Welcome to the English Department!

In the PHS English Department, we provide opportunities for all students to explore a variety of texts in a variety of ways and we guide you through applying what you learn in products with purposes designed by you for audiences that are relevant in the classroom context and beyond.

This is one of Preston High School’s largest departments composed of teachers from wide-ranging backgrounds and with diverse approaches and areas of expertise. With opportunities to experience open-ended and self-directed learning, guided instruction to establish and refine specific skills and knowledge, and exposure to traditional and unconventional texts, you will encounter the English curriculum through a range of valuable lenses.

Additionally, under the umbrella of the English Department is Drama, which we encourage you to also explore.

Extra opportunities in English

  • Creative Writing Club
  • Lunchtime Help

Video: Welcome Grade 9’s

Student FAQs

Q: I’ve never taken “English” before – what is it?

A: English is all about communication. At the heart of it, it’s about…

learning to process how texts communicate with you and
learning about how to engage in effective communication about what you’ve learned from those texts.
The Ontario English Curriculum, much like the Language Arts curriculum, explores ways for students to consume a variety of information in a variety of ways through

Consuming Media

It then explores a variety of ways of expressing a variety of messages designed for specific and relevant audiences using

Creating Media

Q: What if I’m not good at reading and writing? I feel like I’m not going to be good at English at all.

A: First, remember that English is more than reading and writing.

Also, the exact point of learning is figuring out how to be really open and aware of our areas of weakness so we know how to target instruction for growth (so you’re ahead of the game if you know what you need to practice).

Most people aren’t good at the things they haven’t learned yet, so don’t be discouraged if you are one of the lucky ones who knows you have things to learn because the whole process of education is to take you from…

not knowing and not being able to do
knowing and being able to do

Look at it this way: if you could already do everything perfectly, school would be a boring, unchallenging process of showing what you can already do. So whether you are already really good at certain skills or you are aware of what you need to work on, we are here to teach you how to use your strengths to support areas of weakness and we can help you find new unknowns to tackle.

Q: Speaking is part of the English curriculum, but I am super shy and I hate speaking in public. What do I do?

A: You’re right – public speaking can be a challenge. Actually, it’s a challenge for everyone. (You may not know it, but even those who seem to be really confident speakers actually get super nervous when they are about to speak, and they often feel a huge surge of nausea and nerves after they are done – it’s totally normal and expected). Some students aren’t at all fazed by the idea of talking to a crowd, while others are so shaken they can’t bear it. The fact that you hate speaking in public might be the exact reason why you might need practice speaking in public because we tend to hate what we aren’t good at… yet.

But to say “you’ll get used to it” doesn’t really help when the nerves are massive and you don’t really ever feel like getting used to it. The fact is, though, that so many opportunities will open up for you if you learn to find tricks and tools to help you get more comfortable with the idea of speaking to an audience. You may never love it, but you’ll be gifting your future self if you challenge yourself to learn to be at least a little bit okay with it.

So part of our job is to help you find your reason for why it would be worth it to tackle the nerves and learn to speak in different contexts for different audiences. And then it’s our job to help you find your voice as you learn to do so.

Note the words “different contexts for different audiences” — this means that oral presentations in front of a class are only a tiny example of public speaking. While you will unlikely speak in that context again after high school, we can use the classroom and classroom activities to practice speaking for a variety of audiences in a variety of ways. We can also create reasons to reach beyond the classroom if that suits you. This means small group discussions, podcasts, interviews, debates, group tutorials, videos, spoken-word poetry, instructional or persuasive talks, and seminars are all fair game.

In fact, we’re open to ideas and we love working with students to design learning that works for them so long as we can justify it against the curriculum. So talk to your teachers about solutions; the more creative you are, the more diverse your skills will become in this area that can one day become something you used to be afraid to do.

Parent FAQs

Q: Should my child take academic or applied English? If my child has an IEP, does that mean anything in terms of this pathway?

A: This largely depends on two things:

Future pathway (if known)
Past approach to this subject area (as an indicator of future engagement)
Generally speaking:

Students who opt for the Academic pathway are often university-bound. These classes require students to be more able to engage with homework outside of the classroom. This pathway offers increasingly complex texts such as novels, non-fiction materials, plays, etc. and increasingly complex spoken, written, or media creations.

Students who choose the Applied pathway are bound for college, apprenticeships, or the workplace. These classes are strong in practical skills and knowledge and the instruction and course work largely takes place during class time itself, though students are always able and encouraged to explore their own learning through homework should they take the opportunity to do so.

