New Elective Opportunity to Help Students Discover Themselves


Jace O'Barto, Editor-in-Chief

Today’s society tends to have a negative stigma with young adults, especially those in high school, discovering themselves and being comfortable in their own skin. One Greater Latrobe teacher is hoping to break down those barriers with a new elective english course titled Who Am I? Discovering Ourselves in Books. 

With all of the recent changes to the Greater Latrobe Senior High School schedule over the past few years, some teachers were also presented with the opportunity to create an elective for students to take. That’s when 9th grade English teacher, Mrs. Skala, knew that this class would be a natural fit and accepted the opportunity.

Skala got the green light to create a course of her own and that’s when the  class, Who Am I? Discovering Ourselves in Books was born. She said, “I love reading Young Adult literature, and I deliberately try to purchase diverse books for my classroom library so that my students can learn about experiences and challenges that they may not consider otherwise. Since I have such an interest in reading and discussing books and how they can reflect who we are, I was very excited when Mr. Mains gave me the opportunity to create an elective around that idea.”

This semester long course gives students the opportunity to read and discuss literature that opens their eyes to an array of life experiences that they would not normally explore to, in turn, help shape their identities as high school teenagers. “Recent studies have shown that reading fiction builds empathy, and although school typically focuses on specific skills and content that students need to know to move to the next level in their education, a strong sense of empathy is essential. I also think it’s really important for students to express themselves in a positive way,” said Skala.

She plans to guide the 9th and 10th graders to explore different units of study that apply to their developmental age. 

IDENTITY: Teenagers always struggle with identity.  How is identity formed? How can identity change over time

Other topics to explore include being a teen, mental and physical well-being, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, and culture, and sexual identity. In order to get a better understanding of these topics students will read a variety of fiction and nonfiction literature, dive deep into poems to understand their true meaning, and watch and discuss TED Talks and short films.

By the end of the semester, Skala plans to have each student do a final presentation titled Part of Who I Am, which would allow the students to take what they have learned over the past 18 weeks and compile it into a presentation on what makes them unique. 

Skala has high hopes for this class and hopes that many students will take advantage of this exceptional opportunity to help discover themselves. She said, “In this new class, I hope that students will be able to understand how a person’s identity is shaped and changes over time, that they will be able to see aspects of themselves in the selections that we read and discuss, and that they will learn more about the experiences of others.”

This course is open to only 9th and 10th grade students. Guidance counselors will share information on how to schedule for the class during scheduling appointments for the 2020-2021 school year.