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The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

From student to colleague: Zeitlin joins MacFadden to teach great books

Rachael Wolfson
AP Literature teachers Melanie MacFadden and Adam Zeitlin go back a long way. MacFadden taught Zeitlin AP Literature at WJ in his senior year (2012-2013). Now teaching alongside each other, the two have become good friends.

In AP Literature, seniors read some challenging books, from Othello to King Lear to Tess of The D’Urbervilles. AP Literature teacher Melanie MacFadden, who has been teaching at WJ for 20 years, makes reading and studying such difficult texts fun for her students with the enthusiasm she brings into the classroom every day. Following in her footsteps, AP Literature teacher Adam Zeitlin, a former student of MacFadden’s, makes it a priority to make learning enjoyable in his classroom.

MacFadden taught Zeitlin AP Literature during his senior year in 2012-2013 at WJ. Zeitlin began as a long-term English substitute at Kennedy and Einstein High School before he landed at WJ five years ago. As a Physics major, Zeitlin originally taught Physics at WJ before he decided to teach AP Literature two years ago. Zeitin recalls well the fond memories he had as one of MacFadden’s students.

“I liked how she created a really positive atmosphere all the time. She was really humorous and funny but it was always with seriousness as it related to the course material … The content … was always pretty deep and complex and interesting as a result,” Zeitlin said.

MacFadden especially enjoyed teaching Zeitlin as a student. “It’s wonderful. You have students that you . . . get along with just because of their personality type and all of that. So he was one of those students. So I certainly remembered him. I liked his sense of humor and his disposition,” MacFadden said.

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Zeitlin had always had a passion for literature and teaching. MacFadden’s class further advanced his interest in these areas.

“Her class helped me enjoy learning more about literature, writing and poetry. I enjoyed that before and after her class so it was another push in that direction even though it didn’t come into fruition until much later,” Zeitlin said.

MacFadden mentored Zeitlin through long-term substituting and teaching when he first started working in schools. As co-workers now, MacFadden feels inspired by his passion and dedication to the job.

“Working with him in the same department [has] been absolutely wonderful. It’s been one of the most fun and enjoyable experiences of my teaching career. It’s fun to see him growing into that, especially coming from a different field. So working with him on his mastery of these texts and teaching English has just been really exciting and really inspiring to see how much he enjoys it,” MacFadden said.

This is just one of many things that MacFadden enjoys about her job. MacFadden’s excitement for the course’s material can be seen by her teaching approach. As an extrovert, MacFadden “just enjoys being around people,” as well as working with high schoolers specifically.

“Being able to work with you guys and seeing … you guys understand something, or appreciate something, or enjoy something and have those connections [is great],” MacFadden said when describing her favorite aspect about teaching.

MacFadden truly enjoys the interactions that accompany being a teacher. One of MacFadden’s fun traditions is to share with students what national day it is. Do you know what day today is? Well, MacFadden could provide you with multiple answers almost immediately. She informed her classes that Feb. 20 was “love your pet” day and “comfy” day as a sort of warm-up to get the class energized and chatty.

In addition to being fun, MacFadden is a dedicated teacher who promotes reading and comprehension skills among her students. “The goal is not to do well on the exam. The goal is for you to increase your critical thinking skills and to apply things we do whether it’s in college or whatever avenue you pursue,” MacFadden said.

MacFadden thoroughly enjoys the content she teaches. She appreciates that some of the works she teaches, like Their Eyes Were Watching God, give “voices to marginalized people [and groups].” While Tess of The D’Urbervilles is a long and challenging read, she hopes students can find ways to relate to Thomas Hardy’s message of “changing” and “improving” society.

“I really do like and enjoy the majority of the things that I teach that we work on together,” MacFadden said. “…a couple of the pieces, I value them because of the skills that you learn from them, and how you can apply them to another piece that you’re going to read. A lot of these books are really hard and really complex…so when [the students] are understanding them, that’s fun for me.”

This engagement and enjoyment among students that MacFadden fosters in her classroom is something that Zeitlin emulates as a teacher now.

“Making it funnier and light-hearted even when it is serious content [is important] because I really enjoy the things we’re learning. I can have fun with it. And if you really enjoy learning something you can have fun with it too,” Zeitlin said. “That’s the best way to learn something as opposed to feeling like you’re forced to get this information into your head and it’s not as interesting or engaging. So I definitely want to take that from [MacFadden].”

Zeitlin is very grateful to be teaching with MacFadden, although it was an adjustment at first for him to transition from being a student of hers to becoming fellow co-workers.

“At first it’s a little weird because it still feels like you’re a student. But after a year or two as a teacher, you have more memories as a teacher than as a student so it becomes more like they’re more my colleague than my teacher. Also, calling them by their first name helps, weird at first,” Zeitlin said.

Through their shared passion for literature and teaching, MacFadden and Zeitlin have become good friends.

At the end of each school year after graduation, MacFadden and Zeitlin talk about the year over a meal. “We’re good friends,” Zeitlin said.

“It’s kind of that thing where you have school mom and work mom so I would consider it kind of like that dynamic in some ways but [we’re] also peers. He’s also my friend,” MacFadden said.

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Sophie Linkie
Sophie Linkie, Online Opinion Editor
Senior Sophie Linkie is excited to do her first year with the Pitch as an Opinion Editor. In addition to her interest in journalism, Sophie enjoys swimming, nature, and loves dogs.
Rachael Wolfson
Rachael Wolfson, Print Editor-in-Chief
Rachael Wolfson is currently a senior and this is her third year on The Pitch. During her first two years, Rachael was a Print Opinion Editor and now she is a Print Editor-in-Chief. In addition to The Pitch, Rachael runs on the cross country and track team. She's also the Co-Founder and Co-President of The WJ Gilmore Girls Club. Her two older brothers (Thomas '20 and Alexander '22) also served as Print Editors-in-Chief when they were Wildcats/Madcows (take your pick). Rachael is looking forward to ending the Wolfson Dynasty (2017-2024) on a high note!! 
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