Mrs. Garfunkel: The New Face of AP Language!

Having taught Regents-level English classes for over 20 years, English teacher Jill Garfunkel has always been a friendly face in the halls of LHS. Considering this, it is not surprising that Garfunkel now fills the role of AP Language teacher, following former English teacher Carla Gentile’s retirement at the end of last school year.  

Garfunkel has been diligently preparing for the role since she learned she was taking over the position in the middle of last school year. “I started sitting in and observing Mrs. Gentile’s classes, trying to gauge the different needs that an AP classroom might need as opposed to a Regents level,” she explained. “I am in love with the process of learning, so this new task has been very exciting for me. I have also met on numerous occasions with Mrs. Gentile to discuss the goals and challenges of teaching the course.”

During the summer, Garfunkel used her free time to prepare for the rigorous AP course, studying a variety of teaching techniques and becoming familiar with the curriculum. “I have been preparing by joining many online forums that are available to help facilitate teaching and learning with other AP English Language teachers from all across the country,” she said. She has also been “gathering appropriate resources from the AP College Board” in addition to taking practice AP exams herself in an effort to “find patterns in the types of questions that seem to be most common.” 

Garfunkel’s students feel that her comprehensive preparation has paid off so far, with juniors Elena McDonald and Kerry Cullen attesting to the positive nature of the class. “I enjoy the class conversations the most. I feel so much more knowledgeable after those conversations,” McDonald said. Cullen commented on all of the “interesting assignments” Garfunkel has given so far, specifically on an annotation assignment where students would annotate their favorite song or favorite page from a book. “Things like this really make what she is teaching more interesting and easier to understand,” Cullen said. 

Both McDonald and Cullen expressed enthusiasm for the literature that will be discussed in Garfunkel’s class. “I am super excited to read The Great Gatsby because I love that time period,” McDonald said. “In her ‘Welcome to Class’ syllabus that she gave out on the first day, there were many books I had planned on trying to read. I am very excited to read and analyze them.” 

Garfunkel is also excited to make the AP curriculum her own: “I am trying to take what has worked in previous years and add my own materials and flair.” For example, Gentile previously utilized the “Gentictionary” program to help students learn vocabulary words. Garfunkel, however, plans to “[teach] vocabulary differently than in years past” while ensuring new words are “still being taught daily.” Additionally, Garfunkel added, “I am choosing my own pieces of texts that my students may find interesting as I get to know them.”

So far, Garfunkel has enjoyed teaching AP Language, saying that “the planning part has been the most fun” because she “love[s] the challenge of creatively teaching” while preparing for the AP exam, Regents exam, and SAT. “Let’s not forget,” she added, “to foster a general love and appreciation for the written word.”