Josephine Chu ’14

The following is an essay written by THS senior, Josephine Chu, for her college applications:

Classical literature would not have been my first choice in reading material. Many people have recommended classic novels to me in the past, but I never took the time to read them. I always believed them to be uninteresting and difficult to comprehend. All of that changed, however, when I was placed in Mr. Atkins’ “19th Century British Novels” class. Tall, old, and intimidating most with his thick, booming, British accent, Mr. Atkins had a reputation for being the toughest teacher. This not only made me nervous, but also led me to expect the worst. My misconceptions quickly disappeared, however, and gave way to my newfound love for his class. I loved the dimly lit room filled with old novels, the weird medley of music playing in the background, and the amazing selection of novels we read. Although these books were written many years ago, the characters experience love, hate, envy, treachery, and joy, just like all of us do today. I read Jane Eyre, Tess of the d’Urbervilles and many others, but my favorite by far was Wuthering Heights. However, the most memorable aspect of the class was Mr. Atkins. He engaged the class in heated discussions, gave life to characters with his insights, and brought entertainment with his humorous stories. He often told stories of his childhood in England and his experiences in art and theater. In addition, we also watched a variety of films, such as Howard’s End. While watching these movies, Mr. Atkins called our attention to different film techniques, sounds/lighting, and directorial choices. This was the first time I ever focused on something other than the plot; he taught me about all the other aspects that contribute to the outcome of the film. Before every paper, I would talk through my topic with him, and he would help me dig deeper into the characters and themes. If I was ever confused or unsure about something, I could always count on Mr. Atkins to explain it to me. He had a way of connecting with his students that I had never experienced with any of my other English teachers. By the end of the semester, I had learned much more about British novels than I had expected, improved as a writer, and was inspired to start reading again. When I was young, I was never without a book in my hands. I read everything from Dr. Seuss to Greek mythology. In middle school, however, I became too busy with other activities and I lost interest in books. Mr. Atkins’ charisma and enthusiasm for British novels revived my love for reading. After his class, I picked up reading again beginning with Gone with the Wind. His class marked a turning point in my intellectual development. He inspired me in countless ways to become a better reader and appreciate English literature, but most of all, it taught me how important a teacher is to the success of a student.