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Testimonials MCHS Graduates Reflect on Their English Experience

  • "When I was assigned to write my first essay in college, I immediately knew where to begin — during my four years at Maria Carrillo, I developed the strong foundation that helped make this possible.  From learning to think analytically to dissect and extract meaning from each and every sentence of a passage, I experienced the most growth and transformation in my English classes.  MCHS English teachers not only prepared me well in forming the building blocks for college essay-writing, but also enhanced my communication skills by actively encouraging in-class discussion. I still remember the conversations in my AP classes in which the entire class would eagerly dive in, hands flying into the air, each student volunteering new ideas—whether it was about Dostoyevsky’s presentation of the übermensch in Crime and Punishment, or the compromise between privacy and security regarding government surveillance of public spaces. In college, I continue to use these skills on a daily basis, gathering and articulating my thoughts with ease. Overall, the English classes at Maria Carrillo have proved to be immensely rewarding learning experiences."

Emily Lu

MCHS class of 2017

Harvard University class of 2021

  • “Without fail, every year I was at MCHS, my English class was my favorite. The teachers there have a passion for the subject that can't help but spread to the students, so we didn't just learn how to analyze a text, but how to appreciate and love all styles of writing.”

Katy Coomes

MCHS class of 2013

University of California, San Diego class of 2017

  • "MCHS has such a great English department that pushed and inspired me throughout high school and prepared me for college level courses. In my first chemistry class, the professor made it a point that it would be “a lot of reasoning and writing to explain the math,” and MCHS's English classes especially helped me develop the ability to think critically for a range of different subjects. The English classes at Carrillo were where I learned the most about my peers and have the most memories from. I also always enjoyed the philosophical discussions we would have in AP Literature and felt that analyzing the various literary characters as well as their moral conflicts allowed me to grow as a person."

Rhea Sheth

MCHS Class of 2017

University of California, Berkeley class of 2021

  • "Maria Carrillo High School's English department doesn't simply "teach kids to read and write well" - I graduated with a reinvigorated ability to analyze literature, create meaningful prose, and appreciate all aspects of the English language. This phenomenal group of teachers encourages students to participate in active discussions, discover an interest in the classics, and challenge themselves to become better scholars."

Sunny Chen

MCHS class of 2011

University of California, Berkeley class of 2014

  • "As I reflect on my formative years of high school, I realize now how important the English department at Carrillo has been to my personal development. My English teachers provided the foundation that I use everyday to communicate efficiently and effectively. The curriculum was challenging, and I learned how to read everything from Pride and Prejudice to Crime and Punishment with a critical eye. Every single English teacher I had prepared me well for the critical reading and writing skills that I've successfully applied to standardized exams, college applications, and undergraduate/medical school assignments. One of my teachers went above and beyond during senior year by meeting with me over the weekends to edit college application essays together. I can't thank these teachers enough for their dedication to me and to all of their students. Our community is lucky to have Carrillo's English department."

Carol Shi

MCHS class of 2014

Brown University class of 2018

M.D. Candidate, class of 2022

  • "The MCHS English program challenged and taught me how to think critically--a skill I have taken beyond MCHS and used while writing personal statements for Grants, proposals for Public Health, and research papers for Math."

Jessica Conrad

MCHS class of 2014

Tulane University class of 2016

  • "I moved to Santa Rosa halfway through high school and the English department helped me feel right at home. The AP Lang and Lit teachers were some of the most inspiring, eye-opening teachers of my high-school and college career. The level of discussions that they encouraged us to reach challenged us to grow as writers, speakers, and thinkers every day. Never did I feel that my voice was as included and valued as in my English classes at MCHS. Also, now that I have spent a couple of years in college, I realize that my MCHS English classes were the greatest college preparation, and the material and skills I learned helped me feel very confident in all of my college classes."

Ellie Knebel

MCHS class of 2016

University of Oregon class of 2020

  • "What I learned in my English classes at Maria Carrillo has served as my foundation in all aspects of my education. Whether it's physics or culinary, stats or theater, the ability to write persuasively and think critically is essential to any field of study. Carrillo's English classes not only succeed in teaching these skills, but also provide nurturing, supportive communities in which students are allowed to learn from their peers and explore their own capacity for creativity."

