Upper School Courses

Academic Departments


In Upper School English at St. Stephen’s, a passionate faculty of master teachers guides students through a diverse selection of texts from various literary traditions in order to create critical thinkers, close readers and confident writers. Students engage daily in dynamic discussions in a small, intimate classroom environment. Instructors provide individualized feedback on a variety of assignments, including literary analysis, digital writing and creative projects. Students master the principles of argumentation through individual and collaborative assignments, and they gain mastery of the mechanics and style of effective writing through twice-a-year, focused grammar units.
  • English 9

    The English 9 classroom at St. Stephen’s is full of students from different schools, states and countries, all together for the first time. In the fall term, we work towards establishing a common vocabulary of literary analysis. Throughout the year, we cultivate insightful readers through diverse foundational texts, including “The Odyssey” and “Frankenstein,” as well as works by Sandra Cisneros and Shakespeare. Our students develop fluency in different writing styles, from analytical writing to creative nonfiction. We end the course with an in-depth literary analysis of Zora Neale Hurston’s “Their Eyes Were Watching God” and a student-driven creative project based on any text from the 9th-grade year. Our goal is for students to leave 9th grade confident in their reading and writing skills and in their capacity to think critically and empathetically about new perspectives.

    1 credit
  • English 10

    English 10 is designed to help students think more creatively, write more boldly and detect more nuance across a variety of texts and genres. While we cover a range of English literary classics, such as “Beowulf,” “Wuthering Heights” and William Blake’s poetry, most are paired with contemporary works in order to deepen context and underscore the universal nature of human experience. We also include a study of a graphic novel or illustrated novel to give students practice in exploring the relationship between words, images and design. Each term is unified by an overarching theme, such as Gender and Power, Love and Risk, or Disillusioned Youth, and these themes promote proficiency in both single and comparative textual study. Comparison assignments are frequent and help build students’ critical-thinking skills by asking them to navigate multiple texts. Students produce work in a variety of modes, including literary analysis, journaling, creative writing and public speaking. Writing instruction expands on skills introduced during English 9, focusing on mastery of the thesis statement and developing a more sophisticated execution of organization.

    1 credit
  • English 11

    In English 11, we focus on American literature and the importance of style and argumentation in poetry, prose and students’ own work. We investigate American narratives from the Harlem Renaissance to contemporary classics, and students work towards analytical mastery of written texts as well as digital and visual media. Students read and make connections between texts as far ranging as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” Nella Larsen’s “Passing,” Justin Torres’ “We the Animals,” William Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying,” Jesmyn Ward’s “Salvage the Bones” and Mike Nichols’ “The Graduate,” as well as classic and modern American poetry. In spring term, we explore Shakespeare’s famous revenge tragedy, “Hamlet,” and finish the year with shorter fiction, culminating in the summative Short Story Project. This assignment, which asks students to be more independent and rhetorically sophisticated in their writing, prepares them for the capstone 12th-grade Novel Project. Students leave English 11 as skilled and confident readers and writers, which is why 12th-grade year is devoted to college-level experiences of electives and individual study.

    1 credit
  • English 12

    English 12 is the crown jewel of Upper School English in which 12th-grade students experience college-level practices and inquiry through focused electives, as well as a full term of independent study. In the fall and winter terms, students choose from a rich offering of electives that in the past have included Evolutionary Biology and Fiction, Modernism, Captivity Narratives, the Harlem Renaissance, the Anti-Hero, Literacy in the Postmodern Age, the Graphic Novel, Gender and Performance, Foreign Cinema, and Postcolonial Theory. Spring term is devoted to the Novel Project, an independent, online-portfolio assignment that presents literary analysis paired with student-generated media. Each student builds their own reading list of three novels and one alternative text (film, non-fiction, poetry, graphic novel, etc.). Students then spend the spring term researching, writing and designing their websites. The project is crafted to give students the independence to design their own course of study and the guidance to pursue interdisciplinary scholarship. Moreover, this final term of independent study gives them real experience with the time-management challenges that they will face in college.

