Throughout the hallways of Homewood High School, you are sure to hear sounds of excitement and laughter coming from the creative writing class of Amy Marchino. She illuminates the classroom with her funky personality, enrapturing her students as she teaches. She not only inspires them, but she also motivates them to find their own voices as writers. This all earned her the 2018 Teacher of the Year award at the high school. What is her secret? Well, keep reading and you might just find out.
Why did you choose to become a creative writing teacher?
Well logistically, when I got to Homewood High School in 2012, the teacher who had taught it before me was no longer going to be teaching it. Since I was a new teacher, they decided to give the position to me. I also teach 10th grade English, but teaching creative writing gives me the opportunity to not be tied down to a certain curriculum.
What do you get most excited about exposing your students to in the classroom?
Things that are relevant, but can connect to timeless classics. For instance, we read Hamilton in my classroom, which is the story of a founding father made it into a hip hop musical. As far as creative writing goes, I really try to keep my ear to the ground and listen to what students are talking about. What I expose my students to is driven by what they are going to be most interested in. For creative writing, I don’t teach things such as types of poetry or line meter or vocab. I just want my students to experience the words and feel like they can write. I think that sometimes if you get caught up in the curriculum and exposing to students what is “correct,” then they lose interest. I like to expose my students to their own voice.
Besides being teacher of the year, what would you consider to be your biggest accomplishment as a teacher?
Each year you have this clean slate, a clean whiteboard if you will, and you start with these students you don’t know at all. You don’t know if they’re gonna jive to what you’re putting down. When I first started, it was like “Alright, the circus is in Mrs. Marchino’s room.” But now I feel that my accomplishment has been settling into my own skin as a teacher, and I’m confident in the structure that I provide in the class. Some students buy into it and some don’t, but I have accomplished not taking that too personally.
If you weren’t a teacher, what would you be doing?
I would definitely be on SNL or I would have my own reality show. I kind of already do in my head. I would also be a sketch comedy actor or be in a Broadway musical somewhere.
When you aren’t busy teaching and inspiring students, what do you do in your free time?
Well, I’m a mother. This summer I have been learning a lot about the Marvel superheroes. I know a lot about Captain America. My kids and I like to play pretend at our house. I’m also currently into Downton Abbey even though I know I’m way behind the eight ball on that. I’ve been doing a lot of reading and going to the public library, constantly thinking, “Wow these books are free, man!” Stepping away from the classroom sometimes refuels me and makes me a better teacher and mother.