Laurel McCaull

MCHS class of 2014

Harvard University class of 2018

  • "As I reflect on my time at MCHS, the English department stands out as having taught me foundational skills that I will use throughout my education. My teachers instilled in me a passion for reading and writing, something that I will always carry with me. Throughout my four years, I learned how to analyze critically, scrutinize details, and think creatively. My teachers exposed me to a variety of texts, from poetry to Russian literature to short stories; as a result, I have developed a deep appreciation for the beauty and power of the English language. Moreover, I have found myself extraordinarily prepared for the rigor of college courses—both science and liberal arts. Providing both an entertaining and supportive atmosphere, my teachers challenged me to become a better reader, writer, and overall scholar, and I am forever grateful."

Samantha Perry

MCHS class of 2015

Tulane University class of 2019

  • "The English classes offered at MCHS are entertaining, stimulating, and remain the favorite part of my high school experience. The classes are by no means unmanageable, and in fact, the perfect preparation for any student who wants to continue education after high school. Not only did the classes help me become a better and more confident student and writer, but the insights and skills I gained from my instructors are the ones to which I attribute my success while in college." 

Myriah Smith 

MCHS class of 2013 

University of California, Davis, class of 2016  

  • "Without a doubt, the MCHS English Department housed my favorite and most influential courses during High School. Naturally, I only realized this retrospectively, as my I started to miss dissecting literature classics and breaking a complex narrative down to its simplest moving parts when I began my science-heavy coursework in college. However, I started to find that the tools given to me by the teaching staff in the department (unbeknownst to me at the time) were critical for any academic endeavor I approached. The ability to think critically and analyze quickly for content is incredibly helpful, and the ability to do the reverse by composing an eloquent and well supported argument has helped me just as much. This has in turn renewed my passion for literature, as I find myself reading again for fun. And I’m not talking about spark notes. Real books."  

Daven Crossland

MCHS Class of 2016

Pitzer College Class of 2020

  • "The skills I have learned in my English classes at Maria Carrillo have been instrumental in every aspect of my education and professional experience. I have not only come away with an advanced foundation for critical thinking and analysis, but the ability to do so efficiently. That is vital in every field of study and highly valued in any industry. Whether its composing a detailed assessment of the literature in a general education class, composing business letters and investment reports at a summer internship, or drafting a 60-page economic policy paper, the skills that the MCHS English department provides its students are versatile and invaluable."

Catherine Liang 

MCHS Class of 2017

University of Southern California Class of 2021

  • “I've found that a standout teacher makes all the difference, regardless of subject. At MCHS, I was lucky to study English with one of the most brilliant teachers I've ever had. He helped me improve in my ability to analyze text and clearly develop an argument, applicable skills in any context. More than that, I began to see literature as beautiful stories that reflect all the aspects of the human condition. Those are the main things I take away from my MCHS English experience.”

Kyle Lin

Maria Carrillo High School, Class of 2014

Brown University, Class of 2018

  • “One of the major highlights of my experience at MCHS was the English courses I took. I was in Honors and AP English classes but also noticed fun, engaging projects that Academic classes did. I learned about debate and rhetoric by studying old famous speeches. I enjoyed practicing the art of writing satire and laughed my way through outrageous satirical reading assignments. My AP Literature class would read through Shakespeare plays in as if we were acting them out. Freshman English classes actually performed a Shakespeare play for all the other English classes every year. We studied English composition and literature as they related to major historical eras and events, which made our readings and written responses so much more interesting and relative to our present day lives. Poetry month for the senior class was a blast. Every student produces poetry and we read each others’. During that month we also study current poets, whose work we could actually grasp and appreciate. At the end of poetry month, the entire senior class gets to together to listen to the volunteers who want to recite their own poetry. I learned essential skills of writing, reading, public speaking that I use every day now as a teacher. I also learned how to be creative, reflective, listen to others, and to truly enjoy learning. Thank you MCHS!”

Adrienne Borders

MCHS class of 2010

UC Santa Cruz class of 2014

  • “I count the AP English classes I took at MCHS as among the most stimulating educational experiences I've had; the strength of the program is the teachers' capacity to inspire and engage their students.  From them I learned to write like a mature, critically-thinking adult--a skill which has benefited me greatly in the time since graduation.  Moreover, I will always be personally grateful for the way our curriculum was designed. Some of the books and authors I was exposed to in these classes have become all-time favorites and remain continual sources of enjoyment and learning. I consider myself lucky to have learned from the teachers I had, but I heard enthusiastic praise from friends for the teachers they had as well.”

