With a book in her hand, English teacher Tamara Jaffe-Notier paces around the classroom filled with 30 high school seniors. Eyes closed, she analyzes a passage, hanging on to every word as if she is falling in love with the literature all over again. Her enthusiasm is visible in her smile as she witnesses her students making their own connections, sharing their own ideas, and growing as readers and writers. Her passion is clear in her body language and tone- one might think she’s reading Macbeth for the first time, not the 100th. Jaffe’s love for her job is evident every day as she exudes energy into a variety of plays, poems, and novels.
Ever since she was young, Jaffe loved being in school and hardly ever wanted to leave. After graduating from college, she was given the opportunity to partake in a two-year masters program which blended components of English and teaching. Although previously teaching informally at a Sunday School in her youth, her interest in pursuing it as a career didn’t come until she completed graduate school. Once she discovered how teaching would allow her to create complex relationships intellectually, emotionally and morally, Jaffe knew she would develop a passion for it very quickly.
“I believe in teaching to all the different aspects of our human intelligence. Our human intelligence is more than just our brains, so I use visuals and audio materials, and we will read aloud and look through images too. I always try to appeal a little bit to every learning style. My teaching style is very relational because I teach in order to establish better relationships with my students,” Jaffe said.
Although she also teaches a Sophomore English class, Jaffe’s love for literature really shines in her senior class. Among the students she has made an impact on, senior Umar Ahmed appreciates her teaching style in their AP Literature class.
“I have never had an English teacher more passionate about her profession, you can tell she genuinely wants her student to have an appreciation for literature. She demonstrates this in her excitement when reading poetry and breaking down themes in literary works we read,” Ahmed said.
Jaffe’s evident love for teaching literature is one of the main reasons why her students leave such high praises for the challenging AP course. In the course, students get to read a wide array of world literature, as well as strengthen both their creative and analytical writing.
As Jaffe’s AP Lit students examine language as a material, they are also incorporating themes from all the other senior English classes such as philosophy, peace and violence, and moral conflicts. By incorporating a variety of different thematic structures of literature, Jaffe continues to challenge students to dive in deeper when examining literature — to allow themselves to fully appreciate and understand it.
“Literature is not dead, it is alive. As long as it exists, the reader has a relationship to it. No matter how much you examine a piece of literature, it never loses that living quality. It is always alive. For the person who reads it, it becomes a new world, another universe,” Jaffe said.
Along with her passion for literature is her passion for exploring other cultures. At the age of 18, Jaffe lived in Israel, where she found a new appreciation for the Middle Eastern culture — which she described as one of the most welcoming cultures in the world.
Now at West, she continues to explore her love for the culture as the sponsor of the Middle Eastern Club. One of the club members, junior Mary Hawel, recognizes the impact Jaffe has on the club and their learning of the Middle Eastern culture.
“She’s definitely the main reason why Middle Eastern Club still exists. She wants the students to come together in an environment they feel comfortable in,” Hawel said.
Whether it be with her sophomore or senior English classes, her Middle Eastern Club members or her Seminar for Scholar students, Jaffe makes an impact as more than a teacher. Her passion for literature and her deep appreciation of other cultures from around the world is admirable and sometimes even contagious. If you want to grow as a reader and writer by exploring different types of literature from a variety of different cultures and themes, enroll in AP Literature as a senior — and hope you’ll be lucky enough to have Jaffe as your teacher.