We think of Shakespeare as a writer, but he was formatively a reader of books and life. It was said of Shakespeare that he could get more from a single book than most people could from the whole British Museum. He mastered the art of absorption and synthesis, the ability to read and appreciate and, with that knowledge, make something new. These are our goals in the VES English department. And Shakespeare was a man of the world too—not just academically inclined. So when one reads Shakespeare, one finds everything from references to curing leather (his father was a glove maker) to legal terms he picked up likely while suing his neighbors. Literature ought to include everything, and it does at VES, where material ranges from the classics to modern best sellers to the students’ own lives and experiences.
Books help give you something to say, and they help you learn to say it well. The VES English program intensively promotes writing, whether in formal essays about literature or personal narratives. We believe that in reading we might discover the world; and in writing, we might reintroduce the world to itself.
Focused on the theme of Culture and Identity, students in English 9 read literature from around the world, working to understand what makes different cultures distinctive and also to see the qualities of humanity that transcend place. Students learn to read, think and write with enthusiasm and skill, and develop scholarly habits in group discussions and team projects. This course asks students to strive to ask excellent questions, think critically about themes and literary devices and express their ideas with strong supporting evidence, clarity and style. By the end of the year, students will be on their way toward mastering the analytical essay and developing their authorial voice.
Prerequisite: English 9. Open to 10th grade students.
Students will gain appreciation for how groups develop, thrive and sometimes falter through the close appreciation of literature. The class, centered around the theme of Communities and Power, explores the differences in varying community structures—the individuals, the insiders, the outsiders, the families, the leaders, the honorable, loyal and corrupt. Through a variety of novels, short stories, plays and poems, students explore the manifestations of power in their own writing and their own role in shaping and developing their communities, macro and micro.
Prerequisites: English 9 and 10. Open to 11th grade students. Students in other grade levels require approval of the Department Chair to enroll.
American Writers explores the literature of the United States through the lens of a variety of literary and philosophical movements that occurred throughout the nation’s history, from the Enlightenment up to PostModernism. The essential questions students will attempt to answer over the course of the semester include: How do you see yourself? How do you see your world? What is your journey? How do writers and literary movements attempt to answer these questions?
Students will hear from a wide variety of American voices, and write a number of response papers, which are a mix of analytical and personal. The summative project is an autobiographical portfolio, in which students present their own answers to the above questions, including how their answers are influenced by and relate to American literary movements. This autobiography is then provided to College Counseling.
Prerequisites The following criteria are considered for admission into either AP Literature or AP English Language & Composition:
1. Support of the department and recommendation of the student’s current English teacher, which emphasizes the student’s demonstrated interest in reading and writing well 2. Average grade of 90 or higher in the student’s current English class 3. PSAT Evidence-Based Reading and Writing score of 550 or higher (or an equivalent score on the SAT, Pre-ACT or ACT) 4. Satisfactory writing sample 5. Scores > 3 on any previous AP exams
Meet all criteria—Approved Meet 4 of 5 criteria—Approval Likely Meet 3 of 5 criteria—Approval Unlikely Meet < 2 of 5 criteria—Not Approved
AP Language & Composition prepares students for writing at the college level. Through extensive writing practice and reading of essays by professional writers, students will develop their own style and gain greater confidence in their ability to express themselves in writing. Students will learn various forms of composition: the definition essay, the descriptive essay, the narrative essay, the expository essay, the persuasive essay and the critical review. Students also will practice the college application essay. This course prepares students to take the AP Language & Composition exam. The primary objectives are for students to take joy in what they read and delight in what they write.
1. Support of the department and recommendation of the English teacher, which emphasizes the literacy and working knowledge student’s demonstrated interest in reading and writing well
2. Average grade of 90 or higher in the student’s current English class 3. PSAT Evidence-Based Reading and Writing score of 550 or higher (or an equivalent score on the SAT, Pre-ACT or ACT)
4. Satisfactory writing sample 5. Scores > 3 on any previous AP exams
Meet all criteria—Approved
Meet 4 of 5 criteria—Approval Likely Meet 3 of 5 criteria—Approval Unlikely
Meet < 2 of 5 criteria—Not Approved
The primary goal of the AP Literature & Composition class is to develop students’ abilities as independent readers and writers through a collegelevel course during their senior year. This course is both demanding and intellectually stimulating. It requires a student’s best effort consistently and puts emphasis upon developing independence of thought and mature habits of critical thinking. Classroom discussion and active participation are vital and serve as a means of testing ideas. Written assignments, both short and long, will be an important and frequent feature of the course. Selected pieces are both canonical and modern fiction and poetry, concentrating on learning to encounter new works and respond in an informed voice.
