A Look Inside: Grade 9 English Class Guest Speaker

Stacy Glaus

Each year, Breck students read and explore a variety of texts in their English classes. This spring, students in Grade 9 English spent time reading Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, written by Bryan Stevenson. The text allows the readers to explore themes of race and class and the impacts of policy decisions.

This year, despite the distance created by remote learning, Upper School English teacher Katherine Raths worked to find opportunities to explore these themes with her students. Raths, who is also a law student at Mitchell Hamline College of Law, invited one of her professors to speak to Grade 9 students.

"In an effort to make real-world connections to what is happening in Minnesota, we welcomed legal writing professor Sean Cahill to our class," explained Raths. Cahill is a prosecutor with the Hennepin County Attorney's Office and has served as both a trial and appellate attorney for the office, according to his bio. He currently works in the Special Litigation unit.

Students had the opportunity to ask Cahill questions, exploring the themes played out in the book Just Mercy, and how they relate to his experience in the Minnesota legal system, specifically for juveniles. Students asked thoughtful questions related to treatment of juveniles in the court system and the impacts of race, gender, and class.

Raths is committed to engaging learners and finding creative ways to connect in the classroom. But the real success to distance learning in her classroom, she shared, is because of her students. "Honestly, my students are the reason that distance learning is going well. They continue to engage, and it makes such a world of difference as a teacher."

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