    1 credit
  • Introduction to Creative Writing

    Introduction to Creative Writing is an elective designed to explore the form and theory of writing in the genres of fiction, poetry, playwriting and creative non-fiction. Students will have the opportunity to read published works by authors of renown and of diverse backgrounds, and discuss/deconstruct them from a “craft perspective.” On a weekly basis, students will complete small, fun writing exercises designed to help them generate their own content and develop specific craft-related skills (e.g., meter, characterization and plot). Finally, students will produce sustained works of prose or poetry or a mix of both and offer them to be workshopped by members of the class. This introductory course aspires to welcome the emerging writer into a “writer’s room” where the structures of creative writing are decoded, where strangers become lifelong cheerleaders of their creative work, and where the act of writing can be used as a tool of empowerment.

    1/2 credit
  • Adv. Writing: Writing Across Genres

    This yearlong elective, designed for the true student-writer, builds upon the writing skills developed in Introduction to Creative Writing and aims to give students more sophisticated practice in writing in different forms and deeper engagement in a constructive writing community. Each term will be devoted to different genres: short fiction in the fall term; creative non-fiction and poetry in the winter term; and personal essays and op-eds in the spring term. During each term, students will read and discuss a rich variety of examples and then craft several pieces of their own. Most importantly, through instruction and workshopping, students will fully engage in the art of revision. By the end of the year, students will produce portfolios of their work (one fully developed piece of each genre) and meet the goal of submitting at least two revised pieces for publication.

    Prerequisite: successful completion of “Introduction to Creative Writing” or departmental approval based on the submission of extracurricular writing sample(s). 
    1 credit
  • Transitional English

    Transitional English is a one-year course designed to help advanced English Language Learners (ELLs) reinforce skills in the areas of reading, writing, speaking and listening. The goal is to familiarize international students new to St. Stephen’s with the type of close-reading and literary-analysis skills that will be expected of them in their mainstream English classes. Students read many of the texts used in the mainstream curriculum, but at a slower pace with more time devoted to comprehension and grammar instruction geared specifically toward ELLs. Historical, cultural and biographical context are provided for each text. Transitional English involves writing assignments in a variety of modes, including literary analysis, personal narrative, persuasive writing, and opportunities for creative writing and public speaking. There are two sections of the class: one for incoming 8th and 9th graders and one for incoming 10th graders. Transitional English students benefit from a multisensory pedagogical approach, smaller class sizes, individualized writing support and the opportunity to engage in a comprehensive revision process for every assignment.

    1 credit

Upper School Faculty

  • Photo of Andy Aceves
    Andy Aceves
    English Instructor
    Texas State University - M.F.A.
    Trinity University - B.S.
  • Photo of Grant Brennon
    Grant Brennon
    Transitional English Instructor and International Program Assistant
    University of Johannesburg, South Africa - B.A.
  • Photo of Malcolm Friend
    Malcolm Friend
    English Instructor
    University of Pittsburgh - M.F.A.
    Vanderbilt University - B.A.
  • Photo of Ben Hines
    Ben Hines
    English Instructor
    Pomona College - B.A.
    Middlbury College - M.A.
  • Photo of Colleen Hynes
    Colleen Hynes
    English Instructor
    The University of Texas at Austin - Ph.D.
    The University of Texas at Austin - M.A.
    Indiana University - B.S.
  • Photo of Gabrielle Rajerison
    Gabrielle Rajerison
    English Instructor
    University of Texas at Austin - M.F.A.
    University of Pittsburgh - M.A.
    Knox College - B.A.
  • Photo of Cordelia Ross
    Cordelia Ross
    English Instructor
    University of California, Davis - Ph.D.
    University of Chicago - M.A.
    Dartmouth College - B.A.
  • Photo of Aaron Snyder
    Aaron Snyder
    English Teacher
    Columbia University - M.Ed.
    Middlebury College - M.A.
    Princeton University - B.A.
  • Photo of Henry Tschurr
    Henry Tschurr
    English Instructor
    University of Virginia - M.A.
    University of Texas at Austin - B.A.
  • Photo of Jenneken van Keppel
    Jenneken van Keppel
    English Instructor
    University of Texas at Austin - Ph.D.
    University of Texas at Austin - M.A.
    Miami University - B.Ph.
Address: 6500 St. Stephen's Dr., Austin, TX 78746
Phone: (512) 327-1213