Prerequisites: Open primarily to 12th graders. Students in other grade levels require approval of the Department Chair to enroll.
Students enrolled in this course will become masters of a particular classic work of literature in the public domain (published before 1923). Examples include Peter Pan, Treasure Island, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Black Beauty, The Secret Garden, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and so forth. They will study this work intensely, demonstrating their knowledge through discussion, analysis and written reflections. Afterward, students will conceive, design and create a new edition of this book.
Along the way, students will study many examples of iconic as well as esoteric book design and illustration. Postmodern novels and artists’ books will be analyzed closely for both literary and aesthetic merit as students consider the book as an artistic medium. Further study will include contemporary publishing houses such as MinaLima and Visual Editions. The dynamic, intertextual relationship between visual artists and authors will be highlighted and studied throughout the year through critical essays, biographies, poetry, film and images. Students will write and illustrate frequently and in a wide variety of genres, as they analyze and illuminate the texts they encounter. Class also will include field trips and guest speakers.
Prerequisites: American Writers or AP English Language & Composition
Students will study classic literature and equivalent modern adaptations in various types of media. Students will learn literary analysis skills and apply these skills to literature and text. Units will begin with students reading the text and discussing themes and literary devices at work. Then, students will watch the modern film version and discuss these themes and literary devices again. After each unit, students will complete an analytical essay, a creative writing assignment or a project-based assignment. By the end of the course, students will have a lexicon for analysis of literature and media, will recognize literary tropes, will write creatively and analytically, and will be able to draw connections between classic literature and modern adaptations.
Prerequisites: American Writers or AP English Language & Composition
“Write what you know,” that tired edict, still holds water—at least it will hold water in the context of this course. Poetry Across the Curriculum will enable students to use the substance of their days at VES as the subjects of the poems they create. Students will be exposed to a variety of poetic forms, and then consider how the form of a poem holds the poem’s subject. Each poem they draft will utilize, directly or indirectly, the content they are wrestling with in their other classes, and the form of each poem they draft will reflect that wrestling.
By exposure to a wide array of poets and poetic forms, students will discuss how form can appropriately mirror content. Students will critique each other’s work with a keen eye toward the symphony created between words, and the form those words take as lines and stanzas. Students will also write reflective essays that critique their own work while at the same time critiquing the work of another poet. Each semester will culminate in a portfolio of polished work, with at least one piece that students will want to submit for publication in teen literary journals.
James W. Hopkins Chair of English | Head Coach, Track & Field
Brian joined VES in 2015 with 18 years’ experience in academics as a teacher, team leader, community service director and an athletics coach. Brian teaches English and chairs the department, is a dorm parent on Ainslie, serves as an advisor and is the head coach of Track & Field. He received his BA in English and History from Bowdoin College and his MA in Liberal Studies at Dartmouth College. His interests include track, cross country, drama, debate and community service. He and his wife, Sara, live on campus with their young son, Owen.
Academic Dean | Director of College Counseling | English Teacher | Advanced Studies Advisor
Hamilton College - B.A. University of Virginia - M.Ed.
Mimi Csatlos began her career at VES in the fall of 2005 . Mimi, a native of Woodbury, CT, holds a BA in English Literature and Studio Art from Hamilton College, and she earned her M.Ed in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Virginia. Currently the Academic Dean and Director of College Counseling, Mrs. Csatlos also spent 10 years teaching English. Prior to her arrival at VES, Mimi taught in the Humanities Departments at Culver Academies and South Kent School, and held a summer internship at Choate Rosemary Hall. Mrs. Csatlos was the Head of New Dorm for many years, but now does duty on Wyatt Dorm. She lives on campus her her husband Erno and two children, Sophie and Sawyer.
Jean & Bill Cook Master of English | Advisor, Honor Committee | Asst Coach, JV Boys Soccer
Lenoir-Rhyne University - B.A. Western Carolina University - M.A.
Mr. Knebel joined the VES community in the fall of 2006. A native of Coral Springs, Florida, he graduated from Lenoir-Rhyne College with a B.A. in English and received his M.A. in English from Western Carolina University. Prior to VES, Mr. Knebel taught at St. David’s School in Raleigh, NC from 1999-2006, and taught English at Eastern Carolina University and in Peru. In addition to teaching, Mr. Knebel leads the school book club, Basia Librum, as well as the Writing Lab, serves on the Curriculum Committee, and coaches Deacon Boys Soccer. Mr. Knebel lives on campus with his wife, science teacher Dr. Larissa Knebel, and their three sons.
Dean of Students | English Teacher | Asst Coach, Swimming
University of Tennessee at Knoxville - B.A. Saint Joseph's University - M.S.
