Ann Arbor News - May 24, 2001

"Atypical approach designed to motive."

By Mike Brownfield, News Staff Reporter 05/24/2001

Huron High School English teacher looks for creative ways to help students relate to learning. 

With a montage of Rock ‘n’ roll posters on the wall, a flower-print couch in the corner and 20 kids spending Sundays in class, Huron High School’s Intensive English Seminar is anything but typical. 

“Everything about this class is different than every other class,” said Patrick Commiskey, 17, a student in the junior-year seminar. 

The difference is due to the instructor, Ryan Goble, 25, who speaks to students in their language and uses pop culture to teach literature and entrepreneurship. 

“If kids are going to spend their time in front of MTV, Nintendo and movie theatres, we may as well show them how sophisticated some of those things can be,” Goble said.

Literature, entrepreneurship and pop culture merged for the students two weeks ago when the class hosted a genetics symposium in Huron’s auditorium. The symposium featured scientists, a poet and a historian from as far away as California. Students recruited the speakers, produced a video on the subject and raised money to fund the event. 

“(The symposium) is pretty much mixing genetics and pop culture and the way it will affect us in the future,” said Marta Galecki, 17. 

Sophomore Katelyn Baskin, 16, said the English seminar is more engaging than other classes. 

“It’s more like experiential learning rather than busy work,” Katelyn said. 

The symposium was not the student’s encounter with hands-on learning. 

During spring break, Goble and co-teacher Jennifer Boylan led the students to Los Angeles to learn from the likes of Spike Jonze, director of “ Being John Malkovich,” and actor Robin Williams. 

Before the trip, the class sent countless letters and faxes attempting to arrange meetings with Hollywood’s movers and shakers. For Ali Hussain, 17, the process was about attitude. 

“We had to think, We’re 20 high school students, we’ve done bigger than this, and we can get whatever we want,” he said. 

That kind of moxie opened doors on the West coast and helped the students raise $30,000 to pay for the trip. Because of the district’s budget constraints, the class had to find outside funding. 

In addition to dollars, space at Huron is limited. So, the class meets after school and on Sundays. 

Goble teaches the class in addition to his regular course load. He is not paid for his extra effort, but said he is happy to devote the time because his students are willing to dedicate themselves to learning. 

The students appreciate Goble’s efforts. 

“(Mr. Goble) becomes more of your big brother who gives advice rather than a teacher who just give worksheets and quizzes every day,” Ali said. 

While the class is a success, it’s future is uncertain. Constraints of time and money might prevent it from continuing. 

“It is really hard to do new and different things in public high schools.” Goble said. “ That’s no one’s fault. It’s just how the system is set up.”