English teacher influences students through love of literature

Kaelei Whitlatch

Kaelei Whitlatch

Hi, I'm Kaelei and I'm a senior at Southmoreland. I'm a member of National Honor Society, Tri-M Music Honor Society, Concert Band, Show Choir, Highlander Choir, Musical Arts, Music Theatre club, The Future is Mine, Random Acts of Kindness, Yearbook Club, and Journalism. I love to play clarinet, write, and perform on stage. I hope to pursue Communications/Journalism in the future.
Kaelei Whitlatch

Out of the 160 students in the Southmoreland High School class of 2019, Mrs. Amy Brown teaches all but 14 of them.

Mrs. Brown currently teaches college preparatory English IV as well as advanced placement literature and composition in the back corner of the high school English hallway.

Years before Mrs. Brown started teaching at Southmoreland, she grew up attending Derry Area School District. She then attended Saint Vincent College where she majored in English Literature. She later earned her Masters degree in teaching with a concentration in secondary English at California University of Pennsylvania.

She currently is studying to earn her doctorate degree in literature from St. John’s University in New York City, where she spends most of her time in summer.

“I am dedicated to being a lifelong student,” Mrs. Brown said. “There is always something to learn and gain from education.”

Mrs. Brown has a passion for reading classic literature and “challenging, historical texts,” and her favorite authors to teach to students are Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf, and William Shakespeare.

“I  think it is fascinating to delve into the mindset of  authors from various time periods,” Mrs. Brown said. “I also enjoy modern authors such as Billy Collins and Marge Piercy who are two of the best. Spending time in NYC has also broadened my horizons and encouraged my love of artistic expression of poetry through visual art, slam poetry, and music.”

Before teaching at Southmoreland, Mrs. Brown taught at Penn Hills High School as her first teaching job. She said that Penn Hills is “much different” from Southmoreland.

“I gained valuable experience teaching (at Penn Hills) in its unique environment,” Mrs. Brown said. “I began teaching at Southmoreland in 1999 and made a home here because it is comfortable, has a great community, and in my slightly biased opinion, the best students of any school, anywhere.”

Mrs. Brown said she has “vivid memories” of her first year of teaching in the junior high building that once sat where the Southmoreland Stadium parking lot is located today.

“I learned so much from the staff who are now retired but undoubtedly provided me with their expertise that impacted my teaching greatly,” Mrs. Brown said.

Another influence on her teaching and in her life is her daughter, Maddy.

“I have been gifted with two great tasks in this life; parenting and teaching,” Mrs. Brown said. “I take both very seriously and feel blessed to be given these opportunities.”

Southmoreland graduate of 2016 Lindsey Pritts had Mrs. Brown for her AP Literature and Composition class, and she enjoyed having her “favorite teacher” for her senior year.

“She always encouraged expression and a fun learning environment; she made her classroom feel like a home,” Pritts said. “She did this all while keeping learning and exploring new things the top priority. Mrs. Brown is someone you could trust with anything.”

Southmoreland senior Erin Polakovsky is a current AP literature and composition student, and she also is enjoying the class.

“She’s a really cool teacher, and her class is super interesting,” Polakovsky said. “It’s fun yet challenging.”

Mrs. Brown said she hopes that students learn from her class to “appreciate literature” and that they “are able to discern literature for its true value.

“Literature serves as a great documentation of the many cultures, attitudes, beliefs, values, customs, and thought processes that make up humanity,” Mrs. Brown said. “Learning to recognize the beauty and necessity in the most simplistic or the most challenging literary piece is such a gift that I hope I am able to provide for my students.”

About Kaelei Whitlatch
Hi, I'm Kaelei and I'm a senior at Southmoreland. I'm a member of National Honor Society, Tri-M Music Honor Society, Concert Band, Show Choir, Highlander Choir, Musical Arts, Music Theatre club, The Future is Mine, Random Acts of Kindness, Yearbook Club, and Journalism. I love to play clarinet, write, and perform on stage. I hope to pursue Communications/Journalism in the future.

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