Gianni Glick

MCHS class of 2010

University of California, Berkeley 2014

  • My life and educational experience has been deeply impacted by MCHS. The courses I took at MCHS inform my own teaching every day. Now that I am an English teacher myself, I realize how well-rounded, creative, and enjoyable my MCHS classes were. I am very proud to say that I was educated at Carrillo, and am confident in my mission to continue to pass on the educational values and rigor that the MCHS English Dept. instilled in me to my own students.”

Taylor Pennewell

MCHS class of 2010

University of San Francisco class of 2014

  • "Whether studying works by Orwell, Wilde, or Márquez, MCHS students gain deeper insight into the human experience and emerge as stronger writers and more powerful analytical thinkers. As a Molecular Biology major at UC Berkeley, I have seen the enormous need for strong research and writing skills. In my Immunology classes many students were overwhelmed when they had to analyze an academic publication. In the UC Berkeley genetics lab where I am a Research Assistant, my critical thinking and writing training is important. MCHS English students also learn about various historical periods and cultures which can help them navigate our increasing globalized world. I credit the success of the MCHS English curriculum to the dedication of its teachers."

Daniel Rosenthal

MCHS Class of 2015

University of California, Berkeley Class of 2019

  • “My experience in Maria Carrillo’s English Department inspired a joy for storytelling. Instruction reached beyond the curricular constraints placed upon teachers by AP and standardized tests, and approached literature in interactive and creative ways. After graduating from Carrillo in 2010, I felt fully prepared for humanities courses in college, and ended up earning an English degree with an emphasis in creative writing prose from Stanford University. I am now earning my master’s degree in Journalism at Stanford.

Austin Meyer

MCHS class of 2010

Stanford class of 2014

  • “I am by no means an English major. However, whether I'm analyzing a Buddhist text, composing a formal Chemistry lab write-up, or drafting a Public Health needs assessment, to feel confident and at ease in my reading and writing skills is something I thank Carrillo for regularly. I am proud of the skills I acquired from my AP/Honors English classes; I was incredibly prepared coming into college, and taking them has been worth every minute of any stress or challenging assignments I experienced.”

Emily Ham

MCHS class of 2012

Tulane University class of 2016

  • “Through the MCHS English department I not only learned the necessary basics to become a competent and successful college student, I also learned good habits that allow me to learn quickly, efficiently, and thoroughly. I now serve as an undergraduate teaching assistant and find myself repeating the skills and tricks I learned in high school English to my students, many of whom never learned them. I am grateful for everything I learned at MCHS in English.”

Emma Doolittle

MCHS class of 2013

University of San Diego class of 2017

  • Recently, while reading a book for a politics course, I was reminded of a class conversation we had in my MCHS senior English class about Shakespeare’s Hamlet. This was just one of the many things I learned in Carrillo English classes that I have been able to use at Harvard. I've found myself re-reading many of the books we read in high school, while my classmates here are reading those texts for the first time. I was lucky to experience Carrillo’s English program, with its high level of enthusiasm, personal engagement, challenge, and reward, and I could not recommend it more highly to prospective students.

Gabe Gladstein

MCHS class of 2013

Harvard University class of 2017 

  • "Whether I was ripping through the pages of a Dostoyevsky classic or arguing the meaning of a parenthesis in an e. e. cummings poem, my time spent in MCHS English classrooms proved to be valuable and impossible to replicate. Fictional novels, slam poetry, and literary critiques filled my classmates' and my world with adventure, questions, answers, and new questions. These classes were one of the biggest influences upon my later developed academic and personal interests. In addition, my teachers proved to be excellent instructors, mentors, and friends."  

Tressa Thomas 

MCHS class of 2013

University of Washington class of 2017

  • “As a student at MCHS, I would look forward to the days that I had my English classes. My teachers were perceptive, patient, and kind, helping me develop my own voice as a writer, as well as kindling my passion for the written word.”

Michelle Miller

MCHS Class of 2014

Oregon State University Class of 2018

  • “The MCHS English program was one of the highlights of my high school experience. From freshman to senior year, we as students read engaging texts and wrestled with intellectually challenging concepts and themes. My writing, reading, and critical thinking skills grew exponentially and I was more than prepared for my transition into college. I highly encourage students to take advantage of this amazing program.”

Amanda Kraley

MCHS class of 2013

Boston University class of 2017

  • "My time at Maria Carrillo High School definitely prepared me to continue my education at UC Berkeley. The rigorous class work and excellent instruction that I received at MCHS ensured that I didn't feel out of my depth at college and allowed me to academically thrive. Along with the excellent academic environment, those four years were filled with a myriad of great memories and where I made some of my greatest friends. I will always look fondly on my years spent there."

