JBHS Recognizes Outstanding Writers

REDDING, CT, March 26 Jack Powers gave writing advice combined with encouragement and humor to a group of Joel Barlow juniors on Tuesday. Powers spoke at a special reception at Joel Barlow High School to recognize the 47 juniors who scored “Commendable” or higher on their Junior Writing Portfolios. He recognized the students for their writing achievement and challenged them to continue to hone their writing skills throughout their lives. Powers along with his Joel Barlow Writing Center co-director and fellow Joel Barlow English Teacher, Tim Huminski, presented the students with certificates of accomplishment in recognition of their hard work, and raffled off books about the art and craft of writing.

Now in its 26th year, the Junior Writing Portfolio is an integral part of the Joel Barlow curriculum, and completion of the portfolio at an “Effective” level is a graduation requirement. In the fall of junior year, Joel Barlow students compile five pieces of their writing in categories including creative, formal analysis and personal narrative. In the spring, a team of Barlow teachers and other educational professionals assesses the portfolios and assigns scores on a scale of 1 to 6. “Commendable” indicates a score of 5 and a score of 6 is deemed “Exemplary.” Select portions of these portfolios will serve as models in the Writing Center’s annual publication, Standouts, which will be distributed to all upcoming juniors in the fall.

Tim Huminski welcomed the students and introduced his colleague, Jack Powers. Powers gave the students advice on improving their writing skills and delighted the group with selections from his book of poems, Everybody’s Vaguely Familiar. Powers told the students that “ ‘Write what you know’  is terrible advice or at least only half good. Instead start with what you know and imagine the rest.”

Jack Powers has taught at Joel Barlow High School for 38 years. He teaches special education English, and math; co-directs the Writing Center; and is a peer practice coach.  Powers is the author of Everybody’s Vaguely Familiar. He has won the 2015 and 2012 Connecticut River Review Poetry Contests, and he was a finalist for the 2013 and 2014 Rattle Poetry Prizes. Powers has published over 80 poems in more than forty journals including Poet Lore, The Southern Review, Barrow Street, Cortland Review. His essays have appeared in The New York Times and elsewhere. Powers was the 2005 CCTE Connecticut Poet of the Year and 2008 NEATE Poet of the Year. 

Huminski and Powers thanked the JBHS PTSA for its generous purchase of the classic paperbacks awarded to each student as well as the books given as raffle prizes.

Sophia Danuszar and Gabriella Johnston were each awarded a certificate for their “Exemplary” Junior Writing Portfolios.

Students receiving “Commendable” scores were Tabitha Aime, Erik Areklett, Simon Castonguay, Emily Cavaliere, Annalie Ciolino, Melissa Colasante, Gregory Coleman, Michael Cruz, David Cusick, Grace Doremus, Olivia Fassman, Julia Gjelaj, Crina Gutu, Elia Hafen, Elizabeth Herman, Colin Holm-Hansen, Olivia Houlahan, Kyleigh Keyes, Sage Khanna, Alex Klein Wassink, Dylan Leone, Kathryn Liu, Catherine MacDonald, Grace MacDonald, Kathryn Matsuoka, Madeleine McHale, Sean McHale, Zoe Newbolt, Owen O’Reilly, James Porter, Colby Powers, Schuyler Rae Pritchard, Eric Raut, Thomas Richetelli, Samantha Romaniello, Zachary Shortt, Caroline Spear, William Sutton, Ekaterina Taylor-Yeremeeva, Sarah Tedawes, Robert Tremont, Luke Wergeles, Caroline Wexler, Buster Whaley, and Sara Wiesenfeld.

In addition, 140 juniors received the passing score of “Effective,” and 14 students will work with the Writing Center to revise and resubmit their portfolios.

left: Jack Powers, reads a selected poem from his book, Everybody’s Vaguely Familiar.
right: Jack Powers as the guest speaker for the Junior Writing Portfolio Reception that
honors students for their writing achievement.  Photos by Melanie Mason