If your child has an IEP, the placement decision is still completely open and you are welcome to select the pathway that you think suits his/her learning style and needs. The guiding factors of this decision are where your child wants to head after high school and how willing and able he/she is to engage in the learning process. Either way, it is our job to work alongside the Special Education Resource Department to accommodate and support all of our students in all of our courses as they work to support their learning needs and strengths to reach toward success.

Q: If we choose Academic but decide it’s the wrong pathway, can we change? (or vice versa)

A: The short answer is this: pathways are flexible, but there can be some intricate details that only a guidance counsellor can navigate. Sometimes the shift can even occur without needing to make up for lost time or increasing the amount of time a student spends in high school, but if your child is thinking about switching, it’s best to switch early and it’s best to keep pathways as open as possible from the start.

Q: What’s the workload like? What are the assessments like? How much homework should we expect to accommodate in the evenings?

A: This entirely depends on the class type, teacher, and student, but here are some examples of the choices individual teachers may make for their classes:


Most teachers incorporate independent work time into each class, which could allow students to complete some, much, or all of their activities during class depending on the task. The ability to complete work in class often does depend on the student.
Some days, teachers will use class time to run activities and discussions, which hinge on active participation and attention; this may mean students will use time at home to prepare for such activities or apply the learning from these activities in homework or assignment tasks.
Applied-level classes often embed the assignments, formative work, instructional activities, and discussion right into the time allotted for the class each day. This means that if students engage wisely, they will be able to complete all of their work before leaving class.
Academic-level classes will often entail homework throughout the semester, which may include working on spoken, written, and media creation projects that span over a unit or other period of time.
Applied and Academic courses may both involve more self-directed learning that students design for themselves and can work on at their own pace.
Enhanced-level classes will most certainly engage in independent and collaborative reading materials and will most certainly opt to extend their learning into more dynamic directions that will involve their own time in addition to being provided with activities to be completed at home. Please note that Enhanced classes (or in combined Enhanced/University classes in senior years) are not necessarily more difficult; rather, they are often inherently made more complex by the inquiry-driven individuals who apply for and opt to take these courses.


Some teachers assign core reading materials (novels, plays, etc.), while other teachers may offer more choice in terms of core reading, while still other teachers may opt to sample a wider range of shorter texts; this choice of approach will depend on the teacher, the course, and the needs of the students.


Some teachers will assign standard assignments to students while other teachers may offer more open-ended options that could diversity the application of skills; rest assured that the learning is always created with thoughtful consideration of how to best honour the Ontario Curriculum’s Essential Learning targets.
At the heart of delivering the curriculum to students and assessing their proficiencies from 9-12 is a diverse range of assessments that aim to include:
formative learning during which teachers can observe student progress
conferencing with students to offer feedback on their learning
final assessment products that fairly represent student growth
offering opportunities to revisit the learning for improvement
A major focus in this department is the assessment of skills and knowledge rather than working through texts and tasks; we are concerned with the learning and with teaching students how to engage with ideas; assessment products and how teachers offer feedback on those assessments are both driven by the Essential Learnings in English, which you can learn more about below:

Please view the English Department Essential Learnings and more FAQs.

Department Staff

Ms. Bauer           sara_bauer@wrdsb.ca

Ms. Bekendam  amanda_bekendam@wrdsb.ca

Mr. Bignell         chris_bignell@wrdsb.ca

Mrs. Benevides  oriana_wattsbenevides@wrdsb.ca  Assistant Department Head

Mrs. Blaak           karen_blaak@wrdsb.ca  Department Head

Ms. Geimer          cindy_geimer@wrdsb.ca

Mme. LeClair      jillian_leclair@wrdsb.ca

Ms. Kiff                 angela_kiff@wrdsb.ca

Mr. Spacek           patrick_spacek@wrdsb.ca

Mr. Thompson     justin_thompson@wrdsb.ca

Ms. Wilson            kristen_wilson@wrdsb.ca

Courses and curriculum documents

ENG1DI, ENG2DI, ENG3UI, ENG4UI  English Academic and University

ENG1PI, ENG2PI, ENG3CI, ENG4CI     English Applied and College

ENG3EI, ENG4EI, OLC4OI  English Workplace and the Literacy Course

EMS3OI  Media Studies

EWC4UI  Writer’s Craft

Please read the course description under English.

Gr 9 & 10 English curriculum document

Gr 11 & 12 English curriculum document