The late British academic, politician and historian James Bryce who once said, “The worth of a book is to be measured by what you carry away from it,” likely would approve of Pam Calaway’s passionate efforts to teach students at Iowa Christian Academy (ICA) in West Des Moines about the importance of reading and interpreting literature.
“I want my students to enjoy literature and to understand what it means to them,” says Calaway. “I will accept any reasonable assertion about what they read as long as they can back it up.”
Now in her fourth year as an English teacher at ICA, Calaway has plenty of opportunities to enlighten students about the importance of critical reading and clear writing. She teaches American, British and Advanced Placement literature classes to freshmen, sophomore and junior students as well as composition and psychology. She also serves as a student council adviser and 11th grade sponsor.
“I never get bored with my work,” she says.
Calaway’s enthusiasm for reading and writing is palpable, and her students say that it is infectious. When teaching English to freshmen students this year, for example, Calaway will cover a variety of writing forms ranging from short stories and poetry to drama and novels. Her assignments often exceed mere book reports and quizzes, to the point that students participate in role playing and hands-on activities to better understand what they are reading.
“This is a fun age to teach, and the kids love the literature that we cover,” she says, noting classic titles such as “Romeo and Juliet,” “Animal Farm” and “Treasure Island.” “I encourage them to find a genre that they enjoy so that they will read more and understand its importance in their lives.”