Class Act: English teacher Kyle Dennan


Theo Sanders

Dennan appreciates the Upper School’s small class size, which allows him to connect with his students more.

Megan Chang, Staff Writer

“Class Act” is The Review’s annual series that covers new Upper School faculty members. 

When English teacher Kyle Dennan first enrolled in college, teaching was the last thing on his mind.

Near the end of his time at the University of Alabama, Dennan worked for a small press-Slash Pine Press-that published high school students’ small poetry works. Only when presented with the opportunity to work with students for the Poetry Out Loud competition did Dennan discover that teaching was something he wanted to pursue.

Always a voracious reader, Dennan knew that he wanted to major in English. He remembered growing up close to a library and carrying as many books home as he could possibly hold.

TeachNOLA, a program similar to Teach for America, gave Dennan his first job as an English teacher at West Jefferson High School in Harvey, LA.

“I have this vivid memory of an early class, the moment when students just understood something for the first time, of something clicking,” Dennan said. “That was pretty memorable.”

West Jefferson High School is a Title One school where the students receive complimentary lunches. Teaching financially disadvantaged students allowed Dennan to appreciate the education that he received growing up in Alabama, as he attended a “very nice public magnet school.” Only there did he realize the problems lower-income students face when trying to receive a quality education, feeling humbled and grateful to teach at a low income, high-needs public school.

Dennan values establishing a strong connection between the teacher and student. According to Dennan, teaching a class with 35 students at a large public school inhibited this creation of a strong bond.

“It’s like trying to control a crowd,” Dennan said. “You don’t necessarily get to know the students as well as you would in a private school.”

His experience at West Jefferson High School reinforced his desire to work at a private school with smaller classes. Working with only 15 students per class at St. John’s School, Dennan has a better opportunity to assess their level of understanding. Striving to personally connect with his students, Dennan hopes that they learn that the humanities should be an integral part of life and not just a subject that they study in school and leave behind.

“He makes the class an interesting environment and comes up with new ways to do workshops and lessons,” freshman Elizabeth Schaefer said. “The students feel comfortable around Mr. Dennan, and that’s a good trait for a teacher to have.”

A recruiter from Carney Sandoe and Associates referred Dennan to St. John’s, where he immediately felt welcomed.

“If we were going to score him on his entrance to our department, he would get an absolute 100,” Head of the English Department Rachel Weissenstein said. “He has been diligent, curious, and enthusiastic — all good things.”

According to Dennan, St. John’s was an immediate fit: “It’s been a great transition, and I’m just really happy to be here.”