Kelly McCabe 

MCHS Class of 2012

UC Berkeley Class of 2017

  • "The English courses I took throughout my four years at MCHS challenged me to read, write, and think critically and independently. I have found that the ability to articulate my ideas and analyze the ideas of others is necessary in all of my college courses, and I am grateful that my experiences at MCHS prepared me to succeed in doing so." 

Molly Edgar

MCHS Class of 2013

Santa Clara University Class of 2017

  • "Even though there were undoubtedly individual teachers that left profound and everlasting impressions in my life, I can say with confidence that as an entire department, Carrillo's English department made more of an impact in my life than any other during high school. At least in the four years in which I was at Carrillo, it was an absolute superstar line up that not only made sure I sounded and analyzed like a graduate student before I even arrived at the gates of Harvard, but was critical in even getting me there. I ran my high school personal statement by almost every member of that department and remain convinced that if I had not, I would not have gotten into as many or any of the Ivies I managed to get into. Even today, it is upon the foundation that the Carrillo English department laid that I continue to build A-grade essays in some of the most challenging tutorials at Harvard, personal statements that have gotten me accepted into various top 10 law schools, and a capstone senior thesis, expected to be awarded Latin honors." 

Shengxi Li

MCHS Class of 2011

Harvard Class of 2015

  • "I feel SO grateful for the profound learning and skill building I experienced at Carrillo, and going away to college solidified these feelings on a much deeper level. I really do feel the skills I learned in high school English (how to think critically, how to make an argument/write a meaningful thesis, how to annotate, how to edit and re-edit and edit again... etc.) enabled me to stand out amongst my college peers; I feel I owe much of my success in college to the fundamentals of writing I learned at Carrillo. I went from always feeling like one of the "worst" students in Carrillo AP classes, to feeling consistently like one of the strongest students in my college courses. I even became a writing tutor for college freshman, a job I never thought possible for myself. The point is, the immense challenge I felt at Carrillo completely prepared me for the greater challenges I faced at college. And to clarify, it wasn't just going away to college that made me appreciate Carrillo English, but during high school, too, I loved it so much. It was the one class I went to in which I felt an immense sense of community, where I knew I would get to discuss and write about topics that actually interested me, and where I could practice skills like critical thinking that would be useful for a lifetime. Yes, it was incredibly challenging, time consuming, intimidating, stressful...but I think that's just part of it. Carrillo English prepared me for the heavy work load and stresses of college, and gave me time-management and "planning ahead" skills to write papers thoughtfully and meaningfully."

Leah Pickar

MCHS Class of 2010

UC Santa Cruz Class of 2014

  • English classes at MCHS, in my experience, didn’t just teach me about grammar, or how to read Shakespeare, but more importantly taught me about how to think. In analysis and in writing, I learned its essential to learn the rules of grammar and syntax, but that these rules are merely the guidelines through which the more important skills of critical thinking and creativity work. Through the MCHS English classes, and through study of literature in various forms and from a plethora of time periods, I learned about and grew up with the characters and authors I studied in a way that allowed me to reflect on my own life and grow as both a thinker and a person. Even though now I’m well on my way to becoming a Mechanical Engineer, I still use the skills I learned throughout my English classes at MCHS each and everyday. Through my high school education in literature and English writing, I learned to look at and tackle problems from all angles and how to persevere through long and arduous tasks. Through these classes, I learned how essential it is to continue to grow and develop my critical thinking and questioning skills as I get older, so that I can continue to succeed in both my field of study and in life.

Madeline Dippel

MCHS class of 2013

UCSB class of 2017

  • I remember doing a college interview via Skype in early spring of my senior year in high school. I was sitting nervously in front of my computer, trying to anticipate questions and answer them as best as I could. One question that I had no trouble answering, however, was: “What is your favorite thing about your high school, and why?” I reflected on the previous three and a half years at MCHS, and what stood out immediately to me was the quality of English classes at Carrillo. Each year, I’d had a talented, perceptive, inspiring teacher who pushed me to be a better writer and thinker. Each teacher had a distinctive teaching style, but they shared a deep dedication to our success and progression. I am a far better writer today because of each of their efforts. I’m studying biological psychology now, but my English classes in high school are what I keep with me from Carrillo.

Brynna Thigpen

MCHS Class of 2013

UC Davis Class of 2017 - Biological Psychology (BS)