focus; appreciation of various literary genres and forms and the differences among them.
One credit in English is required in each of the four years of Upper School.
- English I
- English II
- Honors English II
- English III
- AP English Language and Composition
- AP English Literature
- Creative Writing
- Mystery and Detective Fiction
- Literature of War
- Dystopian Literature
- Science Fiction Literature
The Argo, published since 1889 and one of the oldest student newspapers in the country, is a proud Rutgers Prep tradition. In 2009, The Argo made history again by converting to an online-only format. All Upper School students are invited to join The Argo staff and may write articles for sections ranging from News and Opinion to Arts and Entertainment and Eats. Experienced Argo writers serve as editors, usually in their junior and senior years.
The literary magazine of the Upper School was formerly known as the Argomag, inspired by the RPS mascot, the Argonaut. As this was too similar to The Argo, the School’s newspaper, the editors formally changed the name to Excelsior in 1987. Its primary function is to meet weekly with student authors, to encourage the writing and revising of student poetry and fiction, and to publish usually two issues of the magazine every school year. Excelsior also showcases student photography, drawing, and occasional non-fiction as well. Our writers have won awards at the Somerset County Teen Arts Festival, on the state level from the New Jersey Council of Teachers of English, and the Governor's Awards for the Arts, and in national arenas such as the National Council of Teachers of English and the Scholastic Writing Awards. Excelsior editors have also provided leadership for Writing Day activities from 1993 to 2003.
The English Club began in 2004 to expand activities for students who enjoyed reading and other literary activities, but were not involved in student publications. For “Banned Books Week” the English Club has designed bulletin board displays and announced in morning assembly many popular books, which Americans have censored to draw attention to the issue. The "Healing Words" committee visited three nursing and retirement homes in the area for several years, and read selections of poetry and prose to the residents. For Halloween, we have sponsored our annual Literary Characters Costume Contest since 2005, encouraging students to come to school as their favorite author, character or group. Past winners have included groups from Peter Pan, The Wizard of Oz, 1984's Anti-Sex League, Alice in Wonderland, and the Seven Deadly Sins. The English Club took over leadership responsibilities for Writing Day in 2005, organizing "Good Writing is Hard Work," a theme inspired by Snoopy sitting atop his doghouse at his typewriter, beginning "It was a dark and stormy night . . . ". T organizers for the 2008 Writing Day used "A Tapestry of Words" as their motif. Their committee collected electronic submissions from about 85 per cent of the Upper School and posted them on a series of web pages and accessible to the whole school. The Reading Club has chosen books to read and discuss since 2007 with selections such as Running with Scissors, Water for Elephants, and Reading Lolita in Tehran. The English Club has also raised funds with periodic Read-a-Thons in the Upper School, to bring visiting writers to campus.
Writing Day began in 1992, when second grade teacher Joanne Emory organized a Writing Fair in Baldwin Hall and invited kindergarten through fourth grades to come for about 45 minutes each, aided by Mr. Kendall and parent and student volunteers. In 1993, and then in 1994 and 1995, Mrs. Emory, Dr. Riley, and Mr. Kendall coordinated a pre-K through 12th grade day-long celebration of writing. Usually, a professional author visited each division, such as a storyteller for the Lower School, a short story writer or journalist for the Middle School, and a Dodge Poet in the Upper School. Upper School students would often visit Lower School classes to guest teach, and they ran many workshops for Middle School students for a number of years, as well as helping with the Lower School Writing Fair. We have generally alternated years with the Science Fair and more recently with Math Day as well, and have sponsored Writing Day in 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005, and 2008. This school year, Writing Day is scheduled for March 18, 2010. Previous themes have included "Plant Your Imagination," "Scribere bene est verum gaudium ("Good writing is a true joy"), "Taking Flight with Writing," "Compose Yourself," "Writing Through the Ages," and "Wordfest: Writing Day 2003." Major events have included spiral mobiles of words in the lounge, posting written contributions on wooden kiosks throughout the library and the hallways, and an electronic version of web publishing school writing in 2008.
Student English Awards
RPS students have received awards from:
Scholastic National Writing Awards
New Jersey Council of Teachers of English State Awards
Governor's School for Creative Writing
National Council of Teachers of English Awards
Rutgers University at Newark’s state poetry contest (who then read on the Main stage at the Dodge Poetry Festival
New Jersey Governor’s Awards in Arts Education Gold Medalist
Cat Doty (1993, 1997, 2001, 2005)
Lois Harrod (1994, 1999, 2003)
Rick Poverny (1995)
Allison Alibino (2001)
Christina Harcar (2003)
Marjorie Barnes (2005)
Joe Weil (2005)
Marie Howe (2007)
Charles Johnson (2008)
Reginald McKnight (2008)
Patrick Phillips (2009)
Mark Doty (2010)
Hannah Tinti (2011)
Gail Carson Levine (2015)
Eliot Schrefer (2016)
Dodge Poetry Festival
Since its beginning in 1986, the Dodge Poetry Festival has brought premier poets from all over the world to New Jersey and has provided unique literary opportunities for high school students. The English department has taken our full quota of students to each of the twelve festivals, and three of our students have read on the main stage on Student Day. Students have heard poets such as Gwendolyn Books, Billy Collin, Lucille Clifton, Stanley Kunitz, Galway Kinnell, Sharon Olds, and Paul Muldoon, and have participated in smaller workshops with regional poets, many of whom have come to RPS as visiting poets.
Faculty Professional Development Activities and Achievements:
As part of the Master's program in English at the Virginia University of, Theodora Angelos completed a pedagogical thesis entitled, “Questions of Travel: Nineteenth- & Twentieth-Century American Travel Narratives.” She has adapted her thesis for use in the classroom at Rutgers Prep, teaching a senior elective on American travel narratives in the spring. While in the graduate English department at UVA, she worked on the transcription and digitization of Walt Whitman's Civil War correspondence for The Whitman Archive.
Eireann Corrigan has written four books for teen readers. Her novels have been named to the Best Books for Young Adults list, the New York Library’s Books for the Teen Age, and won the 2007 Garden State Book Award.
Flo Gange has served on Accreditation and Accreditation For Growth (AFG) teams for both NJAIS and the Middle States Association. She was part of a Faculty Exchange with Lancaster Country Day School. She recently attended a workshop on Teaching English with Technology.
John Kendall has coordinated the Upper School's section of Writing Day for the tenth time since 1993. This campus-wide celebration of literacy in the Lower, Middle and Upper School divisions includes guest authors, older students teaching classes of younger students, the Writing Fair in the Barn and other activities. Mr. Kendall has published several articles in professional journals about writing and teaching literature. "Beaming Hamlet Up to the 21st Century: Using the Internet to Help Teach Shakespeare," in the NJCTE issue of FOCUS, described a two-year hypertext project with four classes analyzing short passages from the play. " Hamlet Out Loud" described a later project involving juniors reciting 15-20 lines of the play from memory and posting these snippets as pod casts on the RPS web page. "Virtual Ink and Transcontinental Writing: Writing at an Experimental Virtual School," published first in Independent School magazine, described his two-year experience of teaching an expository writing class with the Virtual High School, located physically in Concord, Massachusetts, but virtually all over the United States.
Steven Loy has had the opportunity as an Adjunct Faculty Member to teach Freshman Expository Writing at Rutgers University as well as Educational Administration at Pepperdine University.