Dr. Kelso: Beyond the Classroom

Nimra Ghani, Staff Writer

Dr. Kelso, an English teacher at Ward Melville High School, has been teaching at the school for the last eight years. This year she teaches three classes, AP English Language and Composition, Writing at the Threshold, and Focus, each of which she uniquely loves.

Although Dr. Kelso has always imagined herself as a writer, it was only after her first child began school and was learning to write that she knew she wanted to become an English teacher. She states, “I wanted to be a part of that learning environment.”

For Dr. Kelso, teaching the same books each year has helped her develop an intimacy with the characters. She believes, “when you teach books, you really to get to know characters; it is as if they are real.” Her connection with the characters she reads manifests itself into her life as she, for example, took her family to visit the Mississippi River to see where “Huck Finn and Jim were,” because she teaches Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to her students each year.

For Dr. Kelso, the most rewarding part of being a teacher is when she sometimes gets, “an email or note from a former student in college that lets me know that something I had taught has resonated with him or her; knowing that I made a difference is what is important. ”

Last year Dr. Kelso initiated the “Living Book Project,” which takes a work of literature and projects it across different subjects, such as art and science. Last year’s book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, brought students from departments such as art, science, and English classes together to discuss one common subject, the book; the art students, for example, created pictures with different media about Henrietta Lack’s life. These school wide activities culminated to a daylong conference at Stony Brook University, where high school students from across Long Island came together to discuss the book in an interdisciplinary way.

The Random House Publishing Company recently awarded Dr. Kelso $10,000 for the “Living Book Project” to continue the program. Dr. Kelso plans to publish an article on the “Living Book Project” early next year. The next book Dr. Kelso plans on using for the “Living Book Project” is the graphic novel, Persepolis.