Amy Kolman joined VES in July 2019 as Dean of Students, Director of Residential Life and English teacher. She most recently worked at the Leysin American School in Switzerland, where she was Associate Dean of Students since 2016. Prior to LAS, she worked for eight years at the Hun School of Princeton as a teacher, Middle School department chair, admissions counselor, and Assistant Head of Middle School. She also has many years of experience as an English teacher, debate coach, advisor, teacher on duty in girls’ dorms and faculty training and development. Amy attended the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, majoring in English and swimming on their women's swimming team. She earned her M.Ed. in Secondary School English from Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia, PA. Amy met her husband, Mark, at Tennessee where he also was a D1 swimmer. Mark has 17 years in education is currently the Dean of Student Life, K-12 at The Montessori School of Raleigh. Amy and Mark have two daughters: Pepper, a sophomore economics major and member of the varsity women's rowing team at Clemson University, and PJ who is Director of Alumni Relations at Isidore Newman School in New Orleans.
Assistant Dean of Faculty | English Teacher | Head Coach, Boys JV Lacrosse
University of Maine - B.A. Fairfield University - M.F.A.
Matt LaFreniere serves VES as Assistant Dean of Faculty, supporting Dean Jen Anderson. He also teaches English, assists with the boys lacrosse program and serves as a dorm parent on Randolph. Matt has taught and coached at VES and Boys Latin School in Baltimore. He brings 14 years of experience in teaching and administrative roles, and has received two VES awards: the Paul Fulton, Jr. ’53 Master Teacher Award and the Zimmer Award. Matt earned his B.A. degree in English from the University of Maine and his M.F.A. in poetry from Fairfield University in Connecticut. Joining Matt in Lynchburg are his wife, Mary Ellen Moomaw LaFreniere ’04, and their two young children.
English Teacher | Head Coach, Swimming | Asst Coach, Girls Varsity Soccer | Advisor, Junior RAs
Loyola University - B.A. Loyola University - M.A.T.
Katie Markunas teaches English, serves as Head Coach for the VES swim team and is an advisor and Perkins dorm parent at VES. She previously taught for four years at Hargrave Military Academy, where she was named conference Coach of the Year two years in a row and received the school’s top teaching award.
Coach Markunas has coached for 11 years in Richmond and Chatham, Virginia. Serving as both assistant and head coach on a variety of teams, she has shared her passion for the sport with swimmers of all ages and abilities. Her teams have sent swimmers to championship-level meets every season, and in 2017, her boys team earned the runner-up spot in the Virginia Independent Conference (VIC). Coach Markunas has been honored with being the VIC Coach of the Year during both the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 seasons. As an independent school swimmer herself, she brings five years of varsity swimming from her time at Trinity Episcopal School in Richmond, Virginia, and five years of collegiate swimming on the club team at Loyola University of Maryland, in addition to the 13 seasons of summer league swimming for Granite Tennis and Swim Club, which sparked her love for the sport and swimming community.
Katie, a graduate of Trinity Episcopal School in Richmond, earned both her B.A. in English with a minor in Writing and her Masters in Teaching with a focus in English Instruction, from Loyola University in Maryland.
English & Spanish Teacher | Global Initiatives Coord | Head Coach, Girls V Soccer/B-Team Basketball
Wofford College - B.A. Middlebury College - M.A. Columbia University - M.Ed.
Will graduated with a BA in Religion and Spanish from Wofford College and holds an MA in English from Middlebury College and an MEd in Education Leadership from The Klingenstein Center for Independent School Leadership at Columbia University. Will joined VES in 2017, where he teaches English, coordinates our global travel programs, serves as an advisor, and is head coach of the girls soccer program. Previously, Will served as chair of the English Department at Kents Hill School, a boarding school in Maine, served as the Academic Dean for the Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth summer program, and worked in administration at the O’Neal School in Southern Pines, NC. Will loves spending time with his family, running, playing soccer, fly-fishing, traveling and reading.
English Teacher | Coach, Drama | Yearbook Advisor
University of Lynchburg - B.A. University of Lynchburg - M.A.
Alison Tuck joined the VES community in the fall of 2014. A native of Lynchburg, Virginia Mrs. Tuck earned her B.A. in English Literature, Minor in Writing and M.A. in English Literature from Lynchburg College. Prior to VES Mrs. Tuck taught at Miller-Motte Technical College and Central Virginia Community College.
Here at VES, Mrs. Tuck teaches AP English Literature. In addition to teaching, Mrs. Tuck coaches volleyball and is director of the spring musical. She also assists with school newspaper and the yearbook.
A College Preparatory, Independent Boarding and Day School for Students in Grades 9-12 400 VES Road, Lynchburg, VA 24503 • 434.385.3600